A couple of years ago, the public works managers (PWM) from all four Frontenac townships came together to discuss common issues, and they found a lot to talk about. They decided that since they faced the same issues regarding road and bridge maintenance and waste management, they might be able to put out joint tenders of requests for proposals for services ranging from road line painting to engineering for their waste sites.
Neighbouring municipalities have some roads that are owned and managed by their county and some that are owned and managed by the local townships. While the Frontenac PWMs see no advantage in having more than one roads department working in the same municipality, they also know that other counties are able to apply for provincial and federal grants for their county roads, and the local townships in those counties can also apply for grants for their township-owned roads.
However, in Frontenac County, since there are no county roads, only the local townships can apply for grants, putting Frontenac at a disadvantage.
In response, the Frontenac public works managers have developed the concept of the Frontenac Corridor, made up of roads that at one time were owned and maintained by the province and were subsequently downloaded to the Frontenac townships.
They have made representations to Ontario officials and politicians, saying they are planning on treating these roads as a single system, paid for by the local townships, but managed as a single entity for the purpose of grants.
“We are hoping that the province will treat these roads as county roads, and let us apply for grants for those roads in the way a county would while still being eligible for grants for our own roads as individual townships,” said Mark Segsworth, the public works manager for South Frontenac Township. “We don't want to change anything on the ground, only to become eligible for more funding."
To that end the public works managers went as a group to Frontenac County to ask for funding for a Frontenac Corridor roads improvement plan for Road 38 in South and Central Frontenac, Road 509 in North and Central Frontenac, Road 506 in North Frontenac, Road 96 on Wolfe Island and Road 96 on Howe Island.
That study, prepared by Wills and Associates, was presented to Central and South Frontenac Council this week, and will go to Frontenac County next week.
The study does not reveal anything earth-shattering about the conditions of the roads, according to both Mike Richardson, the public works manager of Central Frontenac, and Mark Segsworth of South Frontenac.
“This is mainly about grants,” Richardson told Central Frontenac Council on Tuesday (May 13). “To a certain extent it forces us to plan together, and it might lead to joint tenders but there is no mechanism for that at this point.”
The Wills study provides a detailed breakdown of each section of road, each bridge and each culvert in the entire system, including the cost of repair or replacement, and it prioritizes all required work in the system over the long term.
Road 38, the busiest in the system, is in relatively good shape in Central Frontenac, since it was rebuilt in 2006, but in South Frontenac it has deteriorated since it was resurfaced in 1997 and needs several million dollars of work to be able to handle the amount of traffic it carries each day.
The South Frontenac Public Works Department will be proposing the second five-year road improvement plan to the new South Frontenac Council early in 2015, and Road 38 will have a prominent role in that plan, Mark Segsworth said.
While the exercise of developing what looks on paper like a county roads plan has been completed, and there is a hope that this will help secure grants in the future, there are no plans to change the way the individual township roads departments operate in Frontenac County
“I have maintained all along that the most efficient way to manage roads is as a single tier, one department working on all the roads in their jurisdiction so there is no duplication. All of the roads, culverts, bridges, etc. are well maintained by the township departments,” said Mark Segsworth.
Segsworth was more reticent however, over the idea of a single roads department operating in one united Frontenac township, which would also be a single tier system.
“That idea is best left to the politicians,” he said.