By Kevin Werner, News Staff
From a plan to install five Hamilton signs at gateway locations across Hamilton at about $100,000, politicians instead approved a proposal to build one sign at Highway 403 and Highway 6 at a cost of $230,000.
“I can’t justify it,” said Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla, who was shocked at the cost.
When politicians last September agreed to install Hamilton signs at five gateway entrances to the community, Merulla expected the cost to be no more than $100,000 in total.
“I can’t support it,” he said, during the May 7 general issues committee meeting.
The idea for installing the signs has been around since after amalgamation. City staff studied the issue, but by 2008, it had disappeared from council’s agenda.
The city had budgeted $100,000 for the project in 2007. And there was a plan to construct the signs for 2009, but no cost was ever presented.
The Transportation Ministry did install new blue Hamilton signs at various rural entrances to the city with the slogan “The City of Many Communities” attached.
Then last year businesswoman Laura Babcock urged council to resurrect the idea. She said most municipalities have a sign welcoming people into their community, such as St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Burlington and Oakville. They are also prominent in the northern part of Ontario.
Five locations had been identified for a civic gateway sign in a city study, including Highway 6 at Freelton; highways 403 and 6; the Queen Elizabeth Way and the Red Hill Valley Parkway; the QEW and Fifty Road; and Highway 403 and Alberton Road.
And over the years four ideas for a sign have been available. Each sign hasHamiltonidentified, with one sign including the city’s logo, another has a high-level bridge on it, while the other two includes a natural motif in the background. After a public process where about 91 people voted, staff selected the sign that had a series of trees in the background.
The high cost of the sign is due to the material – steel, concrete – plus the design and construction. Gerry Davis, general manager of public works said the work can’t be done by city employees because they don’t have the expertise.
City staff said the highways 403 and 6 location was selected above the others so it can get the maximum traffic exposure during the Pan Am Games traffic. It was also the easiest location to install the sign, they said. The Alberton site lacked high traffic flow, the Freelton and Highway 6 location also had low traffic; but there were complications because of the MTO right-of-way; at the QEW and Fifty Road location, a Stoney Creeksign is already there, and the ministry doesn’t allow for two gateway signs in the same area. And the QEW and Red Hill Valley site already has the bridge as a gateway feature.
Merulla and Chad Collins both said the Pan Am Games argument was a red herring. He said people will instead use the Skyway to get to the Pan Am Stadium rather than take Highway 403 toYork Boulevard.
“It has nothing to do with Pan Am,” said Collins. “There’s got to be a better way.”
He said the cost of the sign could be used to repair one of the city’s roads.
Also voting against the sign were councillors Judi Partridge and Robert Pasuta.
But Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson supported the dead. And she urged city staff to find a solution to the other locations, including QEW and Fifty Road.
“I want to move on at least one,” she said.
Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson also accepted the idea that it’s important to install the sign in time for the Pan Am Games for the summer of 2015.
Politicians still have to vote on the committee’s recommendation May 14.
The detailed design for the project is scheduled to be completed by July. Transportation Ministry approval is needed and it could take until February 2015. Installation could begin in April 2015.