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Safety beacons in Winnipeg school zones caught in more red tape, says councillor

It's still unclear when the city will take up a Winnipeg man's offer to install free flashing lights in the city's school zones.
It's still unclear when the city will take up a Winnipeg man's offer to install free flashing lights in the city's school zones. The Canadian Press

Despite the best intentions of a local electrician who first offered to donate flashing amber lights for Winnipeg school zones four years ago, the city says the lights still won’t be in place when classes begin next week.

The city finalized its deal with Chuck Lewis of Expert Electric earlier this year, but Charleswood Coun. Kevin Klein says there are potentially more hurdles for the arrangement to clear before it can be implemented.

“You would think that once the agreement was signed, we could have expedited it,” Klein told 680 CJOB.

“My thought was, if the politicians who said, ‘Well, you just have to have an agreement with the city’ — and the city took all that time to write an agreement to accept a free gift, we could have just started installing them at that moment.”

Read more: Two teens hit by car on Ness Avenue

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Klein said he’s frustrated by the length of time this is taking, and that the matter should be voted on at a committee meeting this month.

It’s still unclear, however, whether it will need further scrutiny by the city’s executive policy committee or by the full council as well.

“What has to happen now is it has to go back through the political system — because politicians like to have their part in it — and they will determine whether or not this agreement is good enough to go forward,” said Klein.

“Now it has to go back to the committees and the committees have to say they’re good with it, and once that’s all done — making sure they don’t want to change anything and everything goes through — then we can start putting the lights up.”

Klein said while people who speed ought to be fined, drivers entering school zones should get plenty of warning about the reduced speed to protect the kids.

Read more: Reduced speed limits back in Winnipeg school zones, gifted flashing lights coming soon

Lewis, who has been waiting for years, and now likely has to wait a little longer, told 680 CJOB on Tuesday that he had been hoping to hear from the city about starting off the program with a test-case school by the weekend.

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He said installing the lights is all about increasing safety where kids are out and about.

“For me, it’s a little closer to home, because I’ve actually seen two kids get hit and dragged down the road. That was in winter when a guy didn’t clear his windshield properly.

“You put up the beacons, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, dark, your windows are fogged — you’ll still see the beacons flashing.

“Right now with COVID going on, a lot of kids can’t take school buses; they have to walk to school. Those kids aren’t going to be very familiar with the streets, so anything we can do to help them is good, right?”

Lewis said the plan is to roll out a safety program in schools as the beacons become installed.

“You’d hate to give a school some beacons and have a kid get hurt because he ran out and thought he was safe.

“They still have to understand there’s road precautions they have to take.”

Click to play video 'Frustrated Winnipeg electrician installs flashing school zone lights himself' Frustrated Winnipeg electrician installs flashing school zone lights himself
Frustrated Winnipeg electrician installs flashing school zone lights himself