March 12, 2013 - 8:41 AM
By Charlotte Helston
A downtown revitalization project may have hit a dead end after a 3-3 vote crushed a motion to give it the green light. A special meeting of council will be held Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. to seal its fate.
An unsavoury rise in the budget cost—$267,000—soured the project for several councillors. The revitalization of 30th Ave.'s west end now sports a price tag of $2.4 million, an amount the city might not be able to pay for without taking cash from other projects.
"This is a fairly serious situation because it's a large scale project," the city's chief administrative officer Will Pearce said at Monday's council meeting.
Coun. Catherine Lord wouldn't support the motion unless it was amended to take funds from the 29th Street Utilities Upgrade (formerly the Polson Greenway).
"It's one or the other, not both," Lord said.
Opposition also came from Coun. Bob Spiers who refused to take money from priority projects to give to "Pleasantville infrastructure."
Coun. Nicol recognized the financial challenges, but insisted the project must go forward.
"It was difficult to get the merchants on our side," Nicol said. "The value is still there to complete what has been a really good plan."
Council dwindled to six when Coun. Mary-Jo O'Keefe excused herself due to a conflict of interest, as she has inherited land in the downtown area. The vote to complete the project revealed an even split, with Coun. Brian Quiring, Mayor Sawatzky and Coun. Nicol in support of the motion.
"There is a concern it might collapse," Quiring said. "Too much time and energy has gone into this project."
Rob Dickinson, manager of city engineering services, says the delays aren't helping the project.
"The goal was to be done before the summer tourist traffic," Dickinson said. "A two week deferral would delay the project two more weeks."
Historically, it's been an issue getting merchants between 33rd and 35th streets on board. Coun. Nicol hates to think of the message the city would be sending if the project was scrapped now.
Diane Rowland, owner of Betty Lou Boutique, supports revitalization, even though the construction period will be difficult.
"In the long run, it will be good for businesses," Rowland said.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call (250)309-5230.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013