INNISFAIL – The town has received $932,766 in new provincial Municipal Stimulus Program money that will be directed to a pair of local street improvement projects.
Town council made this decision on Sept. 8 despite an administration report that had the critically important Pedestrian Rail Crossing and Trail Improvement Project at the top of a list of four projects for consideration.
However, it was pointed out by Heather Whymark, the town’s director of corporate services, the town has already put $450,000 in reserve for the $680,000 project, and will be applying for a Transport Canada grant once it has been completed.
While all six attending council members agreed the rail crossing remains a high priority for the town, Coun. Danny Rieberger said he could not understand why council would consider spending the money on the CP Rail Crossing project when the town has an opportunity to be approved for another federal grant.
“I think we should drop the railway crossing out of this grant and fund it the way we were going to, take our chances with the other grant and do a combination of two of these other projects,” said Rieberger.
The two projects, a Mill and Overlay Program valued at about $500,000 and 53rd Avenue infrastructure improvements estimated at $750,000, were chosen by council over the pedestrian rail crossing project and a proposed Highway 54 & 42nd Street Multi-Purpose Trail project valued at about $375,000.
“I am glad they picked something that continues our infrastructure replacement. I believe that was the intent of MSP,” said Whymark, who advised council the town would see a $250,000 reduction in 2021 of provincial MSI funds that are vital for municipal infrastructure projects.
The new stimulus program (MSP) was brought in by the province to sustain and create local jobs, enhance provincial competitiveness and productivity, and position communities to participate in future economic growth. Qualifying projects must meet a number of requirements, including they must begin in 2020 or 2021, cannot be a project that was submitted for other funding but was unsuccessful, and they cannot result in municipal tax increases.
As for when the rail crossing project can move forward, Whymark said the town is still waiting for final project design approvals from CP before it can proceed.
“They (CP) say what needs to go in there and we have to comply,” she said, adding final word from CP is imminent. “We are right there waiting for it.”
She said if approval comes from CP the next step is to go to council and officially tell them what the project will cost. Council could then approve and the town can finally get “rolling” on the long-waited project,’ said Whymark, noting that once it is completed, likely in 2021, the town can then apply for the grant to cover a good portion of the costs.
“We don’t know how they will give to it, and we don’t know for sure if we will get it or not. They don’t guarantee it to you but I have not seen anyone that didn’t get anything,” she added. “They’ve always given it to somebody but what that percentage is we don’t know.”
Council was expected to formally approve its MSP program selections at its Sept. 14 regular meeting. The Town of Innisfail has until Oct. 1 to notify the provincial government of its selections before it will receive its $932,766.