By Jensen, Randy on April 7, 2020.
City council voted against suspending funding for two previously approved Capital Improvement Plan projects, meaning the projects will begin construction this summer as scheduled.
Council voted 7-2 against a motion that would have suspended $2.9 million in CIP funding for the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden’s new community facility during Monday’s meeting, and 6-2 against a motion that would have suspended $10 million for reconstruction of 3 Avenue between 4 Street and 8 Street South.
Both projects had been identified by the City’s operational review as ones which could be potentially put on hold to save the City money in the short term. Up until a few weeks ago, it appeared a majority of councillors would be on side with pushing them back to the next budget cycle.
The COVID-19 crisis had changed their considerations, several admitted on Monday.
Coun. Ryan Parker said he had originally wanted to cancel the projects, but felt differently after the past few weeks of bad economic news on all sides.
“If you were to ask me a month ago, I would have been in full support of this resolution (to suspend funding),” he stated. “But the world has changed a lot in the last few weeks. The message we have heard from both the federal and more importantly the provincial government is we have to keep investing in our communities, stay the course, and if we back down on this one it sends a message to the province we’re not even willing to invest in our own community; so why would we expect other levels of government to invest in our community? We have to lead by example.”
On an interesting side note, Coun. Jeffrey Coffman originally brought forth the motion to suspend the 3 Avenue South reconstruction over fears local businesses would be affected by the construction work at a time when they were also dealing with the fallout from COVID-19. He changed his mind and voted against his own motion on Monday after learning most of the businesses along that stretch are already closed down due to the province’s public gathering and essential industry restrictions, and may be closed for several months yet depending on how the province weathers the pandemic.
In his mind, given those facts, Coffman felt the local economic stimulus which could arise from the project outweighed any potential for short-term business disruptions.
The reconstruction effort is scheduled to begin in June.
Coun. Blaine Hyggen and Coun. Joe Mauro voted in favour of cancelling the projects. They both felt councillors should stay the course with the recommendations put forth by the operational review, and think about potentially investing the money saved on other infrastructure needs in the community.
Coun. Jeff Carlson abstained from the 3 Avenue reconstruction vote after declaring a conflict of interest.
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