Moosonee nets funding to install public docks
A view from one of the taxi boats on Moose River. The Town of Moosonee refused to install public docks along the riverfront unless enough taxi boat drivers paid a new $400 docking fee. The town council cited decreased funding from the province. However, a local agency stepped up to fund the docks for the summer of 2012.
The Town of Moosonee has received funding to install the public docks on the Moose River front, weeks after residents raised health and safety concerns.
Wakenagun Community Futures Development Corporation said it will provide $5,000 to install and maintain the docks for the summer of 2012.
Prior to the announcement, Moosonee mayor Victor Mitchell remained adamant that more boat taxi drivers on the Moose River front needed to pay a $400 docking fee in order for the town to install public docks.
“We can’t keep taking funds out of our general revenue,” Mitchell said last week to Wawatay News. “We’re trying to streamline our budget to balance it.”
The Moosonee public docks had previously been funded by the provincial government until 2008, when the responsibility fell to the town to fund the $4,000-5,000 required to install and maintain the docks. At the time, the town agreed to accept a lump sum of $80,000 from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries for the docks.
“(The lump sum) was used to rehabilitate the public docks area, including refurbishing the docks itself and putting in a new stairway leading to hilltop to roadway, and fixing up the area since 2008,” Mitchell said. The lump sum was also used to fund the installation and maintenance of the public docks for two years before it footed the bill for two more years out of its own budget.
Last fall, the town council said it could no longer sustain the costs. Mitchell said the town has had to cut programs due to a growing lack of funds. It was not able to fund the local curling club last winter, nor the Tidewater Provincial Park located directly across the river.
“The whole provincial government being in deficit, so it’s we really have to find ways to come up with revenues to continue all these projects,” Mitchell said. “Having the $400 fee is a way of doing that to make sure the docks are in every year.”
Meanwhile, community members had raised health and safety concerns about the lack of public docks this summer.
A boy was reportedly injured after slipping while going down the riverbank and had to be airlifted to hospital. An elderly resident also fell and injured her eye after hitting it on a rock.
Mitchell said he understands the concerns but said the responsibility does not fall on the town.
“Right now, the risk is more on the boat drivers because there’s no docks,” he said last week. “If we put in the docks and someone slips on the docks, then the liability is ours because it’s our docks. But with the current way, the drivers themselves are more liable for the injuries of passengers they carry.”
He said the boat taxi drivers should have done more “than sit by their motor and wait for people and to get on and get off. They need to assist more to ensure nobody gets hurt.”
Boat taxi drivers have also raised concerns of how the town will ensure that only those who paid the docking fee will be able to use the docks. Mitchell said the town would provide a license plate for the boat drivers to place on their boat.
To enforce the by-law, Mitchell said the by-law officer position is currently vacant, “but we will hire a by-law officer to enforce the plate.”
Mitchell said the town will install the docks immediately once the Wakenagun application was approved and hopes to find a long-term solution for the future.
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