Winnipeg’s executive policy committee (EPC) voted in favour of accepting a gift of flashing amber lights in school zones Monday, despite the fact the offer had been rescinded the week before.
Chuck Lewis, owner of Expert Electric, said he pulled the plug on the idea to donate, install and maintain flashing amber lights across all of the city’s school zones after being met with additional delays last week.
“They just changed the whole scope of the way we were going to roll it out in the beginning,” Lewis said.
“In spring we came to an agreement and I signed a contract and I thought we’d be able to roll them out this fall, and then they basically told me the person I signed the contract with was no longer in that position and they were going to change the way they wanted to roll them out.
“I was very disappointed with the councillors and the mayor for the way they were handling the situation.”
Lewis has been trying to donate the lights for four years.
Despite the offer being taken away, the issue was still on the agenda at the EPC on Monday.
At the meeting, Coun. Cindy Gilroy encouraged her fellow committee members to vote for the proposal, but Coun. Brian Mayes asked what was being voted on, exactly.
“Could we get clarity on what we’re voting on here, particularly because of the tie vote at the (property and development) standing committee?” he asked.
Coun. Sherri Rollins voted against the proposal, because despite the lights being installed and maintained for free, there were still costs to the city involved.
“In this case, the flashing amber lights comes at $1.4 million of cost if it was fully rolled out. And I didn’t want the impression taken out of context that we were accepting a gift and there wasn’t commitment costs,” she said.
Rollins said spending $1.4 million on the amber lights wasn’t her highest priority in terms of road safety.
Both Rollins and Coun. Scott Gillingham expressed their disatisfaction with how the whole issue has been handled so far.
“I share the frustration a lot of people share with how this matter has come to this state,” said Gillingham.
“The understanding is that Mr. Lewis has withdrawn the gift. I acknowledge that if he if he submits the gift or he has a change of heart and puts it back on the table, whatever it would take to receive the gift and get to get the lights, the beacon lights implemented, should be installed as soon as possible.”
The EPC voted to send the recommendation for accepting the lights to city council, with Rollins voting against.
The EPC passed a motion to spend $1.2 million over the next four year to fund local community groups.
Ka Ni Kanichihk will receive $150,000 per year through 2023, while the Spence Neighbourhood Association will be granted $100,000 annually during the same timeframe.
The money is being allocated by the city’s 24/7 Safe Space Grant Program. The program was established in 2019 and is geared towards expanding services for priority populations in Winnipeg by offering 24/7 safe environments that foster positive relationships in neighbourhoods where it’s needed the most.
“I think it’s a better way of planning for those organizations and most importantly for the community members that can utilize those important 24/7 safe spaces that we so need in our community,” said Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman Monday.
The motion is subject to the approval of city council next month.
—with files from Marek Tkach and Diana Foxall
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