Roadside weeds & rural broadband service on the agenda

Article & Images by Valerie MacDonald

Northumberland County has struck a Vegetation Management Advisory Committee to look at alternatives to clearing weeds from county roadway guard rails, following delegations and the public’s continued opposition to the use of RoundUp.

The committee has a short-term mandate until next June that can be extended, according to the resolution passed by county council on Sept. 23. It is to represent a number of groups and to be established in December.

Those who supported the committee’s establishment and work included Elizabeth Sarjeant, a public engagement strategist for the David Suzuki Foundation and Faye McFarlane with Blue Dot Northumberland, together with members of the public signing a petition and asking that spraying not take place near their properties.

Sarjeant outlined the $10-billion settlement that Round Up-maker Bayer agreed to pay Americans who sued it, but noted it doesn’t apply “to slightly over 500 potential class lawsuits in Canada.” The lawsuits allege glyphosate is a carcinogenic substance.

McFarlane said the committee should search for a cost-effective way to manage weeds looking at alternatives. She noted Blue Dot’s concerns for people walking, biking, concerns for spraying near their homes and watercourses in the County.

A county resident, Diane Hruska, said there we’re “inconsistencies and gaps “in information County staff provided to councillors and that a committee could look at these areas, comparing apples with apples on various approaches, and associated costs.

During this year staff have used several weed-clearing methods and a different type of spray, its public works director Mo Pannu told council councils.

Discussion is also ongoing with other regions to see how they are dealing with weed removal around guard rails. (The issues of noxious weeds on Northumberland Forest trails is not part of the committee’s mandate.)

Only Councillor Gail Latchford, Mayor of Alnwick/Haldimand, spoke against establishing the committee, opting to have a full staff report before taking such a step.  She noted that the agricultural community had spoken out against discontinuing the use of RoundUp in the event weeds would spread into farm fields.

Gail Latchford

In another presentation to Northumberland County Council, David Fell, CEO of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, updated councillors on the status of two ongoing broadband initiatives: the gap in cell phone coverage, and increasing broadband speeds required for work, school and health information.

The RFP issued this past spring to deal with cell gap coverage closed in early September with submissions from Rogers and Bell. By November a decision will be made with construction starting in 2021 and completing in 2025 on the $213-million project, Fell explained.

Ensuring 90 per cent of Eastern Ontario residents have broadband speeds of 50 Mbps uploading and 10 Mbps downloading will correct a situation where only 46% have that now, Fell said.

Lobbying at all government level is ongoing for this fixed (fibre) broadband solution estimated to cost from $500 million to $1.6-billion when looking at both speed requirements.

These costs could be reduced if the Provincial Government set standards on utility pole rental costs for providers, he said.

An RFP is to be in place by 2021.

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