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West Saint John business group questions Highway 1 lawn maintenance

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West Saint John business group questions Hwy. 1 lawn maintenance
The executive director of the Saint John Lancaster Business Association says grass and weeds are overgrown at many medians and access ramps along Hwy. 1 through Saint John. Blaine Harris says the scene is an eyesore for residents and tourists and dangerous for commuters – Aug 18, 2021

Blaine Harris tidied his Lancaster Barber Shop in west Saint John before going to another shop in the eastern part of the city.

He said he takes Highway 1, known in the city as the Saint John Throughway, but expressed concern that grass and weeds in the medians and access ramps along the highway have grown too high.

He said it’s not appealing to residents nor tourists.

“You see the mess of grass — or what looks like hay now more than grass — it’s an eyesore,” Harris said. “But it’s also a safety hazard. A lot of cars are low, so when you’re travelling through these medians and stuff and you’re trying to look around, people don’t necessarily see what’s on the opposite side of them. I think it’s very dangerous.”

READ MORE: Saint John Common Council passes new-look 2021 budget

In a Facebook post on Monday, west side councillor Greg Norton said the issue boils down to budget and staffing cuts within the city’s lawn maintenance program.

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“Some of these grass medians are located within residential areas,” Norton wrote. “And we would encourage residents in the area to mow these if they are able to do so safely.”

Harris said that’s not advisable.

“Coming from a business standpoint and coming from what I’ve been advised previous, the minute you pick up anything and touch municipal property, you’re assuming the liability,” Harris said. “Somebody gets injured on that property after you’ve played with it or you’ve done whatever to it, you could be on the line.”

Councillor Brent Harris said a combination of factors resulted in the service cuts, including the need for the city to eliminate a $10 million deficit, a cyberattack against the City of Saint John and the COVID-19 pandemic. He said confusion over boundaries is also an issue, with some city staff not sure where provincial responsibilities end and where their’s begin.

“I have confidence and faith that there are a number of other areas that we put effort and work into that are bringing [positive changes to] people,” Harris said. “But there’s no question, if we want that momentum to continue, we need to figure out how to create and maintain that level of maintenance on these areas.”
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READ MORE: Report pegs Saint John cyberattack recovery costs at $2.95 million so far

Harris said a much-needed municipal tax reform by the provincial government would go a long way toward increasing levels of service. The Higgs government has committed to reforms but has not unveiled changes.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure provided an emailed statement to Global News regarding highway maintenance in the Saint John region.

“Gateway is responsible for maintenance outside of the Saint John Harbour Bridge area, the Main Street and Market Place underpasses,” said spokesman Mark Taylor. “We are in frequent conversations with Gateway. They have been conducting maintenance according to their responsibilities and we have no concerns.”

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