St. John’s potholes worst in years: councillor

Daniel MacEachern
Published on May 6, 2014
St. John’s Coun. Bruce Tilley speaks at a city council meeting Monday afternoon. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

A St. John’s councillor says the potholes on city streets this spring are the worst he’s seen in years.
Coun. Bruce Tilley said at Monday’s regular meeting — after council approved an $8-million contract for street rehabilitation work to Pyramid Construction — that he’s had several calls from constituents this spring complaining about pock-marked streets.

“Because we’ve had such a difficult winter, and because the roads are in such deplorable condition all over the city … are we going to spend an extra amount of money to do all the roads that are not included in this particular tender?” said Tilley.

Brendan O’Connell, the city’s director of engineering, noted that the Pyramid Construction contract is for the streets the city has

identified of being most in need of rehab, and not for individual potholes.

“Potholes and such that have appeared over the winter, Public Works would handle those, and if those roads have deteriorated to the point they have to jump up on the list, we would re-mark those roads for next year’s, and succeeding years’,” said O’Connell.

“I just want to know, do we have enough money in this year’s budget to repair all the roads and potholes and all the roads that are in deplorable condition around the city?” responded Tilley. “Do we have enough funds in our budget to do all the work? Because in my opinion, it’s only an opinion, since I’ve been on council the last four years, I’ve never seen the roads in such a state they’re in.”

The city budgeted $7.6 million in this year’s budget for road maintenance, but Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth said whatever roadwork needs to be done will be done.

“If that means we’ve got to spend some extra money to get that done … obviously it’s a safety issue, and it’ll come back to council for any update,” he said.

Coun. Art Puddister said the city’s pothole liability policy needs to be clarified. As it stands, the city will pay for damages to a vehicle only if it can be proven the city knew about a pothole and didn’t repair it “in a timely manner,” said city solicitor Bob Bursey. But what constitutes a reasonable period of time is not specified. As reported by the Telegram last month, the city has paid out on just two pothole claims out of 950 received since 2003.

 “Staff would recommend to council, your worship, payment of pothole claims if staff felt the circumstances were such that there would be legal liability were it to go to court,” said Bursey. “Typically, potholes aren’t known by the city until somebody phones in and tells the city about them.”

Puddister suggested the policy is too vague.

“Everybody talks about ‘a reasonable time.’ What is a reasonable time?” he said. “I don’t know if we want to go to court to find it out, but I think we should have an in-house policy: if it’s clear that we knew about a pothole, and then we have to decide what a reasonable time is.”

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel