A large audience gathered under Pemberton's Community Barn on Tuesday, March 13 for a big announcement.
Standing in front of a lectern, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP, announced that the Village of Pemberton will receive over $5 million in federal government money to spend on aging infrastructure and downtown revitalization.
"Our federal government is really serious about investing in communities and infrastructure — and particularly in rural communities," said Goldsmith-Jones.
The money — $5,323,640 in total — stems from the federal Gas Tax fund and is being administered by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).
The Village was successful on its fourth application, and during his speech, Mayor Mike Richman made a point of thanking his staff for its hard work, singling out grants coordinator Jill Brooksbank.
"These kind of grants are anything but simple, and (staff) worked very hard to understand what criteria was necessary and how we were going to get there," said Richman. "The goal is to come out with a more vibrant downtown, a safer downtown."
Richman later explained that the money will be spent both above and below ground.
The funds will go towards the decommissioning and replacement of a water main, as well as paying for waterlines and a better storm water runoff system that will use cutting-edge green technology. "We want to create a downtown storm water system that's focused on green infrastructure," said Richman.
Above ground, the money will pay for a projects designed to make Downtown Pemberton greener and more pedestrian friendly. These include LED street lights, new sidewalks, and lots of landscaping in the form of trees.
In addition, the money will pay for much-needed paving. "There's been a lot of Band-Aids put on our roads over the last little while," said Richman with a laugh.
The Village also wants to "tidy up" the intersection on Frontier Street that leads to the Community Barn. "It's kind of offset and dangerous. This will give us the opportunity to clean up that intersection," said Richman, who added that the money will be used to pay for an engineer who will look at ways to reduce traffic in front of the barn.
"It's very congested in there, and we want to make that safer," said Richman. "(The money) is going to improve our downtown and clean up our roads. It's going to make our town more walkable — it's going to make it safer."
VOP Councillor Karen Ross underlined the gravity of the announcement for a small municipality like Pemberton, noting that a one-per-cent municipal tax hike results in only $13,405 in additional tax revenues. "This is huge," she said.
Former Pemberton Mayor and local MLA Jordan Sturdy said he is thrilled about the announcement. "This is a really exciting time. It's exactly the kind of infrastructure and community improvement project that Pemberton has been seeking for a decade now," he said. "Thank you to the federal government for the federal gas tax dollars flowed through UBCM."
Lil'wat Chief Dean Nelson was onhand for the announcement and said the money will be put to good use for everyone. "I think enhancing anything within our territory is a good thing — it's good for everybody. I just want to congratulate the Village of Pemberton for doing this work. It's good," he said.
The winning proposal was informed by two previous downtown revitalization plans and will likely be revised going forward. The Village also intends on holding a stakeholder meeting to get community input.
According to Richman, the aim is to get started with construction — and there will be lots of it — in the spring of 2019. The money, said Richman, will have a major impact on the liveability of the village. "It will invigorate our downtown and make it more welcoming, and it takes us forward to make the village a more walkable, better connected, and safer community," he said.
Pemberton's project is one of 108 that have been approved for Gas Tax funding, totaling $193 million.
- With files from Braden Dupuis