Smiths Falls council received the connecting link funding of $2.1 million and plans to begin construction on the Beckwith Street redevelopment project this fall.
Councillor’s Peter McKenna, Wendy Alford, Lorraine Allen and Chris McGuire support the decision to go ahead with construction as soon as possible in order to remove some of the disturbance to downtown businesses next summer.
“The money is available,” Councilor McKenna said. “I’m anxious with our water and sewer being a 100 year old system. I’m anxious to move as quickly as possible to start upgrading our system.”
Councilor’s Jay Brennan and Niki Dwyer were strongly opposed to the current design plans.
“Everyone I know hates the design but has the utmost respect for director Dunlop,” Councillor Brennan said. “The problem I have with it is it’s a design no one likes. I won’t be supporting it.”
“We only get one shot to redesign our downtown and I can’t say I’m satisfied with the design,” Councilor Dwyer said. “We’ve been playing catch-up with these files since the day it was put in our care. I don’t support putting this through to tender.”
The current plan is to begin the below ground work on the first block of Beckwith Street in September and complete it by December.
“There’s a tremendous amount of below surface work to get done, CAO Malcolm Morris said. “By getting some of the work done in the fall it would better position us to get the 6-month extension OCIF grant of $900,000.”
Director Tory Dunlop was able to negotiate with Ottawa Greenbelt to lower the cost of the project by $1.36 million without removing the necessary design elements.
“This project has been a balancing act trying to meet the needs of commercial traffic flow, accessibility, and pedestrians,” Director Dunlop said.
A panel on accessibility needs was held with Smiths Falls residents last week and council is considering how to implement the discussion into the project plans.
The deadline to complete phase one of the project is Dec. 31, 2020.
“The sooner we can get a shovel in the ground the better off the project will be,” Councilor Alford said.