Some city projects to resume amid pandemic

Say goodbye to those natural speed bumps around McArthur Island and hello to a multi-use pathway.

Kamloops city council has pushed ahead a number of projects put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, after confirmation it would receive federal funding initially thought to be on shaky ground. The city expects $3.8 million in gas tax funding this month and agreed on Tuesday to spend about $1.4 million, with the rest of the funds to go into reserves. Projects funded by gas tax money must meet specific criteria.

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On Tuesday, council voted to move forward replacement of McArthur Island’s ring road, a two-year project to cost $600,000 in 2020 and $350,000 in 2021. The project was not anticipated to begin until next year, however city staff note that with tournaments cancelled this year amid the pandemic beginning the project this year would minimize future impacts on user groups. Coun. Arjun Singh said many residents have been calling for improvements in that area.

“I’m really happy to see this coming this year,” Singh said.

The decision did not come unanimously, however, with some councillors calling into question spending at this time, with a second wave anticipated down the road. Coun. Mike O’Reilly said the community can live without the McArthur Island project in the short-term and the city could revisit the project next year.

“I’m very cautious to spend this money right now,” Coun. Mike O’Reilly said.

Coun. Dale Bass agreed, wondering aloud how people would feel about the project one year from now when it is not yet complete and the pandemic’s impacts are still reverberating in the city. She tried to eliminate the project from the list of returning, but an amendment to do so failed in a vote of six to three. O’Reilly and Coun. Denis Walsh supported the amendment and Mayor Ken Christian and councillors Dieter Dudy, Sadie Hunter, Bill Sarai, Kathy Sinclair and Arjun Singh opposed. Singh said he feels the city’s finances are in good shape, despite the pandemic, as the city has not yet had to rely on its reserves. He said the city was waiting for confirmation on the federal money.

“Now that we’ve got it, I am very comfortable using it,” Singh said.

Meanwhile, pickleball players may rejoice, as their highly anticipated expansion of pickleball courts at Riverside Park downtown were also given the green light, at a cost of $63,000. Pickleball players have been lobbying for some time for added court space and a place to host tournaments. They will be constructed “as early as possible” in 2021, according to a city report. Council also approved $730,000 into active transportation, specifically for the Summit Overpass near Thompson Rivers University.

Two projects, however, did not make it past council’s chopping block: $370,000 worth of improvements to the Kamloops Museum and Archives and $115,000 worth of renovations and repairs to the Old Courthouse, both vetoed by council and to remain on hold for the time being. Councillors Bass, Hunter, O’Reilly, Sinclair, Sarai and Walsh voted in favour of removing the items from staff’s impending to-do list, while the mayor and councillors Dudy and Singh opposed.

When the global COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, the city anticipated millions of dollars worth of lost revenues due to loss of parking revenues, recreational fees, lost grant funding from higher levels of governments and other factors. As a result, the city deferred myriad projects in order to balance its budget. A number of projects to be funded by gaming revenues still remain in question, including expansion of wide sidewalks and single-lane traffic on Victoria Street.

© Kamloops This Week



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