Now that the Village of Pemberton (VOP) has over $5 million to fix its aging infrastructure and revitalize its downtown core, the focus is shifting to how to allocate it most effectively.
At its Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on April 10, council mulled over designs from Graham Schulz of ISL Engineering and Land Services.
With a total of $5,323,640 in federal gas tax money to spend, council looked at its top priorities for what to do with the windfall. Pemberton received one of the highest grants of the 108 successful applications, which combined to total $193 million.
One of the top priorities for council is to align the intersection of Frontier Street and Birch Road in order to make it safer.
But the change creates a domino effect, as it will likely mean a cut to the number of parking spaces downtown.
All proposals incorporated expanding the Pemberton Community Barn's parking lot from 25 to 47 parking spots, while reducing parking on Prospect near Rona from 34 to 22 spaces and Aster Street's available spots from 22 to 15. Frontier's available spaces would also be reduced, dropping from 17 to nine on the north side while the south side plans varied from an existing 65 to between 28 and 40.
Mayor Mike Richman said while the goal is to make downtown "more walkable, not more parkable," all changes must be within reason.
There was also a question of what to do with the bus bay. Two options showed it on the southeast portion of Frontier Street, with one placing it just north of the Blackbird Bakery and another putting it right next to it. However, council requested a new rendering that would move it further south, adjacent to Prospect Park, taking over parking spots, which Coun. Ted Craddock pointed out are little used anyway.
There was also a significant discussion over whether to change the section of Frontier north of Birch into a northbound one-way, but council felt Camus Street was not in shape to handle the extra traffic, adding that stubborn motorists would likely also disregard the change and drive towards Birch rather than complete a long circuit to get back to the main road.
Schulz said new renderings should be available later this week.
Council also looked into the possibility of improving Birch over and above what is already planned, with Richman looking to ensure that downtown's main thoroughfare retains that status.
"The last thing I want to see is nice paving all around except on our main street," he said.
Staff will begin discussions with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to see if there might be funding available to repave the street.
Council also discussed the communication plan with Senior Communications and Grant Coordinator Jill Brooksbank, who hopes to make the message as clear as possible. The VOP plans to place a sign near the Pemberton Community Barn by early June to keep residents up to date on the progress. A community meeting will also take place in June while meetings with affected businesses are slated for spring of next year.
While reaction to the plan has generally been supportive, some residents are wondering why council is not opting to spend the money on other projects. However, the grant can only be used for the proposals included in the application—doing anything else could put the funding into jeopardy.
The communications plan also breaks down each and every element of the enhancement project in order to be transparent about the spending. Though road improvements and stormwater detention ponds will be clearly visible, others like watermain replacement won't be quite so obvious.