Editor's note: This article orginially appeared in the Feb. 26th print edition of The Compass.
A busy Carbonear intersection described by some town leaders as "dangerous" and "treacherous" will soon become more pedestrian friendly.
The town will spend roughly $5,000 to purchase a unique solar-powered pedestrian crosswalk beacon for the intersection at Powell Drive, High Road South and Pond Side Road.
The 12-inch (30 centimetre) beacon will be positioned in the median, atop an eight-foot (2.4 metres) post. It will flash continuously around-the-clock, prompting motorists to be mindful of pedestrians.
Members of council unanimously endorsed the idea at a public meeting on Feb. 18, noting that pedestrian traffic has increased significantly in the area following recent upgrades to nearby sidewalks and boardwalks.
Mayor Sam Slade has referred to the beacon as a "great investment," noting that the intersection poses a challenge for pedestrians because of visibility limitations, vehicle speeds and the width of Powell Drive.
Deputy Mayor Ches Ash described it as a "dangerous intersection."
A crosswalk was established at the intersection several years ago, but safety concerns persisted because of the high volume of traffic along Powell Drive, where the maximum speed limit is 50 kilometres/hour, and the difficulty with maintaining the crosswalk markings on the asphalt.
Public works director Brian O'Grady has been exploring the town's options for the intersection, and recommended the solar-powered light because it is roughly one-fifth the cost of a traditional beacon that is connected to the power grid. There's also no need to trench the road in order to install power lines, and there's no monthly power bill.
O'Grady explained that LED technology (light-emitting diodes) has improved dramatically, requires much less energy to operate, and offers exceptional visibility for motorists.
The beacon will be among the first of its kind in the province, said O'Grady. He noted they are used in some other provinces, and have proven to be durable and reliable, even during periods when exposure to the sun's energy-producing rays are limited.
O'Grady expects the beacon will be installed in the coming weeks. He also confirmed that others may be installed, likely along Water Street, if it proves to be effective.
He said the beacon can also be upgraded to include a pedestrian activated feature if necessary.
Town buying new backhoe
Meanwhile, council has authorized the purchase a new backhoe/loader for the town, and a tender call was scheduled to be issued this week.
The new piece of heavy equipment will replace a nine-year-old backhoe with some 6,100 hours of operation, which is well beyond the standard threshold for replacement, said O'Grady. The backhoe underwent some costly repairs last year, and is in need of more repairs to the excavating boom.
The town expects to take delivery of the new backhoe sometime in May, at a cost of between $90,000 and $100,000, said O'Grady.
It's the latest step in an unprecedented effort by the town to modernize its fleet of vehicles in a bid to reduce maintenance costs, eliminate the need to rent costly equipment during unexpected breakdowns, and ensure services such as snowclearing, infrastructure maintenance and other services are at their best.
O'Grady said the backhoe "never stops," and employees need to have confidence that it is reliable.
He explained that the town recently replaced three old and unreliable dump trucks with two new ones, resulting in significant savings to the town.
"We were throwing good money after bad" by maintaining a fleet of old vehicles, one town councillor stated during last week's regular meeting.
Back-up power for chlorine plant
On another front, town officials are exploring ways to ensure that electricity to the chlorine plant on Valley Road is not interrupted during power outages.
O'Grady is suggesting the town purchase an 83 amp power generator and install auto start capabilities on it, at an estimated cost of some $25,000.
The intent is to avoid boil water orders, which can inconvenience residents.
Boil orders are mandatory whenever the flow of chlorine into the water system is interrupted, and these orders can only be lifted following tests by the provincial government. This can sometimes take several days and longer.
O'Grady said such incidents are not common, and employees can quickly mobilize with a portable generator when power outages occur during regular working hours. However, he said, response times can be longer when power outages occur at night.
Dozens of communities in the province are on permanent boil water orders because they do not have a chlorination system.
Council is expected to make a decision on the generator issue in the coming weeks.
Earlier council meetings
Evening meetings for the Carbonear town council may soon be a thing of the past.
A notice of motion was made at last week's meeting, and council will vote March 5 on whether to change the start time for public council meetings from 7:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Council meets the first and third Monday of each month, except during the summer, when meetings are at the call of mayor.
The 7:30 p.m. start time has long been a tradition in Carbonear, but some members of council have suggested a late afternoon start would be more convenient, with one councillor saying it was an "increasing trend" among municipal councils throughout the province.