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Paradise Twitterati address mayor in online Town Hall session

By Craig Westcott/September 30, 2022

Sidewalks, swimming pools, and in one case, salt, presented themselves as topics on the minds of some Paradise residents Tuesday. But perhaps the Town’s most pressing problem, gridlock on Topsail Road during rush hour, got the most attention.

It all took place during what was dubbed a ‘Twitter Town Hall’ that lasted 90 minutes, with Mayor Dan Bobbett taking questions from members of Paradise’s social media savvy twittering class, likely not a representative portion of the town’s total population given Twitter’s demographics are highly skewed towards young urban professionals. But given the nature of the commentary – which was much more polite than you would expect from a Twitter audience with some people even offering accolades – the mayor was kept fairly busy dashing out quick responses in the less than the 280 characters (about 50 words) that Twitter allows.

Chris Sweeney was the first to raise the traffic issue.

“Hi Dan, as you’re well aware the intersection at Topsail and the Outer Ring is awful,” Sweeney observed. “What is the plan for that? It doesn’t work, it is a pain for a huge portion of the community.”

Sweeney found no argument from the mayor.

“Hi Chris, we totally agree,” said Bobbett. “Council is continually advocating and meeting with provincial government reps for improvements to the Topsail Road / Outer Ring Road interchange.”

Joanne Peddle asked if there is any way to add an extended right hand turn lane off Kenmount Road onto Brougham. “Traffic (is) always backed up,” she noted. “Winter is atrocious, dangerous.”

Peddle suggested the Town use an empty parcel of land along Kenmount to create a turning lane. She added a right turn lane in front of Scotiabank on Topsail would help too.

“Hi Joanne, that section of road (Kenmount) is owned and maintained by the provincial government,” Bobbett replied. “Council has requested that the Province review this on behalf of residents. We have also been asking the Province for improvements to the Outer Ring Road interchange.”

Another resident asked if council could connect all three sections of Lanark Drive. “It’s been a mess for well over a decade now,” she wrote. (It) would help ease traffic flow on Topsail Road, St. Thomas Line and Paradise Road.”

Bobbett didn’t disagree.

“The Town has a Traffic Improvement Plan and the recommendation from the traffic consultants is for the majority of this road to be completed by developers so that it is not a direct cost to the Town,” he replied. “We are thankful to see progress being made in the area this year.”

Gary Dinn also had concerns about traffic in the busy commercial area along Topsail Road between McDonald’s Restaurant and Paradise Road.

“Traffic on Topsail Road east of Paradise Road to the Overpass is at capacity several times a day,” he said. “We need another way in and out of Paradise. In the interim, upgrade Kenmount Road Extension with new asphalt.”

Bobbett said council’s first priority is making funding applications to government for upgrades to Kenmount Road Extension. “Council is continually asking the Province for improvements to the Outer Ring Road interchange as well as an additional access point to the Town,” he added.

On the issue of sidewalks along Topsail Road, the mayor told resident Steve Dicker there are plans afoot to fix up the road and “Council may have to consider installation of sidewalks before we finish the plans for Phase 5.”

Chris LeDrew urged council to spend more on maintaining its trails. He said he has notified the Town Hall about places that need maintenance and brush cutting but hasn’t received a response.

“Are there any plans on serious investments, upkeep in our trail systems?” he asked. “(I) ran from Paradise to Bowring Park tonight and bordering communities’ trails are so much more well-kept. If you build something you should maintain it by grading, brush cutting, etcetera.”

Conrad Freake, a local sports volunteer, asked if council is considering treating all groups “equally when it comes to rental fees of recreation facilities.”

Bobbett said council’s recreation committee is reviewing all fees as part of its 2023 budget planning. “We are looking at facility rentals as well as program registration fees,” he said.

Bonnie Churchill asked for details on council’s timeline and budget for the Octagon Pond boathouse that was announced earlier this year.

The mayor said a Request for Proposals for the design has been issued. “We got great feedback from residents on our public engagement process on the new facility,” he said. “We hope to have cost estimates for Council consideration for Budget 2023.”

Churchill also asked about council’s plans for the greenspace behind the area of about 100 to 160 Elizabeth Drive.

“This area is part of the Elizabeth Park Refresh project and we have just submitted a funding application through the Natural Infrastructure Fund to build a walking trail in this area,” said the mayor.

Matt Pike had a question that made a splash. “Has there ever been any discussions on building a swimming pool for the town?” he wondered.

“Lots,” said Bobbett. “Our Budget Talks Survey asks a specific question on this as we would have to increase taxes to afford a pool. We would also need funding from provincial and federal governments as well.”

Chris LeDrew suggested the Town look at other places in Canada that are building pools to make sure it doesn’t pay too much.

“There has been a lot of talk about a pool with some very high dollars suggested ($35 million),” LeDrew said. “Please do due diligence and contact other municipalities especially in Quebec. Mt. Tremblant recently had a pool built for $13 million.”

“Love the suggestion,” replied Bobbett. “We’ll definitely look into it.”

That brought Conrad Freak back into the fray. He suggested any plans the Town has to a compile a Paradise Park Master Plan could be better spent on a “new aquatics facility.” Paradise residents want a pool, he argued.

That led another resident, whose twitter handle didn’t include a full name, to endorse the idea of a pool and also a curling rink.

“It’s not very often I hear a suggestion for a curling rink,” said Bobbett. “Thanks for the suggestion. Lots of input for a pool. This has significant construction and operating costs which we have to carefully consider when balancing the budget.”

It was resident Chris LeDrew who raised the salt question.

“As you are well aware, salt is very expensive,” LeDrew said. “Why is it every year so much salt is spread you can shovel it off the road?”

Worse, he added, is to see the plow come up the street plowing and salting in one direction and then turning around and going back the other side plowing away the salt it had just spread.  

“The Town has a salt management plan, which includes reporting based on Federal Regulations,” said Bobbett. “Our equipment is regularly calibrated for salt distribution.”

Resident Dion Rowsell raised the clearing of sidewalks in winter.

“With neighbouring municipalities in the metro area significantly improving sidewalk clearing for pedestrians in the winter, will Paradise follow the lead and make pedestrian safety a point of emphasis starting this year?” he asked.

“Hi Dion. For sidewalk snow clearing, our efforts are currently focused on School Zones,” said the mayor. “We have invested in a sidewalk snowblower for each school zone. Once these areas are cleared, we move to other areas of Town; unfortunately sometimes, Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.”

Michelle Lannon said she “would love to see a sidewalk on one side of St. Thomas Line going 1.6 kms both ways from Holy Family since that is the walking distance our kids need to take.” Cars go at very dangerous speeds and there’s hardly a shoulder for them to walk on,” she added.  

The mayor agreed.

“You’ll notice we made improvements in the area with the Copper Canyon Trail and new sidewalks on St. Thomas Line,” said Bobbett. “We will continue to review as part of our budget considerations. Thanks for the feedback.”

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