Council votes for speed alert sign purchases after debate over who chooses best location

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski speaks during a 2018 executive committee meeting. -- Herald file photo.

A report on purchasing eight new solar powered speed alert signs on Monday turned into a debate over how much influence city councillors should have over where they’re located.

A motion to purchase eight new speed alert signs, and allow ward councillors and the mayor to determine their location in consultation with local residents, passed 7-2 at Monday’s executive committee meeting. The matter still requires one more vote of approval at the next council meeting.

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski was responsible for bringing the motion forward. He said city councillors and local residents know best where speeding is a problem, so they’re qualified to choose the sign locations.

“I know the areas in my ward that are hot spots, as I’m sure every other elected person here knows the hot spots in their area,” Zurakowski said.

“The department has the information, but we receive the phone calls,” he added. “I know the mayor receives phone calls as well. This is a priority. We live there. We understand who’s walking and who’s driving and where those cars come and go from.”

Zurakowski emphasized that councillors would not be making the decision without consulting residents. He added that, if necessary, he would personally move the speed alert signs to the best location in his ward.

City administrators say moving the signs is a cumbersome process that can take up to an entire day. Zurakowski said he’ll do it if city employees can’t.

“What I’m hearing in the report is that administration is saying they are too busy,” he explained when asked for clarification by Mayor Greg Dionne. “In my opinion, the budget indicates priorities, and we’ve told administration this is a priority. I’m saying again today that it’s a priority. If it can’t be done, yes, I will move mine.”

Dionne was the most vocal opponent of the decision. He said supported purchasing the new speed alert signs, but couldn’t agree to the rest of Zurakowski’s motion.

Dionne argued the decision would lead to councillors working against each other for the benefit of their ward, instead of working together to improve Prince Albert.

“We’re already arguing about streets that should be paved. Maybe the next thing we’ll be talking about is what ward should get their street swept first in the spring, or where does snow removal start,” he said during the meeting. “It just opens a can of worms for me.”

City administration recommended moving the speed alert signs no more than twice a year, with each ward getting a sign for their most high risk locations. Moving the units more than twice a year may require additional casual staff, according to a report from Transportation and Traffic Manager Keri Sapsford.

“Current staff is already very busy with other work in the sign shop and traffic shop, and these units can take anywhere from half a day to a full day to move,” she wrote. “With eight signs this is a significant amount of labour.”

Trailer type portable speed alert signs were rejected due to the increased chance of vandalism and theft.

The City of Prince Albert already has seven units purchased with funding from SGI. These speed alert signs must be placed within school zones. Prince Albert may get another $50,000 in funding from SGI in July, along with another $50,000 in the fall. That money must also be used to purchase speed alert signs for school zones.