By Ryan McGreal
Published June 17, 2009
Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla has set a chain(link) of events in motion with a request to CN Rail to clean its property near Strathearne Ave. and Vansitmart Ave. on behalf of a neighbouring resident who currently volunteers to clear the area of dumped garbage and debris.
The resident, Kate Humphrey, has contacted CN Rail's maintenance division to complain about the dumped couches, TVs, carpets and so on, but made no progress. She would like to see a fence installed to deter would-be dumpers.
CN responded by asking whether the city would be "responsive to cost sharing the installation of a new chain link fence" and then assuming responsibility to maintain the fence - since it's city residents who are complaining about the litter.
The city replied by noting that CN owns the property and is responsible for maintaining it - including installing a fence if necessary.
CN then protested that it "is doing all it can at the moment to keep illegal dumping at bay. In order to address any type of security fencing, such as chain link, the City must become an equal partner."
(While we're at it, my house would surely look nicer with a new paint job. I may call on the city to become an "equal partner" in tendering a contract to some College Pro Painters over the summer months.)
City traffic engineering and operations manager Hart Solomon replied directly to the follow-up request from Merulla's office, pointing out that according to the city's legal department, "if the City were to fund part of the cost of any fencing [for CN Rail], that would be considered bonusing under the Municipal Act, and that is considered illegal."
Solomon added that this would set "a very difficult precedent, in that the railway would be back to the City every time there was an issue, asking for more funding."
He noted at the same time that CN would also be setting a potentially troublesome precedent by agreeing to the city's request to install a fence, as they are responsible for the safety and security of the rail line and there is currently no specific requirement to secure the property with a fence as such.
In response, Merulla announced that he will consider bringing forth a motion to council to adopt a city-wide policy on securing rail properties across the city. In a reply to RTH, he explained that it "should perhaps be a shared responsibility between the city, CN and CP [Rail]." CP Rail also manages rail lines in Hamilton.
A city-wide policy that treats all affected businesses equally would avoid the charge of bonusing.
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