When Barb Shaw was told by the municipality that it would cost $6,000 to access her dock, she nearly spit out her coffee. She thought the $6,000 estimate to cut a break in the continuous guardrail at her Farm Point dock was a typo.
It wasn’t. Chelsea confirmed to the Low Down that the cost of cutting a break in the continuous guardrail, which will be installed following a major road reconstruction of Chemin de la Rivière later this year, was $6,000 in 2021. Chelsea is awaiting the 2022 cost, and with inflation rising, it’s likely that the number has gone up.
“It’s total BS,” said Shaw, whose property and dock are separated by Chemin de la Rivière in Farm Point. She isn’t sure why Chelsea is even installing new guardrails when they were just installed five years ago.
According to the municipality of Chelsea, a continuous guardrail was installed along the river in Farm Point in 2018 for safety reasons. That guardrail, according to residents, was cut at several points at no charge. But with the new reconstruction of Chemin de la Rivière, an engineer’s report recommends installing a new continuous guardrail, said Mayor Pierre Guénard. The work will consist of 4,000 metres of continuous guardrail installed along the road from the intersection of Hwy 105 to the end of Chemin de la Rivière in Chelsea.
Guenard added that there may be spots along the river where breaks could be cut for access, however he said they would only be done on straight sections of the road and not on curves or downhills. Guénard said requests to cut breaks would be approved case by case and would be at the owner’s expense.
Regarding the breaks in the guardrail, the Chelsea mayor has cited safety concerns multiple times about worries that a car could slip through and end up in the river. He suggested there was a two per cent chance of that happening during a previous dock meeting. He says that a two per cent chance is a risk he isn’t willing to take.
“The engineers, who did the planning, they said that for safety reasons that would have to be a continuous guardrail,” said Guénard. “That is what was proposed.”
But Shaw, who has lived in Farm Point for close to 30 years, argued that the municipality should look to evidence rather than solely relying on a technical report for safety recommendations.
“I've lived here almost 30 years on the river and there's never been a car that has gone in the river,” she said.
Shaw and others don’t have an issue with the guardrail itself, but it’s the inflated cost that Chelsea is looking to charge residents to access the river that bothers her. Shaw said there was no charge five years ago when contractors agreed to open access points along the river.
“Well, they have always done it at no charge,” said Farm Point Coun. Rita Jain. With regard to the cost owners will now have to shoulder, Jain said: “I find it unbelievable. This is kind of a back door thing. They [council] haven’t talked about it and they haven’t publicized it. With the cost, there has got to be a better way to do this.”
Jain suggested that council reuse the five-year-old guardrail breaks that were already cut and just add those sections to where the access points used to be. When asked if the move is a “cash grab” for Chelsea, she responded, “It is, definitely.”
According to Guénard, the high cost is due to “the complexity of the work to ensure that it is done according to the safety standards of the Ministère des Transports et de la mobilité durable.” He added that “poorly executed work could be very dangerous for a motorist in case of an accident.” He said that the $6,000 price was the market price in 2021.
A quick search on Google shows Buffer End Guards, which are curved ends to guard rails,which help protect motorists in the event of a crash, cost $169 each.
Chelsea held an information session Feb. 20 for community dock owners, where staffers ran residents through their options when it comes to municipalizing docks for public use. Stay tuned for more on that story in our next edition.