Costs in ques­tion for down­town plan

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - COMING UP - JOSHUA SAN­TOS

Coun­cil adopted a down­town re­vi­tal­iza­tion plan at its ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing Mon­day night.

Coun. Chris War­ren, Coun. Crys­tal Froese, Mayor Fraser Tolmie, Coun. Scott Mc­Mann and Coun. Don Mitchell voted in favour. Coun. Dawn Luh­n­ing op­posed and Coun. Brian Swan­son was ab­sent.

Luh­n­ing was con­cerned with the fi­nan­cial im­pact the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the plan will have on the city’s bud­get.

“Adopt­ing a plan like this, and all due re­spect to the mayor, means there needs to be money be­hind it and there needs to be re­sources fo­cused on it,” said Luh­n­ing. “I don’t think that at least at this cur­rent time we’re in a po­si­tion to put re­sources into it. At least it’s not in the bud­get right now.”

She didn’t want to adopt the plan and have peo­ple ex­pect­ing changes in a year or so when fi­nances are al­ready scarce.

Luh­n­ing said she loves the down­town area but does not want to set the city up for failed ex­pec­ta­tions.

“The fol­low-up is key and money is tight,” she said.

Res­i­dent Rece Allen agreed with Luh­n­ing, ac­knowl­edg­ing that money needs to be put into the down­town area but the city shouldn’t rush to do it.

“Down­town is awe­some. I’ve worked down­town for 15 years. I cer­tainly sup­port de­vel­op­ment down there,” he said. “We have a lot of ma­jor costs com­ing up here in Moose Jaw and this would just add to this. We need to in­vest in our down­town but we don’t need a lit­tle packet to tell us how to do it.”

Luh­n­ing said the only tools coun­cil have are to raise taxes from cit­i­zens and down­town busi­ness owners, or re­duce ser­vices in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

The re­port pro­vides an over­view of the pro­posed Down­town Lo­cal Area Plan (DLAP) in­clud­ing goals, poli­cies and sug­gested rec­om­men­da­tions for the next 25-30 years.

The pre­vi­ous city coun­cil ap­proved $95,000 for a long-term lo­cal plan through the hous­ing ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee in 2015. B&A Plan­ning Group, based out of Cal­gary, was hired to con­duct the study.

Froese voted in favour of adopt­ing the plan. She said Moose Jaw has some of the best com­mu­nity spa­ces, her­itage in­flu­ences, cul­ture, tourism, liv­ing ar­eas, gro­cery stores and schools - all within walk­ing dis­tance down­town.

“We truly do have a gem here and I’m re­ally happy to see this plan. We have some won­der­ful ideas, par­tic­u­larly in Cres­cent Park,” she said.

Deborah Cooper, as­so­ciate with B&A Plan­ning Group, said the down­town area has a wealth of spe­cial places that were iden­ti­fied in the plan­ning process.

“Pedes­trian en­hanced streetscape would pro­vide con­nec­tiv­ity through­out the down­town while also cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for new gath­er­ing places,” Cooper said.

War­ren won­dered if pro­vin­cial or fed­eral money was avail­able to fund the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the plan.

“We don’t have any spe­cific funds for this type of re­de­vel­op­ment,” said Noble. “We will be vig­i­lant in watch­ing po­ten­tial fund­ing if coun­cil de­cides to go in that di­rec­tion.”

Lo­cal groups voiced their sup­port, in­clud­ing the Moose Jaw and Dis­trict Cham­ber of Com­merce.

“The be­gin­ning of the frame­work is there. We have a great foun­da­tion of our down­town. It’s unique and it’s awe­some,” said Cham­ber CEO Rob Clark. “What I see here is a recipe and a blue­print to take this for­ward to the next stage.”

Jackie L’Heureux-Ma­son spoke on be­half of Tourism Moose Jaw, not­ing com­po­nents of the plan would ben­e­fit the tourism in­dus­try in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. “Sup­port­ing this plan means hav­ing a guide, a map if you will, to our fu­ture,” said Jacki L’Heureux-Ma­son, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor for Tourism Moose Jaw.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of SaskPower ad­dressed coun­cil Mon­day night about bro­ken street­lights and power out­ages in the city.

“We are com­mit­ted to this. We have a re­source ded­i­cated ev­ery­day in Moose Jaw to find­ing re­pairs to those lights and we are go­ing to be on top of this ev­ery­day,” said Rhea Brown, direc­tor of key and ma­jor ac­counts for SaskPower. “We com­mit to up­dat­ing our con­tact with Mr. Noble here reg­u­larly on the sta­tus.”

She said SaskPower un­der­stands sev­eral of the lights on Main Street have not been in op­er­a­tion for quite some time.

“Dur­ing an in­spec­tion pro­gram in 2011 we rec­om­mended that many of the steel stan­dards be re­placed, since then we have been work­ing with city of­fi­cials to come to a res­o­lu­tion that works for both par­ties,” said Brown. “This past Au­gust we reached an agree­ment with the city on the design. As our in­ter­nal crews were not well equipped for some of the work in­volved, which would add an ad­di­tional cost, (the) con­struc­tion man­age­ment group put a bid out for ten­der for work but no in­ter­est was re­ceived.”

The in­for­ma­tion was de­liv­ered to the city and crews were ad­vised that work would be­gin in De­cem­ber. SaskPower was told to put the work on hold so as to not in­ter­fere with busi­ness dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son.

As for the street­lights on the Ninth Av­enue Bridge, SaskPower was up against Mother Na­ture.

High winds on the Ninth Av­enue Bridge caused black­outs and dam­ages to the sys­tem as it rat­tled the posts.

“The height of the lights and the height of the bridge make them sus­cep­ti­ble to strong winds, es­pe­cially ex­treme wind events like we saw in Oc­to­ber,” Brown said. “SaskPower crews re­paired th­ese lights three times this year and the area has been iden­ti­fied and in­cluded as part of the 2018 LED con­ver­sion project a long with four other ma­jor traf­fic ar­eas.”

SaskPower plans to in­vest more than $1 mil­lion in the streetlight sys­tem in Moose Jaw over the next two years.

Froese won­dered how long it took for a light to be fixed when a con­sumer re­ports it to the SaskPower web­site. Don­avon Nel­son, direc­tor of dis­tri­bu­tion ser­vices, said it usu­ally takes seven to 10 days.

“We have to do bet­ter to com­mu­ni­cate to the com­mu­nity that Moose Jaw is im­por­tant to us. This is what we’re do­ing this is what we’re in­vest­ing in. You’re go­ing to see us out there daily fix­ing th­ese lights,” Brown said.

“We don’t want to throw you un­der the bus here. We want to build a bridge and keep our com­mu­nity in­formed,” Tolmie replied.

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