At the very least, it’s a pleasant surprise.

Marc Clermont, the director of public works for the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR), is dumbfounded after being informed the department was awarded a $419,000 grant from the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling program (OMCC).

The confusion comes after Clermont submitted an application to pave road shoulders totalling $60,000 financed at 80 per cent, for a total grant of $48,000.

But before the deadline, he says the OMCC contacted him and suggested he add projects which he thought could fit the bill. Clermont ended up throwing in several possible projects totalling about $3 million, but admits he never thought they’d be considered.

Despite those projects, and running a handful of different scenarios, Clermont still can’t explain the discrepancy.

“They didn’t put the total amounts associated to each project,” says Clermont. “When I look at the amounts in the application, it’s not even close. In one scenario I’m either way too high and in another I’m way too low.”

Approved projects

Clermont says the UCPR opted to create a cycling infrastructure by way of paved road shoulders rather than create a network or trails.

Some of the approved projects include paving the shoulders of County Road 4 near Hawkesbury, County Road 24 along the Ottawa River near L’Orignal, County Road 9 through Plantagenet and County Road 28 south of Highway 417.

Considering the goal of the grant is to “improve or support commuter cycling,” Clermont says the approved projects don’t offer much continuity of infrastructure.  

Part of Clermont’s surprise, he says, is Prescott-Russell isn’t really known for its commuter cycling.

“I don’t see many people cycling to work.”

Time constraint

The grant’s timeline adds another wrinkle of confusion. The grant says the funding is for 2017 and 2018; the deadline to apply was September 8, 2017, but the department only heard the result during the holidays.

Now Clermont is unsure if he needs to spend the entirety of the money this year and specifically for the approved projects or if it can be shuffled around.

Nonetheless, “We’ll make it work,” he says.

Clermont has reached out to the Ministry of Transportation, which is offering the grant, for answers, but hasn’t heard back.

The Review has also reached out to Grants Ontario to try and explain the mix-up and will update when we hear back.

In the meantime, Clermont says his department will go ahead with drafting an agreement for Warden François St. Amour to sign.

“We won’t refuse money, that’s for sure,” says Clermont. “It’s good news, but it doesn’t make sense.”