Emily Street work put off as two sides near a deal
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Feb 18, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Emily Street work put off as two sides near a deal

St. Marys Journal Argus

Stew Slater

St. Marys Journal Argus

The replacement of the roof on the original arena portion of the Pyramid Recreation Centre (PRC), the reconstruction of roadways in the St. Maria/Wellington/Washington Street vicinity, repairs to the bell tower on the Town Hall, and a continuation of the environmental assessment (EA) into the expansion of the landfill are the four most costly capital expense items currently up for approval as part of the town’s proposed 2015 budget.

Items that didn’t make the grade in what was referred to as a “straw vote” last week included reconstruction of the steps from the Grand Trunk Trail to the Flats, structural upgrades to the Heritage-designated McDonald House near the Quarry, central air conditioning for the Town Hall auditorium, and a new ice resurfacing machine at the PRC.

And it’s also proposed that the planned reconstruction of Emily Street between the Grand Trunk underpass and Thamesview Crescent be delayed until 2016.

The public has two more upcoming opportunities to have its say about the budget proposals — Thursday, Feb. 26 and Tuesday, March 10. Both public meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. and both take place at the Municipal Operations Centre on James Street South.

A final budget presentation to the public is tentatively scheduled for late March, although CAO Kevin McLlwain told the Journal Argus last week that it is possible that the timetable could be pushed forward if it becomes clear that decisions could be reached at an earlier date.

With several budget-centred meetings already completed in January and February, an updated proposed schedule for capital expense projects has been posted to the town’s website. Using a “Y” or “N” notation, the schedule shows which projects will — pending changes up to and including March 10 — be recommended as part of the final draft budget.

On the document, the cost of rebuilding the Grand Trunk/Flats steps is estimated at $75,000. The same cost is given for both the Town Hall air conditioning system and the ice resurfacing machine. Fixing the McDonald House is set at $50,000.

Playground equipment at Cadzow Park, at $100,000, is also on the list of proposed projects that were tentatively rejected for the 2015 budget. The same goes for $14,000 worth of fencing at the dog park, $20,000 for lifeguard chairs at the Quarry, and $12,000 for installing rubber flooring at the PRC splashpad.

Expenses that have received tentative approval include $893,000 for the St. Maria Street neighbourhood road reconstruction, $650,000 for the PRC roof, $476,000 for the landfill EA, and $300,000 for the Town Hall bell tower.

It is proposed to utilize Gas Tax revenues to pay for the entirety of the PRC roof, and well over half the St. Maria Street project. Funding for repairing the bell tower would be drawn from reserves. And the town would look to a debenture to take care of the landfill EA.

Another project for which a proposed debenture would cover the cost in 2015 is described in the tentative capital plan as “replacement of Water or Wellington Street Bridge (two lane).” The value attached to this proposed expenditure is $180,000.

According to McLlwain, how exactly this money would be spent hinges on how Council decides to proceed with regards to the currently closed-to-vehicles Water Street Bridge. Mayor Al Strathdee has called for a detailed discussion about the historic structure during Council’s March 3 Committee of the Whole meeting, and McLlwain says administrative staff intends to make that happen.

The CEO stresses that $180,000 will not be sufficient for replacement of either bridge; instead, the proposed expenditure would be put towards “design work” that would be needed in preparation for a future bridge project.

Last month, after Council agreed to spend $10,000 to re-attach rusted-out cross members that threatened to cause the closure of the bridge completely — to pedestrians as well as vehicles — Mayor Al Strathdee pressed Town of St. Marys CAO Kevin McLlwain to schedule a meeting as soon as possible devoted solely to the Water Street crossing. McLlwain responded at the time that, with budget deliberations now in full swing, it would be difficult to set aside one night only for the bridge discussion. But he committed to keeping the non-bridge aspects of an upcoming agenda very light, thereby allotting considerable time to the topic.

For the March 3 meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall, “we haven’t got all the details yet about how the meeting will work, but we’ve mainly got to make sure the agenda allows for a good, long discussion on that bridge,” McLlwain told the Journal Argus last week. “So we’re going to make sure we don’t overload (councillors) with other issues for that meeting.”

The fate of the $10,000 remains undetermined, since it would need final approval through inclusion in the 2015 budget. The expense is, however, included in a first draft of that document.

According to McLlwain, there’s currently a “wide range of opinions” among councillors about the future of the Water Street crossing. And it will take some degree of coming to an agreement before it can be decided whether it’s worth it to spend money now on the steel truss structure.

Smaller-dollar-value items given the tentative green light by Council over the past couple of weeks include smaller-scale road reconstruction on St. George Street North and Water Street between Jones and Queen Streets; $59,000 for repainting and flooring replacement in the PRC’s community centre and entrance areas; and $67,000 for an EA into wastewater treatment.

It’s proposed to follow through on a number of projects that were originally included in previous budgets, or requested previously by Council. These include $35,000 in improvements to the Mill Race Park, $23,000 for repairs to the Elgin Street steps, $22,000 for the completion of work on Carrall Street, and $8,000 for repaving the town-owned Water Street parking lot.

One project that won’t receive attention in 2015 — barring a reversal of Council opinions over the next few weeks — despite being on the town’s radar recently is the completion of the reconstruction of Emily Street. The southernmost portion of the roadway was completed in 2013, but it’s now proposed that reconstruction of the more northerly section be delayed until 2016.

The reason is that negotiations are ongoing with the owner of the proposed Thames Crest Farms residential development regarding various matters, including cost-share funding for the Emily Street reconstruction. McLlwain says the town and the developer have “a working document” and that “we’re getting close to an agreement.” He adds that, if the town waits until approval of that agreement by both sides before proceeding, it would almost certainly be too late to complete the work in 2015.

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