Council requests meeting with OPP staff sgt. on highway parking issue

KAGAWONG—Billings township received good news from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) last fall, with the MTO going to install ‘no stopping signs’ on Highway 540 near Bridal Veil Falls, since then township council has been lobbying the local Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) to commit to providing enforcement at this location when people are parking in the area. However, this appears to have been to no avail causing council to reach out to OPP Chief Superintendent Fern Labelle.

Township Clerk Kathy McDonald told council at a meeting Monday that the OPP held a meeting on December 18, but have yet been able to report back on the issue raised by Billings.

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“There has been a pretty poor response from the OPP on this issue, and it is very disappointing because we pay for their services,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack.

Ms. McDonald said it seems the concerns raised by the township don’t seem to matter in regards to response from the OPP.

“I think what we need to relay to the OPP is that we are not intending to insult them, we are asking for more of the services they provide in the community,” said Councillor Barb Erskine. “We want more of the services they provide for community safety. What we are saying is that we want your services, and want to talk to you about how to make our community safer and we want the OPP help on this issue.”

At a Manitoulin Community Advisory Committee last November, Billings councillor Brian Parker told the meeting the MTO was going to be installing the ‘no parking signs’ on Highway 540 near Bridal Veil Falls, to help the bottleneck of traffic parked in the area and the concerns with safety, especially in the summer. The no stopping regulations also allow more flexibility in terms of enforcement by allowing police to ticket the parked vehicles’ whether they are occupied or not, but parked in the prohibited zone.

“Get that information to me and I will look at that,” said Kevin Webb, Staff Sergeant Detachment Commander of the Manitoulin detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). He said, “the issue of laying charges with parking tickets is purely punitive, it is not pro-active, and most of the people that would be charged are visitors to the community, probably making a one-time visit Bridal Veil Falls.” He said if ticketed, visitors would not likely spend money at local shops in Billings. He said the police presence is pro-active and constables do their best to be visible.

Staff Sergeant Webb indicated the municipality may need to hire someone to direct visitors to the township parking lot. However, Councillor Parker said they cannot do that due to the location where the bridge is on the highway, which is provincially owned.

“We still need to come up with way to address this in a proactive way,” said Staff Sergeant Webb. “I know we have talked about the township putting up cones along the highway in that area, especially during the peak summer season for traffic. When I drive through there I do so on full alert because there is so much traffic, especially during the summer.”

Councillor Parker said the township is concerned with liability if they put cones on the road, especially since the highway is provincially owned.

“Again, just ticketing anyone is not proactive, it is purely punitive,” said Staff Sergeant Webb. He suggested the municipality could look at possibly hiring students to direct people when they are parked, from parking on the highway, and to instead park in the township parking lot.

Councillor Parker said council is concerned with liability and that it is not township property.

Council agreed at its meeting last week to request that Staff Sergeant Webb attend an upcoming council meeting to discuss the issue and concerns. “And we can show him the letter we have from the MTO,” said Councillor Parker. He suggested if council cannot receive a positive response on its request then it could try and gain a meeting with Sergeant Labelle. “Kevin (Webb) has already said he would come to one of our meetings.”

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