By Kirk Winter

In a surprisingly emotional exchange of opinions, at the September 10 meeting, City of Kawartha Lakes Councillors debated what to do about unassumed and private roads.

For many years, a number of these unassumed and private roads have been able to enter into fee-for-service agreements, where the City would take summer and winter maintenance on the road for an agreed-upon fee.

Between 2015 and 2017 as part of the City’s Core Service Review, services offered to both private and unassumed roads were reviewed by Public Works staff in consultation with the Office of Strategic Management.

Staff advised the City that maintenance of unassumed roads, in particular, is not legally required and as a result, most other municipalities have not chosen to offer a fee for service agreement with homeowners who live along those roads. The City believes that money and staff time that are no longer committed to dealing with unassumed roads could be rededicated to the City’s assumed road network. Citizens who live on unassumed roads who were engaged in a fee-for-service agreement overwhelmingly told staff that they wanted those arrangements to continue, and in many cases had requested additional services.

Councillor Yeo and Deputy Mayor Elmslie were particularly passionate about this issue. For the sake of the study, councillors submitted four roads that at varying times had received City service and were requesting them again.

The roads studied by Public Works as examples of assumed and private roads were:

  1. McGuire Beach Road 1.3 km unassumed

  2. Thistle Trail .3 km unassumed

  3. Elder Street .11 km unassumed/private road

  4. Cobble Lane .335 km private

The study found that none of these roads reached the minimum design standards for municipal equipment. Depending upon the road, they were too narrow or a turnaround required for the plow was missing. City staff said that the roads would not be safe for City drivers or equipment to service them at any time of the year.

Staff recommended that these four roads should specifically be denied fee-for-service agreements. Staff recommended that City policy, moving forward, should be that the City should refuse to service any unassumed or private road in CKL and focus its limited resources on City assumed roads only.

Councillor Yeo continued to argue that, “services for a fee should be provided when it makes sense to the City and the taxpayers.”

Deputy Mayor Elmslie, easily one of the mildest mannered councillors, reacted with anger to the recommendations and said he “will not support any plan that would remove any more roads from service.”

Mayor Letham was clearly taken aback by the statement made by the Deputy Mayor and tried to remind Elmslie that these four roads were not to be removed from service; rather they simply weren’t going to be added along with any other unassumed and private roads to the list of roads for which the City is responsible.

Discussion continued for another 10 to 15 minutes. By the narrowest of votes, 5-4, the staff recommendation of refusing to offer fee-for-service was passed.

Politics, Local NewsDeb Crossen