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War of words over Flower’s Cove roads

The town council of Flower’s Cove placed this sign along Grenfell Avenue, blaming the Liberal government for the condition of the road.
The town council of Flower’s Cove placed this sign along Grenfell Avenue, blaming the Liberal government for the condition of the road. - Contributed

Town signage blames government; Liberal incumbent responds

FLOWER'S COVE, N.L. —

The mayor of Flower’s Cove thinks a sign protesting the state of the roads in the small town doesn’t show any preference towards any political party.

“Deplorable Roads. Use at your own risk! The Town can’t pave roads due to inadequate Funding from Liberal Government!” declares a sign on Grenfell Avenue.

It was placed last week, in the middle of the provincial election campaign.

Mayor Keith Billard told The Northern Pen, “We wanted to rattle the cage.”

He says it’s not the first time the town has publicly criticized a party during the middle of an election.

“We protested the (health) clinic when Danny Williams was premier,” he said. “And Danny Williams came back and gave us what we should have had in the first place. That was in the middle of an election.”

Billard said he feels the sign does not show any preference or aversion towards

political party.

“We’re not supporting the Liberals, we’re not supporting the PCs, we’re saying ‘here’s the problem: that road is not being done because of the government department under the Liberals,’” he said. “Not saying it’d be any better under the PCs – I don’t think so.”

Liberal incumbent Chris Mitchelmore, however, refutes the idea the province is to blame, saying the problem is the town will not accept funding to upgrade the pavement.

Mitchelmore, who is seeking re-election in the district of St. Barbe – L’Anse aux Meadows, told The Northern Pen the town council, not the provincial government, is responsible for the condition of its roads.

According to Mitchelmore, funding was approved through the Building Canada Fund to upgrade multiple roads, including Grenfell Avenue.

Under that funding program the provincial and federal governments would contribute 50 per cent of the cost while the town have to pay the other half.

That is the standard cost-share ratio for municipal road work in the province.

The funds were first provided in 2018 and then carried over into 2019, Mitchelmore said.

He added, “Government has also committed to engineering, design, mobilization and demobilization costs given a $6-million contract was awarded to Kelly’s for road paving from Anchor Point to Plum Point and Conche to further reduce the cost to the town.”

He cited Anchor Point as another community that paved their municipal roads at a cost-share of 50 per cent.

Yet the Town of Flower’s Cove has not conducted any upgrades.

“I think the town has made some commentary that is very unfair to me and to government,” Mitchelmore said. “The ultimate goal at the end of the day, for everyone, is to see that road paved.”

However, Billard maintains the town cannot afford to pave its roads at a cost-share of 50 per cent.

It’s not the first time the town of Flower’s Cove and the MHA have publicly disputed publicly over the condition of the town’s roads.

In 2018, in an interview with The Northern Pen, Billard said he was holding out for a different arrangement, one that would cost less for the community.

He now claims the total estimated cost of the project has increased to more than $800,000 to pave 2.1 km of road, meaning the town’s share would be over $400,000.

He says the town cannot afford this.

While Mitchelmore acknowledges that recent cost estimates are higher than before, he believes the town has other options to make it more affordable.

For one, he says the town can change the scope of the project and do less paving to fit it into in their budget.

He says they can also go to the market and look for another contractor to do the work.

EARLIER STORIES: MHA critical of Flower’s Cove council in Facebook post

Mitchelmore questions why Flower’s Cove accepted funding; mayor wanted different terms

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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