Engineering firm ISL suggested Monday that council go to tender on the Columbia-Washington infrastructure renewal despite the unknown status of federal grants.
The city is waiting on a possible $8 million that would cover the renewal project. The grants have seen numerous delays by the Conservative government, first until the end of December from summer and now probably the new year.
Ed Kolla, from ISL, told council the grants will likely be delayed until the end of January. Since much of the decision on how far to take the renewal hinges on the grants, this would take the planning stage close to March, the time when the project needs to start to get enough finished for the Ministry of Highways to come through and pave before winter.
Kolla suggested putting the contract for the project to tender prior to grant announcement. He explained that stipulations could be put into the contract for the construction, so if grants are not approved, the city could discard the less essential parts of the project if it wants to save money.
Ministry of Highways is expected to commit its funding portion Jan. 22, which is another reason for council not to delay a decision, since the ministry stated they would simply pave the road.
ISL gave council a brief history of the project’s development and a chance for questions.
Jason Ward, former city building inspector, said that the ministry had made concessions.
“We have run the gamut of them coming through just to pave the two lanes, to agreeing to pay for curb and gutter on the whole roadway.” Ward said that hinged on all stalls being parallel parking and a fenced median through the middle of town.
The ministry then conceded to diagonal parking as long as the width conformed to their standards.
“Those widths, they’re not optional to change,” Ward said. “Even if Highways comes through and just paves the two traffic lanes, they’re still going to widen the parking spots regardless.” Ward was addressing the issue of lost parking spaces.
He also said the ministry wanted to take control of the project, but ISL was able to keep control to manage all costs.
“[ The ministry] is only doing the final lift of pavement. That’s all they’re responsible for,” he said. “That’s a benefit because the ministry just wanted to tack on an extra 25 per cent to whatever your construction costs were. If you’re already paying a consultant those fees, why would you want to pay double?”
The ministry’s initial intention was only to pave the two traffic lanes, but it was looked upon from the city as an opportunity to take advantage of the situation and do some infrastructure work.
The official process then began looking into upgrading infrastructure to take advantage of the ministry’s need to pave.
In 2010, Ward said the ministry essentially stated that they would be coming through whether the city liked it or not.
The city then began taking public input, looking at the state of decay of the infrastructure and what would be possible for upgrades to Rossland.
That gave enough time to get the city to this planning point.
Kolla spoke of ISL’s experience: ISL is a civil engineering firm with offices in B.C. and Alberta and has been doing business for the past 30 years.
“We’ve done similar projects to this in places like Cranbrook and New Westminster,” Kolla said.
The grant funding the city has applied for hangs a lot on the way the plan has been laid out.
“One of the qualifications for the grants is enhanced pedestrian features,” Kolla said. “There are features in the plan that if taken out, could jeopardize the qualifications of your grants.”
Kolla said the bulb outs are basically curb extensions and that the majority of people around town he’s talked to understand the benefits.
The bulb outs also alleviate the need for lit crossings, since the crossing areas are more visible and fit the ministry’s maximum road width.
Coun. Jill Spearn added that the probability the project would hinge on grants should have been better explained.
“I think that really that should have been like top title, that pending this money, which is a heck of a lot of money…the likelihood of us getting any revitalization of the downtown probably wouldn’t occur,” Spearn said.
Mayor Greg Granstrom said city staff is preparing a report with recommendations for council.
ISL will present their final design in January.