The state of roads within the Municipal District of Pincher Creek dictated a large part of the discussion at a Coffee With Council session last Thursday for residents in Division 4.
Although the meeting was open to any and all concerns, Division 4 Coun. Harold Hollingshead felt confident roads would be top of mind going into the meeting.
“I think the biggest issue in this division, and I believe in all divisions, and has been the same since I got on council — road maintenance,” he says. “Hopefully, with our new public works manager, there’s going to be huge improvements.”
Hollingshead says those improvements need to happen now, relating a story of one ratepayer, back in the summertime, who questioned the impact the current council has had on a problem that most residents feel isn’t being addressed.
Asking how long the current council and CAO were in place, almost two years and one year, respectively, “He said, ‘If you guys haven’t been able to effect any changes in that time, then maybe I [referring to the Division 4 councillor] should resign.”
While he first thought the comment was funny, Hollingshead, on reflection, felt the ratepayer had a point.
“If we can’t affect any changes, we’re spinning our wheels,” he says.
Patrick Gauvreau, who attended the meeting, was hired six months ago as the new public works manager, the department which oversees such responsibilities as road maintenance and snow removal from roadways in the MD.
He knows all too well the concerns of residents.
“We have issues with the dust control product that we’ve been applying on our roads,” he says. “In some areas, it’s making the roads very viscous, and that’s not acceptable.”
Gauvreau adds it creates unsafe conditions for motorists and that needs to be addressed.
The municipal district uses a product known as MG-30, a calcium chloride derivative, a road stabilizer also meant to keep dust on gravel roads down to a minimum. It has a tendency, however, to break down when it’s met with large amounts of rain, a concern raised by at least one resident at the town hall.
Gauvreau contends it’s not the product at the core.
“The problem is twofold,” he says. “It’s the shape of our roads whether it has a crown or not, where it’s properly shaped, and shedding off the water … and the high fine clay content in the surface top of our roads.”
Widely used throughout the province, MG-30 is a cost-effective method, considering the number and length of gravel roads in the MD, but Gauvreau told the audience other options are being looked into as well.
“It works well under the right conditions,” he continued. “The problem is, when the product gets oversaturated with moisture, that nice skin that can shed off the water just bursts open, it busts, and it opens up the whole road turning it into a viscous mess.”
Another point: rural roads built more than a half century ago weren’t meant for the kind of heavy traffic they’re seeing now.
“Years ago, we had a lot less traffic and much lighter equipment. The vehicles driving on it were a lot lighter and the equipment was quite a bit smaller. Not all of our roads, but some of our roads. That’s something we need to look at as well,” Gauvreau maintained.
“High traffic roads that were built 50, 60 years ago, probably need to be rebuilt … completely, from the ground up.”
It’s food for thought, not only for the current council but also for ratepayers, who will need to consider what they’re willing to pay to have better roads.