A local couple is looking at a cost of about $50,000 to pay for repairs to a bridge on their property, and hoping the Town will take some liability for the damage.
Adrian and Sohayla Praysner live on a beautiful stretch of land on McNab Road, and although they don’t farm it themselves, there are still fruit trees on the gently rolling property that slopes down to a valley, with a creek and what was at one time a structurally sound bridge for transportation to the bank on the other side.
The creek is now considered part of the Airport Drain, says Adrian, and as such, there is regular maintenance carried out by the Town, usually involving scraping brush from the banks.
But when the last maintenance work was carried out on their creek, the bridge, an attractive combination of stone pillars and wrought-iron fencing over a culvert, was severely damaged.
That was in 2012, and since then the pillars have continued to crumble and the fencing is at an even more alarming angle.
The couple spoke to councillors at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, frustrated at the many discussions and years that have passed since the bridge was damaged, and hoping for a resolution.
Sohayla showed photos of the bridge, and told councillors when the maintenance was carried out in 2012, the contracting company brought in a 27-ton Gradall excavator, the weight of which, she said, is about equivalent to 20 Honda Civics, stacked on her little bridge.
The couple believes it was too heavy for the bridge, which has since developed sink holes, and has flattened the top of the arch-shaped culvert and compromised the integrity of the structure. It also scraped the sides of the creek too close to the bridge, they say, and the resulting erosion has caused the stone pillars to collapse. The wrought iron railings are falling in at an angle on both sides, all as a result of what was considered to be maintenance to the ditch, he says.
Some repairs were carried out, but the damage continues, they say.
The Town has assumed the ditch for irrigation purposes, and the right to maintain it, but not the accountability for the damage that caused, Adrian says.
“This wasn’t maintenance,” he says. “This is damage, and someone should be liable.”
Brett Ruck, the drainage superintendent for the Town, told councillors that under the provincial Drainage Act, he has no choice but to charge 50 per cent of the cost of repairs to the property owner, and 50 per cent to be shared by property owners on the drain upstream of the bridge.
He wants to see the culvert repaired, he says, “and I think that’s what they want as well. What it comes down to is who is going to pay the bill.”
Although the 50 per cent charge is determined by the results of an engineer’s report, as required by the Drainage Act, he understands the property owners feel strongly they should not be liable for the damage caused in 2012.
Going back to the contractor so many years later is difficult, he said, in response to a question from Coun. Wendy Cheropita. When she asked him if the contractor is still doing work for the Town, he said yes.
Ruck will prepare a report for council presenting possibilities for dealing with the issue, he said, including looking at other ways to distribute the cost — charging the property owner half is not necessarily the most reasonable way of dealing with how costs are apportioned, and there are other methods that could work in the future.
It will be up to council to decide whether they want to take a different route, he said.
Ruck said in the past, when a property owner has been charged a large amount for work on a drain, the Town has given them time to pay the bill, rather than expecting it in one lump sum.
But to the Praysners, the point is if a contractor damaged their bridge, there should be liability, and some responsibility on the part of the Town, who contracted the work that caused the damage.
“It seems frankly outrageous” that the Town, which assumed the bridge as part of its drainage system, would expect them to accept responsibility for the cost of repairing it, Adrian said.
Ruck said he expects to have a report ready to go to council, explaining the alternatives, in January.