Powell River mayor Dave Formosa has proposed that the city accelerate its paving program this year.
At the July 22 finance committee meeting, Formosa proposed that the city take the $600,000 paving budget for 2021 for new pavement and the 2022 pavement budget of $600,000, and then take $800,000 from the balance of the COVID-19 safe restart reserve fund, which would give the city $2 million. With the money, Formosa proposed that city staff find a good deal on expanding the paving program and getting some roads fixed.
“All the people in the community would benefit from these roads that are deteriorating,” said Formosa. “It’s one of the worst problems we have, and we’ll get more value for our dollar if we can bind it all together and ask staff to see if they can go out and get a deal. I want to make a recommendation that we do that and get some work on these roads.”
Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said she would like to receive an update on where the city is at with its roads asset management plan. She said the plan was developed in 2013 so the costing is probably going to be different now.
“I don’t have any idea how we’ve done over the years on the specific planned renewal years for each road identified in the 20-year plan,” said Leishman. “I know going forward we were hoping to get our cycling plan in place so we can do a collaborative approach. I would love for us to go to referendum on the big package to really overhaul our streets with proper cycling lanes and fix the pavement. I would love for us to get an update of what we have done to date on our asset management plan.”
Leishman said she would like to have costing in current dollars because the 2013 asset management plan had total road assets at $65,900,000 replacement value. She said she wanted to know what the city needs for a more expansive program.
“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it,” said Leishman. “Let’s find more money and consider going to referendum.”
Councillor Jim Palm said when he was first elected in 2008, there was a report that indicated the city needed $2 million annually toward resurfacing its pavement. He said some money came in and the city was able to finish off Joyce Avenue and some other streets.
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Palm said $2 million doesn’t go far but asking staff to look for the best deal is the way to go. He said it’s worthwhile looking at a referendum, but Powell River residents are taxed to the hilt and residents are letting council know where they are at in no uncertain terms.
He said he is skeptical about bike lanes.
“We have to focus on repaving with $2 million right now, and hopefully, through provincial funding and other grants, as we’ve done with cycling in the past, we’ve been able to get free money to put those bike lanes in,” said Palm.
Finance committee chair George Doubt said he thought the mayor was proposing something reasonable.
“We’ve certainly heard from a number of taxpayers that they’d like to see this happen,” said Doubt. “I have a little concern about committing more than $1 million on the strength of a quick discussion at the finance committee.
“I’m going to ask [director of infrastructure] Tor Birtig to come back in a short period of time with a report, to the August finance committee meeting, about what could be done with some COVID-19 funds and the existing funds that are set aside for 2021 and 2022 for paving, so council could take a good look at it and make a decision about whether or not it’s an appropriate plan for going ahead.”
Birtig said the city has prepared, in anticipation of a paving program with the $600,000 allocated in the budget, a request for proposals with five sections of roads. He said the cost is anticipated to be about $1 million.
“If we’re talking about a $10 million program and going to referendum, none of that is going to happen this year,” said Birtig. “By the time we’ve prepared all of that it’s going to be out of the paving season. It’s a longer-term program.
“Currently, staff is updating the pavement management program. We do use our most current pricing of asphalt and that’s an ever-changing number. In the last few years, the number has gone up.”
Leishman said she wanted councillors to remain cognizant of the benefits of cycling and walking. She said there have been a number of government studies on the wear and tear of vehicles on roads.
“This is why our roads are so damaged and so constantly in need of upgrades,” said Leishman. “We are such a car-centric city. If we can get more people out of vehicles, if we do a better job of making our streets safer for cycling and walking, there will be less wear and tear on our roads. It will actually save our taxpayers money.”
Councillor Cindy Elliott said she’d like to propose the city do some short-term paving with the COVID-19 funds and also get an update to the asset management plan that would include a map of what’s required for paving in the future.
Doubt suggested asking city staff to come back with a report to the August committee of the whole meeting for a plan that has been described for paving this year, taking into account the 2021 and 2022 budgeted numbers, and possible contributions from the COVID-19 fund. Councillors gave consent for the report.