Norfolk County councillors say they are not opposed to installing a rainbow crosswalk in Simcoe to show support for LGBTQ residents and visitors.
But on Tuesday, they balked at committing tax dollars toward the project spearheaded by nine-year-old Ryder Mandryk of Simcoe.
Councillors debated a staff proposal that would have seen the county contribute up to $7,500 toward a crosswalk estimated at $15,000, as long as Mandryk could come up with half the cost through donations.
The county’s contribution would decrease if she exceeded her fundraising goal of $7,500.
When Mandryk spoke at council on Tuesday, she had raised just over $7,200.
By Thursday, that total had risen to more than $7,600.
That would have funded the bulk of the project as originally estimated last year, when county staff pegged the expected cost at between $7,000 and $12,000.
The estimate rose after the roads department determined that rather than use normal road paint, which is slippery when wet and needs to be repainted annually, the safer and more durable option is a specialty thermal plastic material that can last up to 15 years.
County staff do not have the staff expertise or specialized equipment to install the thermal plastic, said director of engineering Mike King, so the roads department had to outsource the work.
Coun. Kim Huffman and both Simcoe councillors — Ian Rabbitts and Ryan Taylor — supported the plan even at the higher price.
“I feel that you did your part and now it’s time that we do our part,” Huffman told Mandryk.
But Mayor Kristal Chopp and a majority of councillors thought the price tag for the installation and future maintenance of the crosswalk was too steep.
“We did not want this burden to fall to the taxpayers,” Chopp said, noting council was fine with putting the cost of repainting a typical white crosswalk — between $100 and $500 — toward the rainbow crossing.
Council directed staff to find a cheaper option, with Coun. Amy Martin opining that using road paint instead of thermal plastic “is being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers and will certainly fulfil Ryder’s mandate.”
King explained that paint could be a safety hazard because, unlike a regular zebra crossing where bare asphalt is interspersed with white lines to give pedestrians more stability, a rainbow crosswalk has no bare asphalt and is therefore slipperier when wet.
Adam Veri, a community organizer helping make “Ryder’s Rainbow” a reality, said after the meeting he was surprised council voted down staff’s recommendation but fundraising for the crosswalk would continue.
“We will be back with a new plan soon. We aren’t giving up on this thing,” Veri said.
“It will be all the more rewarding when we finally get it done.”
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator