The CEO of Chapman’s Ice Cream has told Grey Highlands council that a plan to upgrade a portion of Highway 10 in Flesherton could potentially cost his company millions of dollars.
On June 7, Chapman’s CEO Ashley Chapman appeared at the Grey Highlands council meeting and informed council that road upgrades planned for downtown Flesherton this summer could dramatically affect the world-famous ice cream business that operates in Markdale.
“I’m going to have to figure out a new route for my trucks. The financial impact to my business is staggering. I could lose millions,” said Chapman, who said that 70 per cent of his company’s sales get shipped out between May and September each year.
Chapman was referring to the summer plan by Grey Highlands to reconstruct the municipal portion of Highway 10 running through Flesherton. The municipality has received up to $3 million in funding from the province for the project through the connecting link program, which provides funding to local municipalities for road improvements on provincial highways running through their urban boundaries.
Highway 10 has become a heavily travelled highway in the summer months as it is a key route from larger urban areas in the south to tourist areas in Grey County and on the Bruce Peninsula.
Chapman said the thought of traffic being backed up to the south from Flesherton to Shelburne and to the north from Flesherton to Owen Sound was a “nightmare” scenario that would have a “terrible effect on local businesses in Flesherton.”
Downtown Flesherton business owner Carol Wood also spoke to council about the issue and urged the municipality to hold off until later in the year to do the work.
“Please do it in the fall,” said Wood. “Everyone is just recovering from COVID. We just need a summer. It would be bad timing to lose our summer trade.”
Members of council did not respond directly to the comments from Chapman or Wood. The procedural bylaw does not allow a back-and-forth conversation during the open forum portion of the meeting.
However, later in the meeting council addressed the issue when it officially awarded the tender for the project to Harold Sutherland Construction at a total price of $3,244,053.85 (which includes the non-rebatable portion of the HST). The project includes significant underground work and road upgrades and improvements.
During the discussion, it was obvious the impact the work would have on the businesses in Flesherton was weighing heavily on the minds of councillors.
“This body is taking their thoughts very seriously,” said Coun. Joel Loughead.
Mayor Paul McQueen said it was a good news/bad news situation for council.
“It’s a tough spot for us to be in,” said McQueen. “We’re in an unusual spot. We don’t usually get $3 million to go towards our project.”
The mayor wondered if the contractor could hold off on major work until after the summer season ended.
Chris Cornfield, the municipality's director of transportation and public spaces, said, with the tender award being officially approved, the municipality would be having conversations with the contractor on the timing of the work.
“They may come back and say ´we’d like to start by August 15.´ We don’t know that at this stage until we have that conversation,” said Cornfield.
Cornfield said the municipality would also be holding a public consultation meeting on the project. Cornfield said the construction window for the project runs from early July 2023 to July 26 2024 and there are tight timelines for the Connecting Link funding.
CAO Karen Govan said the priority for Grey Highlands will be to “minimize disruption.”
“This is the first step of the plan,” Govan said of the tender award. “We’ll get out to the public as soon as possible.”