North Hatley begins construction on the Main Street Bridge

By Michael Boriero – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

North Hatley residents woke up Tuesday morning to the sight of orange cones blocking access to the Main Street Bridge for the first time as the town conducts a five-month long reconstruction project.
The town has been preparing to tear down and rebuild the bridge for nearly a year. However, the project was a bone of contention from the start because a significant detour will be necessary in order to travel from one side of the river to the other by car.
The detour takes people through routes 143 and 108 (Capelton Road), or route 143 and Sherbrooke Road. North Hatley recently held a public consultation about the bridge to give residents a platform to air their grievances.
Tuesday night Mayor Michael Page ran North Hatley’s first public council meeting at the community centre since the COVID-19 outbreak. But spots were limited to six residents. The Record was refused entry at the meeting in lieu of keeping spaces available for locals.
“Normally, it’s not like we have 50 people coming, we’re anywhere from three, four to maybe 10 people at our council meetings, so the six won’t be all that bad, perhaps a few will be turned away because it’s full,” said Page.
When asked about the possibility of more questions and concerns about the bridge, he said it would be unlikely. The bridge consultation already happened, he continued, unless people were out of town, there’s no reason to be surprised by the orange cones.
With Quebec’s health and safety measures in place, if residents want to attend a North Hatley town council meeting they will need to reserve a spot. Page said his office will also continue to post a video of the meeting on the town’s website.
“I think as long as we’re in Covid, because there are people that will choose to not come because they don’t want to put themselves at risk, I think it’s only fair to offer that downloaded version of it,” he said, adding that this is done to maintain physical distance.
Other towns are following similar paths. Ayer’s Cliff council posts audio of its town meetings on their website. They also held their first public meeting last night at the local community centre.
The rules are slighty different, though, as the limit is 10 people. It works on a first come, first served basis, too, and it’s open to any interested parties. Stanstead is limited to eight people and it’s also open to anybody interested in attending a town meeting.
“The last meeting we had two or three people, so usually we have that, sometimes four, if it wasn’t for [COVID-19] we have about 20 places, but with this we only have eight places,” said Stanstead Mayor Philip Dutil.
The city posts a recording of the meeting on its website the following day, according to Dutil. He adds that if this continues much longer they will need to upgrade their online platform to support more audio and video.

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