Much like drivers on the street under discussion, a paving project experienced a bumpy ride before being approved by town council.
The $471,251 project to pave the so-called Super A service road was approved by council on Aug. 17 by a vote of four to three.
Work began almost immediately on the half-kilometre stretch of road on which there are an impressive number of businesses and other buildings, including Super A grocery store, a convenience store and gas bar, Hay River Suites, Monster Recreational Services, an engineering firm and a church.
But prior to the vote, the question was debated among councillors concerned about the cost.
Council heard from business owners who were at the council meeting to express their concern about the condition of the road.
Duncan Cooke, the developer of Hay River Suites, said the business owners realize the town is facing budget issues, but also said the paving project has been talked about for many years.
“Regarding the condition of the service road, everybody can see that it’s deteriorated to the point now where we have people swerving to avoid potholes,” he said, adding there are also soft shoulders.
Cooke said the property owners have all invested quite heavily in improving that stretch of road.
The businessman said the property owners said they would like to see the surface re-gravelled so calcium could be applied in the spring to keep dust under control.
“We’d just like to see the road safe to drive on and not have people telling us that they’ll be back when it’s fixed, which is starting to happen,” he said.
Steve Anderson, a co-owner of Super A, told council there are thousands of vehicles on the road each week, and it will only get busier with the new health centre soon to open across the Mackenzie Highway.
“We’d like to have it done this year if at all possible,” he said. “We realize that we’re not the only street that needs work.”
The opposition on council to the paving project was led by Coun. Jason Coakwell, who argued that several proposed paving projects should be bundled together to save the town money.
“We didn’t do any justice to this by issuing three separate tenders,” he said. “We’re not going to recognize any economy of scale that way. It’s going to be a lot cheaper in the spring, and I would like to see a bigger paving program put out in the spring.”
Coakwell estimated there could potentially be about a 20 per cent savings on about $2 million in combined paving projects.
Councillors were also concerned – to greater and lesser extents – that the lowest tender from Rowe’s Construction was $71,000 greater than the $400,000 that the town had budgeted for the service road project. The extra money was found by not replacing some recreation vehicles.
Coun. Brad Mapes and Coun. Kandis Jameson also argued for bundling projects, and voted against the separate contract for the service road.
Jamieson said she was “totally, totally uncomfortable” with the separate project.
However, Coun. Vince McKay argued that delaying the project would not necessarily save money, noting the price of asphalt is always changing.
“It doesn’t save us money,” he said. “We’ve learned that many times. We keep putting it off. It ends up costing us more money.”
Coun. Keith Dohey pointed out that, with a municipal election this fall, the current councillors can’t guarantee the project would happen next year.
“There’s a chance that, come spring, none of us are here, and I’d like to see this not get pushed to the next year by another council or by members of this council that find other things to spend money on,” said Dohey.
At the same meeting, council rejected spending $615,280 – which was about $200,000 over budget – to patch around town and pave the Trans-Canada Trail.
“I think this one is a little bit out of reach,” said Coun. Mike Maher, noting it should definitely be bundled with another project.
That would be paving and curb and gutter work that will follow a water and sewer project on McBryan Drive.