Candidate Questions 11: What is your stance on the Washington-Columbia upgrades and downtown revitalization?

Rossland Telegraph
By Rossland Telegraph
November 17th, 2011

One of the biggest decisions on the immediate horizon–certainly in terms of sheer price tag–that the new council will have to deal with will be the Columbia-Washington upgrades and the proposed re-creation of our downtown–cost, noise, disruption, and all. With this in mind we asked the candidates the following question: “What is your stance on the Washington-Columbia upgrades and downtown revitalization?”

CARY FISHER: I love the plan.  I think its great but there is one major problem with it.  The town planning department has not adequately addressed the issue of parking.  The business folks that I talk to need to be part of the process.  They are heard at public meetings but they don’t think there issues have been addressed.  That’s bad news for a city our size. The plan needs some work but I think in the long run the city will get it right.

JODY BLOMME: I think it’s been made clear that the underground infrastructure needs improvement.  In having this expensive work done, we have to be sure we have foreseen future infrastructure needs.

As for the downtown revitalization project, it does make sense to make things nicer and more functional if we are digging it up anyway, but we have to remember that there are any number of possible versions of ‘nicer’ and ‘more functional’.  This project will permanently change the face of Rossland, so we have to be smart about it.  To decide this, we have to balance cost with cosmetics and we have to make sure all aspects of functionality are considered.  Just as a hypothetical example, I don’t want this city to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on some design feature on every street corner that adds no function, gets tripped over every day and looks dated 20 years down the road.

It’s going to be very important to have lots of public input on this matter and if it doesn’t come easily, I strongly think the city should really get out and ‘pound the pavement’ to get people’s thoughts on it.  The end result could really make or break the businesses currently downtown and all future economic growth in the neighbourhood.  Good looks and accessibility will always help a town draw in people, especially when you’re a resort town that appreciates tourist dollars as much as we do.

KATHY MOORE: I believe we need to upgrade our aging infrastructure in the downtown core. This is a terrific opportunity to take advantage of the fact that the Ministry of Transportation is repaving the road. The Ministry is offering to help the city with this project and we should graciously accept. Several grants have been applied for and as yet we have not heard the outcome. My fingers are crossed that we will be successful. The new “streetscaping” ideas will beautify our downtown core and make Rossland even more attractive. If the grants are not forthcoming we need to get creative with the financing or the phasing of the project and complete it over time or reduce some aspects of it. These important decisions will all be made by the soon-to-be-elected council.

LAURIE CHARLTON: There is no doubt that the Ministry of Transportation’s (MoT) decision to repave Columbia Ave. is a golden opportunity that should not be missed.  The repaving project provides an opportunity to upgrade some of the underground services.  The water line is old and should be replaced.  Much of the sanitary sewer was replaced in the mid 1980’s and is adequately sized for the current population.  It needs to be upsized now to handle the effluent from the proposed development at Red Mountain even if that development won’t occur for many years.  That increased capacity should be paid for by DCCs collected from the developers.  Improvements to the storm sewer system would be helpful.  However, the plan to install storm sewer drain lines to the property lines of all properties along Columbia is a waste.  As the ISL representatives stated, most of the roofs along Columbia drain towards the alleys behind the buildings.  They do not have roof drains that could be connected (at great cost to the property owner) to those new drain lines.  The scope of the project has been reduced by eliminating any work west of Spokane Street.  This is the same thing that happened with the Ophir Reservoir project.  As costs increased, the scope of the project was reduced so that costs could be kept “within budget”.  Of course the eliminated portions will have to be done in the future but that will be on another budget.

The plan to install parallel parking on the north side of Columbia between the Post Office and the Bank of Montreal is not only going to create parking havoc in the downtown area to the detriment of the businesses in that area but also seriously inconvenience shoppers who visit those businesses.  If there is no parking conveniently available, shoppers will go elsewhere to do their shopping.  The proposed sidewalk arrangements will also create problems for most businesses that require truck deliveries.  We are all aware of the blockages that trucks create as they make their deliveries currently.  While a minor widening of the downtown sidewalks could be tolerated, I don’t think the proposed significant widening will have a beneficial effect in the downtown area.  People are only going to be able to take advantage of the increased sidewalk width for a few months of the year.  During the winter, the wider sidewalks will present a significant increase in the amount of work and costs  businesses will have to keep the sidewalks clear of ice and snow.  Maintenance of the sidewalks at their current width is frequently a problem.  The addition of more street furniture and other impediments will compound the amount of work required.

Some portions of the Washington Street portion of the project are very desirable and should be done at some point in time.  However, I think this part should be left for a future project.  There is no advantage to doing it now because the MoT will not be involved in that portion of the project.  In fact, if both parts of the project are done simultaneously, traffic access to the downtown area will be further reduced.  We do not need to undertake construction on the two main arteries in town at the same time.  While the Washington St. project is included in the Infrastructure Management & Improvement Plan, it is only included because the project is underway.  No priorities are assigned to most of the projects identified by this plan.  I suspect that the need to do the Washington Street project is not as high a priority as some other projects based on the condition of the existing infrastructure.  No information has been provided about the actual condition of any of the infrastructure in town.

KATHY WALLACE: The infrastructure needs to be fixed! I am hopeful that we will be successful with the grant applications that are currently in process. It’s an expensive project for our small community. The downtown revitalization component is like icing on the cake and is dependent on what the community wants and can afford.

DAVID KLEIN: I think it is a great idea and sounds like a good time to do it since the Ministry of Transport will pay for their portion of the project. It also sounds like we could get grants to pay for it all to so I see win win!!

SHARON WIEDER: Our current water and sewer infrastructure was built by the early pioneers.  They did a great job and it has lasted a long time.  It’s necessary to replace it now and done properly, it will be another 100 years before it needs to be redone. This is an opportunity for some growth and change and attracting new businesses to the main corridor.

JILL SPEARN: I always learned to ‘spend within your means’. Rossland is embarking on a significant rebuild of underground pipes and the concurrent paving by MoT. Without a lengthy explanation, I believe we need to, firstly see what grants come through, as applied for, and then decide the scope of this project. I have said it seems extravagant, especially the streetscape, and I think our town looks pretty fine due to the Design Review Guidelines and the group that volunteers to steer this in the right direction. Driving through many small towns over the last years, Rossland looks remarkably great, due to the rules around downtown design. Yes, I see the need for some improvements but 90% of taxes are from the residents and unless the grants come through, fix the necessary infrastructure, pave it and keep it simple with regards to further streetscape costs and design. I think we need a lot of the trees to be replaced, they’re overgrown and not the best choices for our core. There’s been concerns over parallel parking on the north side of the street, moving the bus stop and other details. We will make the best decisions according to finances and input from the public. Be sure to attend the meeting next Mon., Nov. 21 with the design team and the city reps.

To read previous installments of Candidate Questions, click here. To go to the Telegraph’s Elections 2011 home page, click here. Note: this article has been modified to include Jill Spearn’s reply.

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