Billings receives some good news from MTO on parking concerns

This public parking lot has been completed in Kagawong to help curtail parking and traffic congestion in the Bridal Veil Falls area in the community.

KAGAWONG—The Township of Billings has received some good news from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) concerning putting up ‘no stopping’ signs on Highway 540 near Bridal Veil Falls, to help alleviate the bottleneck of traffic parked in the area and the concerns with safety, especially in the summer.

“They (MTO) are going to prepare an amendment so there will be no stopping (signs) on the highway near Bridal Veil Falls,” Billings clerk Kathy McDonald told council at a meeting last week. “I talked to them and thanked them for this.”

MTO representative Doug Herbrand, in a letter to Billings council dated October 24, 2017, wrote, “I can advise that my office is aware of the situation involving illegal parking along Highway 540 near Bridal Veil Falls, primarily during the summer tourist season. My office has also been involved in some of the discussions with the township as well as a few staff from other MTO offices in regards to the parking issue and signage.”

Mr. Herbrand said, “I can appreciate the frustration expressed by the residents and would like to continue to work with you to try and resolve the illegal parking issues. Although there are several elements to consider in addressing this issue effectively, one aspect my office can assist with is a no stopping prohibition. To be clear, a no stopping regulation adds more flexibility in terms of enforcement by allowing police to ticket the vehicle whether it is occupied or unoccupied within the prohibited zone. Essentially the vehicle can be ticketed even if only within the prohibited area momentarily, versus a no parking prohibition which infers a more lengthy period of time in which a vehicle may occupy the prohibited area.”

“To that end, I have asked my staff to prepare a ‘no stopping’ regulatory amendment which will cover the primary sections along Highway 540 from the main access to Bridal Veil Falls, easterly to the newly constructed parking facility. This prohibition will cover both east and westbound directions of travel,” continued Mr. Herbrand.

“The challenge, as we are all aware, is the enforcement component,” wrote Mr. Herbrand. “I also appreciate the staffing and resource constraints of the OPP; they simply cannot commit resources to patrol the area on a full-time basis. I also agree that perhaps enhanced signage for the new parking area could help to encourage patrons to make use of the facility in addition to the aforementioned ‘no stopping’ prohibition. Unfortunately, I don’t believe MTO currently has any parking specific signs in our sign inventory beyond a temporary permissive parking (time of day) signs that could assist in this situation. That said, we would be willing to assist the township in exploring other signage options at their disposal.”

Mr. Herbrand noted the submission for the regulatory (no stopping) amendment will be completed in the next week or so and then be forwarded to the MTO legal services for processing and minister’s approval. “I anticipate the approval process could take up to a few months to complete, however I am confident we can have the new prohibition and appropriate signs in place for next spring.”

Councillor Nora Bath-Haring inquired about the enforcement aspect of this.

“That is the only problem,” said Ms. McDonald. “The OPP has to provide the enforcement.”

In the past the local OPP has indicated its reluctance to enforce no parking (patrols) in the area.

Council has previously requested OPP officials attend a Billings council meeting to discuss the issue.

Council passed a resolution at its meeting last week, “whereas the clerk treasurer/CAO sent a letter to OPP Chief Superintendent Fern Labelle requesting his attendance at a Billings council meeting to address concerns, and whereas on October 12, 2017 Chief Superintendent Fern Labelle responded that North Eastern Region Command Staff will be attendance at the October 18, 2017 MMA meeting to address any questions that council may have. Be it resolved that council instructs the clerk-treasurer to send a letter to Chief Superintendent Fern Labelle to advised him that although he attended the October 18, 2017 meeting his attendance at a Billings Township council meeting is still being requested.”

“So are we requesting the meeting to discuss the parking issue and police services,” asked Councillor Barb Erskine, to which council agreed the concerns of both issues need to be discussed.

“And we need to indicate that there is new information from the MTO that council can share with the OPP,” said Councillor Erskine.

Council asked to speak with the OPP in regards to its concerns with the provision of police service across the Island. At its meeting August 1, 2017, the issue of policing in Billings was discussed and a resolution was passed that council directs the clerk-treasurer to write a letter regarding concerns about the location of the new OPP office on Manitoulin and about concerns of the adequacy of police service coverage across the Island and address the letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne and OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes, copied to Staff Sergean Kevin Webb and Sudbury Superintendent.

The Billings letter reads, “as a municipality, we respect the OPP and very much value their important role in the well-being of our community. Community safety, and protection to people and property, is a core responsibility of local government. Policing also represents one of the township’s largest single annual expenditures. In 2016, for example, Billings was invoiced $210,000 by the OPP for policing services. This represented approximately eight percent of our total expenditures last year.”

“Policing costs are a non-discretionary budget item-we have to provide policing service, and our only viable service provision option is contracting with the OPP. However, both the importance of this service, and the proportion of the annual budget it represents, means that we need to advocate for the best balance between service effectiveness and fiscal efficiency for our rate-payers and citizens. The concerns I am articulating in this letter, on behalf of council, all relate to this balance.

“Our first concern is the recent decision to build the new Manitoulin detachment facility in Little Current. The Little Current location is not central to the service area which leaves many areas vulnerable with a lack of coverage. Response times to some areas of the island will be upwards of two hours.” The second issue raised was in regards to the parking issue on the highway near Bridal Veil Falls.