October 26, 2020

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Frustrated businessman pulls donation of amber lights for school zones

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Electrical Contractor Chuck Lewis: “It’s become obvious to me that the councillors and the mayor do not care about child safety."</p>


Electrical Contractor Chuck Lewis: “It’s become obvious to me that the councillors and the mayor do not care about child safety."

A businessman who offered to install flashing amber lights in Winnipeg school zones for free is pulling his offer after he says bureaucratic red tape made working with the city impossible.

Chuck Lewis, owner of Expert Electric, made the offer to the city more than five years ago. He said he would donate two solar-powered flashing amber lights for each school zone in Winnipeg to improve safety for children.

But on Thursday Lewis reversed course, saying the city has thrown up roadblock after roadblock to stall the project.

"It’s become obvious to me that the councillors and the mayor do not care about child safety. They can talk about photo enforcement all they want, but it’s clear the issue for them is revenue. If it wasn’t, they would have put up the lights," Lewis said.

"It’s about money for them and has nothing to do with child safety… Winnipeg is one of the last cities in Canada that doesn’t have them. It’s mind-boggling that we’re so far behind other cities."

The city agreed to accept Lewis’s offer last year. The agreement involved almost 500 lights.

A formalized plan for the rollout of the amber lights was never finalized, and the city decided some school zones needed more than two lights. No budget was approved to install another 400 lights worth $1.4 million.

In an interview with the Free Press Thursday evening, Lewis said he thought he had a preliminary agreement with the city that would mean the first amber lights would be installed this fall, but then more bureaucratic red tape botched the deal.

"We signed a contract on how we would roll the lights out. We signed it and planned to roll it out this fall. This fall I contact the city and they said the guy we signed the contract with was no longer with the city, and so it had to go back to another committee," Lewis said.

On Thursday, members of the city’s property, planning and development committee voted three-to-one in favour of delaying the installation and sending the matter to the executive policy committee.

In frustration at what he calls yet another unnecessary delay, Lewis decided to pull his offer.

"I’m offering free beacons. I’m willing to take over the maintenance and everything. All it’s going to do is potentially save a child’s life. But it’s just roadblock after roadblock," Lewis said.

"We did a lot of work to make this happen, and after a while, you just get so aggravated. I thought there was no way they would turn this down."

Lewis said if there is new blood in the municipal government after the next election, he may make the offer again.


Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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