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GRAND LE PIERRE, N.L. — Safety doesn’t come first for everyone in Grand le Pierre, according to two residents of the community.
Bonnie Drake and Anna Kearley told The Southern Gazette they have serious concerns about dangerous behaviour in the town, located roughly 100 kilometres north of Marystown, and say efforts to improve safety have gone nowhere.
One of the problems is unchecked impaired driving of both vehicles and ATVs, they say. Speeding is also an issue as well as people driving without vehicle insurance and registration.
Kearley says just this week a suspected impaired driver nearly struck her grandmother.
“She had to jump into the snowbank by our fence there,” Kearley said of the near miss.
The police were called and showed up some time later, but by then the individual had been tipped off and couldn’t be located, she claimed.
“The word travels too fast, and (residents) don’t want nothing done about it, but when something happens they says, ‘Oh well, how come nothing got done about this before.’ Well, you got to speak up to get stuff done,” Kearley said.
“It’s not a safe community, no, it’s not,” said Drake. “What’s the good to do anything?”
Last year, when Drake’s dog was run over, she responded by spray painting “slow down” on her fence.
It had no impact, Kearley says.
“People still don’t abide by that. They just looks at it and says, ‘Screw it’, really,” she said.
Drake said she tried to get some proper signs to put up in town, but she was sent around in circles.
“Council is telling me department of highways. Department of highways is telling me to contact council. See? Where do I go, what do I do?” she said.
Drake and Kearley serve on the playground committee in the town. Kearley says an effort was made to get a safety committee off the ground, as well, but there was little interest.
“We’ve pretty much taken it into our own hands to try to get a bit of safety around the community for the children,” Kearley said.
Another friend of theirs has unsuccessfully tried to get a crosswalk and sign at the main school bus stop in the town, they say.
Drake says she’s afraid to even go for a short walk in the community, while Kearley fears it will take a tragedy for something to change.
“It seems like nobody else in the community wants anything done,” Kearley said.
In a brief phone conversation with Grand le Pierre Mayor Glen Bolt, he acknowledged there is concern about safety on the roads. He declined to be interviewed further over the phone, however, saying he would only make a statement in person.
Police encourage calls
Staff Sergeant Dale Foote of the Burin Peninsula RCMP confirmed police received a report about an impaired driver in Grand le Pierre recently, but said they weren’t told someone was nearly injured.
Foote said they investigated but found no evidence that could prove the individual was driving impaired and therefore couldn’t proceed with charges.
The concerns expressed by Drake and Kearley are similar in many of the more isolated communities on the peninsula, Foote says.
“It’s been an ongoing thing for the five years I have been here, but not just Grand le Pierre or Terrenceville, like all the remote areas where they know police can’t spend a lot of time in there, there’s always regular ongoing concern, especially with the ATVs,” he said.
Foote said the RCMP take all complaints seriously and encourage people to keep calling.
“When we get the call, we’re going. Our biggest frustration is, one, we’re not getting a lot of calls, and, two, when we get the call, we show up there, all of a sudden nobody knows anything and everybody forgets everything,” he said.
“I’ve always committed to it and our members are dedicated to it, that if we’re receiving call volume, we’re spending time in the areas where we receive our calls.”
Foote said the police need people to be willing to step up and make formal statements.
“Ultimately, if we’re not there to deal with it or witness it, we can’t proceed with it,” he said.
Foote said he would welcome an increase in call volume, not be upset by it.
“It justifies our numbers, it justifies our need for people and our need for more money,” he said.