COCHRANE— Continuing the revitalization of Cochrane's Historic Downtown and East End, Council approved funding for the $54,560 Downtown Boulevard Project last Monday (July 12) at a regular meeting.
Town of Cochrane general manager Drew Hyndman presented the work to the council, explaining the upgrades to the downtown had already taken place but required Council's approval.
"Overall, the original design was problematic," Hyndman said. "Last year with COVID, we were working with the various business to try and respond and essentially create additional hard surfaces in these areas."
The $54,560 in funds will be taken from the Downtown Revitalization Capital Reserve, leaving $94,907 in place. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, work was not completed until this year and approval of the funding source for this work was not brought before Council ahead of its execution.
"We tried to get this project complete last fall, but we couldn't. Subsequently, we completed it just this spring," Hyndman said. "Unfortunately ... I did not bring this back to Council to get your authorization to proceed. I thought it was important to get that done, but we did have money in the reserves and worked with contractors."
The Downtown Boulevard Project is part of approved spring budget adjustments from 2016 that aimed to give the downtown core a facelift to the tune of $840,000.
The project completed Phase 1, which included the addition of tress to Main Street and an upgrade for Fourth Avenue, in 2019 at a cost of $801,060.
Hyndman said in 2020 it became necessary to complete additional work due to pedestrian safety concerns, trees dying and flower beds on First Street between Fifth Street and Fifth Avenue being damaged.
He added the area experienced a number of different challenges including sprained ankles, additional maintenance costs of people walking through flower beds, mulch kicked on the sidewalk forcing businesses to clean the area and snow piles creating barriers for pedestrians.
These issues led to the need for hard surfacing in the area.
Councillor Marni Fedeyko said the funding to improve the area was necessary given these challenges.
"I think we obviously realize it needed to be done and obviously it has been done," Fedeyko said. "I think the businesses down there appreciate it."
She added communication regarding the project could have been better.
"At the end of the day it's done and it's over ... And we can enjoy summertime," Fedeyko said.
Council also approved $20,000 in funding to cover the cost of installing inclusive playground equipment at Centennial Park from the Park Infrastructure Capital Reserve.
The cash would only be necessary if Variety Alberta Children’s Charity fell short of its fundraising goals. The funding for the Centennial Park inclusive playground equipment was necessitated after the Variety Club lost a sponsor who had committed up to $20,000 to the project.
A contractor will assist in the creation of the park by supplying and placing gravel, Hyndman said, potentially off-setting the $20,000.
Council approved the improvements to the playground in the 2021 Capital Budget. At the time the budget for the project was set at $85,000 to be used from reserves.
The original quote for playground resurfacing was $83,000. Now that the Town does not have to purchase gravel and compaction, as that will be done by Variety Club volunteers, this will generate savings in the resurfacing project which could be put toward the shortfall in fundraising dollars for equipment.
Hyndman said work on the project is likely to occur in the late summer or early fall. The construction will include a resurfacing of the area and the addition of new equipment to enhance inclusivity.
Due to safety concerns, the playground equipment required updating and the Variety Alberta Children’s Charity and the Town’s Parks department decided to move ahead with a cooperative approach to explore avenues to acquire and install the required playground structure. The proposed structure is an all-inclusive playground for children with all types of abilities. The estimated cost for the proposed equipment is $160,000
To date Variety Charity has raised $140,000 for the playground equipment at the park.
Coun. Tara McFadden said she supported the initiative, especially given the importance of physical activity that has been put in the spotlight by COVID-19.
"One of the things I learned clearly during COVID is the importance of our parks and people being able to recreate together," McFadden said. "Overall, it's good for the community."
Mayor Jeff Genung said the project will play an important role in the community and wanted to ensure it is able to reach fruition.
He called it a good opportunity for the Town and raised concerns about potential impacts if it does not move forward.
"From my perspective, we have to follow through on this to see the project completed," Genung said. "If we delay, we risk losing funding altogether."