Parksville delays committing to MADD sign campaign until city staff report next month

Margarita Bernard’s husband was killed by a drunk driver while the two were walking on the sidewalk in Courtenay in 2016. || Image is a screenshot from Parksville council's June 7 regular meeting.
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Placing signs advising Parksville drivers to report impaired drivers will have to wait a little longer, after council deferred the issue to a future meeting because city staff are very busy. The city’s chief administrative officer (CAO), Keeva Kehler, said staff have 91 projects on their list, a number which has nearly doubled since the start of the year.

A representative from the Comox Valley chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) made a presentation to council at its June 7 meeting requesting the city consider participating in the program. 

The signs are designed to combat the misperception that reporting a suspected impaired driver is not an appropriate reason to call 911, according to Margarita Bernard, who gave the presentation.

“My concern is that, as our CAO pointed out, we have a lot of things we’ve put on as priorities. This is something very new to us to come up on our radar and we do have tough decisions to make,” said Coun. Adam Fras. He suggested targeted Facebook ads could be a better way of reaching people.

Coun. Doug O’Brien’s motion to direct staff to determine appropriate locations for the signs was amended to give staff flexibility to prioritize the project as appropriate. Council will discuss its priority when Kehler presents a report of city staff’s projects next month.

Coun. Al Greir said he supported the motion, but was skeptical it was a proper use of staff time and resources.

“I’m not totally convinced that putting signs up in town is going to prevent anybody from drinking and driving. I’d like to know the costs and the time staff would require to put these signs up,” he said. 

O’Brien pointed out the signs are not meant to discourage impaired driving, but to encourage people to report suspected impaired drivers.

“What it is doing is turning the entire community into the eyes and ears of the RCMP to get drunk drivers off the road. It’s not even suggesting ‘don’t drink and drive,’ said O’Brien.

He also confirmed MADD will pay for the cost of the signs and deliver them. The city will be responsible for the cost of mounting them on poles and any necessary groundwork, such as concrete pads. O’Brien suggested the city would only need three signs, one at each entrance to the city via Highway 19A and one on the Alberni Highway near the city limits.

The amended motion was passed with Fras opposed. Kehler said she anticipates she will provide a report of city staff’s projects at either the July 5 or July 19 regular meeting, depending on when it is completed.

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