The decades-long saga surrounding the construction of a sound wall along Highway 20 in Beaconsfield is heating up once again.
Some residents protested at Monday night’s city council meeting, accusing Mayor Georges Bourelle of dragging his feet on the long-awaited project.
Bourelle, however, says he’s just striving for fairness.
“I think we need to have a democratic process for the residents that will pay for the wall, the taxpayers, to make that final decision,” Bourelle told Global News.
Outside Beaconsfield city hall Monday night, a few dozen residents accused Bourelle of disregarding their health.
“There is a real problem in Beaconsfield, and the mayor seems to believe that there is no problem,” said Michel Rheault, who is spearheading a coalition of citizens advocating for the wall.
For decades, some Beaconsfielders have been calling for the construction of a wall along Highway 20 to block out the sound. Rheault has lived in the area for 12 years, and says the noise affects his hearing and his sleep. He presented a petition with 2,000 signatures to council demanding action.
“From one administration to the other for thirty-five years, what they have done is to put it on the back burner,” he said,
Mayor Georges Bourelle tells a far different story.
“Since I’ve been mayor, I think I’ve pushed this issue as far as I can to a decision,” he said, explaining he was the first Beaconsfield mayor to have a meeting with the transport minister on the topic.
Bourelle says according to a 2020 report from Transports Quebec, the 5-kilometre wall will cost nearly $47 million, double the previous estimate in 2010.
Beaconsfield will be on the hook for a quarter of that, which amounts to just under $12 million. Bourelle worries the estimate will go up even more.
“With well-informed residents in Beaconsfield, I think they are then capable of making that decision if they want to pay increased taxes, because it will have an impact on taxes to to pay for the wall,” Bourelle said.
He says he’s pressing Transports Québec to hold a public information meeting in Beaconsfield about the wall early in 2022, so everyone who’s interested will have all the information they need.
“What will be any impact on their backyards? What will it do to the tree canopy?” Bourelle said.
Rheault says the city would have no problem paying its share.
“The city of Beaconsfield is floating in money,” he claims.
Bourelle says city council would need to vote to take out a loan to pay for the barrier. The entire yearly budget for Beaconsfield is $22 million, and he says they’re carrying a $14 million debt already.
“I think we can see what the impact would be of an $11.75 million additional debt for a wall,” he said.
If enough residents, including those who don’t live near the highway, approve after a possible referendum process, Bourelle will be ready to break ground as quickly as possible.
Global News asked Transports Québec where they are in the process, but they did not answer our questions by deadline.