Costs in question for downtown plan
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.