With recent letters from the public stating a lack of appetite for higher taxes, Mayor Wayne Stetski tried to clear up some of the misconceptions about the 2nd Street South and Moir gravel pit proposals at Monday’s council meeting.
“Whether it be 2nd Street South or other parts of the road program, we have $3 million in our annual budget to do roads in Cranbrook,” Stetski said. There is an opportunity to apply for a federal grant that could provide funding on a 70 to 30 per cent sharing basis. That would mean for the $3 million the city has budgeted for the roads, an additional $7 million could come from the federal government.
“That would give us $10 million to do roads in this next year,” Stetski said, noting it would not affect a change in taxes.
The city feels the 2nd Street project is a good candidate for that federal funding.
“Engineering staff have also said that the improvements that are part of that, including the sidewalks, storm drain improvements, vegetation etcetera, in their mind helps improve our case for the $7 million,” he said.
Stetski said the federal grants are based on improvements in the community and would not likely be granted for a direct replacement.
Apart from being one of the main entrances to the city, Stetski said the sewer and water mains under the street are aging and will need replacement soon.
According to the city’s engineers, the average street in Cranbrook costs $650,000 to replace, while the new models for 2nd Street would bring that cost to $830,000 and $860,000 between the two proposals.
“It’s important that people recognize that 2nd Street South is in dire straits,” Coun. Sharon Cross commented. She said that given the 50- or 60-year life span of this type of infrastructure, this is a rare opportunity to create an attractive route through 2nd into downtown.
On the other side of the tracks is Moir Gravel Pit, formerly Moir Park. The city has received correspondence on this subject as well stating that the funds to rehabilitate the gravel pit into a city park over the next decade could better be used somewhere else.
However the money that will redevelop the park comes directly out of funds raised from the sale of gravel through the pit. The land was originally donated to the city by the Moir family. The plan calls for a $10 or $11 million park to be built in phases as the gravel is depleted in specific areas.
“Moir Park will be developed without any additional costs to taxpayers in Cranbrook,” Stetski said.
Stetski said every $200,000 in taxes the city takes in represents a one per cent property tax change.
“This is a $20 million potential expenditure with no increase,” he said of the two projects.
Coun. Angus Davis talked a bit about the history of George T. Moir, a prominent resident of Cranbrook. Moir worked for CP Rail and was known as a trustworthy person. The owner of the property at the time put the land into Moir’s name because of that trustworthiness.
“He was going to pass on and he wanted to put it into someone’s hands that he knew it would be taken care of by the municipality someday,” Davis said, “that the land would be put away for recreation.”
That’s where the city’s recreation area used to be.
“It’s a trust that the city has been given and I think it’s good what we’re seeing in these plans for it,” he said. “It says a lot about Mr. Moir to have that legacy placed in his hands and he could place it on the city. Hopefully we can do it all the honour that it deserves.”
The current Moir Park was bestowed with the Moir name when the city ran into financial trouble and were in danger of having to cut back the construction. The council at the time approached the family which allowed for money to come out of the trust to complete the project.
Mayor Stetski also commented on a letter from a resident regarding the 2nd Street project and promises made by a former council to have 27A Avenue S. and 29th Avenue S. refinished. Stetski spoke to former Mayor Scott Manjak and councillors to see if promises had been made at the time, all of who said no.
Coun. Denise Pallesen also talked about the resident’s letter.
“She was concerned that we might be putting ‘nice to haves’ instead of ‘must haves,’” Pallesen said.
The resident said the add-ons should be put in front of residents to decide whether the street improvements, other than infrastructure upgrades, are necessary.
She also questions whether Cranbrook is in a financial position to pursue the Moir gravel pit reconditioning.
She wondered whether the money could instead be used for Idlewild Park repairs.
“Because the city is needing so many other projects to be completed, I’m not sure we need to be doing as much,” Pallesen said.
CAO Wayne Staudt said the funding would depend on how long gravel is coming out of Moir gravel pit.
“The money is earmarked for the reclamation and building of a park and that’s all,” Staudt said. He noted that the council of the day made a commitment when it took on the trust fund to build a park once the gravel was extracted.
Coun. Bob Whetham noted the resident’s concerns about Idlewild dam.
“One of the things I hope we can do is to see whether the funds and proceeds from the sale of gravel from the Moir gravel pit might also be used for Idlewild,” he said. “We have an engineering issue we can’t avoid.”
Coun. Gerry Warner said that having paved streets is a basic service and the people of 27A and 29th Avenues have suffered long enough.
Warner hoped that after 2nd Street was finished 27A and 29th Avenues would be next on the list.
Coun. Sharon Cross noted the resident’s concerns with roundabouts and cited a recent presentation from ICBC. The roundabouts slow traffic without stopping it and make pedestrian crossings safer. ICBC will help pay for roundabout construction.
Cross also noted that the bioswale areas in the proposals for 2nd Street are important as it will take pressure off the storm drainage system.
Coun. Diana J. Scott noted that the resident’s concerns were about costs, so she said that finding out what each item costs was important for council to do.
“If the extras are because of grants, then that needs to be explained,” she said. “If the extras are not because of grants, then we have to say, ‘Do we really need them?’”