The municipality of Chelsea pulled a 180.
Instead of the public works department surfacing the community trail with stone dust, which was the previous council and mayor’s stated intentions, the work will be done by outside contractors.
This was revealed during the April 5 Chelsea council meeting when the present council unanimously voted to award a $458,985 contract to L’Ange-Gardien-based Les Pavages Lafleur & Fils Inc. Ward 5 Coun. Rita Jain and Ward 1 Coun. Enrico Valente were absent. Council considered four other offers, ranging between $569,816 to $932,332, but it went with the lowest bidder.
During an October 2020 meeting, then-mayor Caryl Green said that the stone dust would be applied by municipal workers to save on costs.
When the Low Down asked Mayor Pierre Guénard for the reason behind this about-face, he said that the Public Works department has its hands full with other work, but he’d look into it further. He didn’t offer any other reason before the publishing deadline.
The construction of the trail was originally estimated to cost $3 million split evenly three ways between municipal funds, grant funding, and a fundraiser by Les Amis de la Voie Verte Chelsea. By November 2020, just over $916,000 in municipal funds had been spent on the trail project. This contract pushes the municipality over its previous cost estimate.
The community trail, officially called the Voie Verte Chelsea, is completed along the old railway, but the final surfacing is yet to be completed. Two sections of the trail have been surfaced with different materials: about 100 metres near the Farm Point Community Centre is surfaced with stone dust and between Chemin Church and Rue Wallace in Old Chelsea is surfaced with small gravel. Trail users have brought up issues with both.
The Farm Point section was surfaced with stone dust in late 2018 and is quite hard and appropriate for biking, but people brought concerns to the previous council that the surface may encourage cyclists to dangerously speed along a trail designed for multiple community uses, including relaxed strolls with pets or children.
The other section in New Chelsea, between Church and Wallace, has the opposite problem: its surface is too soft for biking.
The issue of hiring a contractor to resurface Voie Verte Chelsea wasn’t the only trail topic council tackled during the April meeting.
Council unanimously voted to award a $155,308 contract to Gatineau-based HKR Consultation Inc. to conduct civil and geotechnical engineering services for a new trail that will run from the Hendrick Farm development to Rue Marie-Burger in Gatineau.
In May 2021, Chelsea received $150,000 in provincial tax dollars for the 1.3 kilometre trail, which is already a small path but needs work in order to formalize into a proper, public trail. The upgrade will include making it three to five metres wide for a mix of uses, including walking, bike-commuting, dog walking, and, in the winter, cross-country skiing and fat biking.