The town of Smiths Falls will apply for provincial funding to reconstruct three blocks of Beckwith Street from Chambers to Russell Streets.
Although some members of council expressed a desire to see the entire downtown portion of Beckwith (from Chambers to Emsley) rebuilt during a single construction season, town staff cautioned that such a large project could not be undertaken without incurring risks.
“This is a very difficult recommendation to make,” said Director of Public Works and Utilities Troy Dunlop, acknowledging that the entire street needs reconstruction. However, in a written report to council’s Committee of the Whole presented on Oct. 23, Dunlop advised that the 320 metre section of Beckwith between Chambers and Russell “presents a more manageable project size that can reasonably be delivered within the program deadlines.”
Pursuing a grant for the entire downtown portion of Beckwith could be problem, said Dunlop, given that all six blocks would have to be completed on or before March 31, 2021. “In terms of workable weather, this actually means that all paving would have to be completed by October 2020.” Project approval from the Ministry of the Environment takes several weeks, and the progress of the work also requires the cooperation of Bell and Hydro, Dunlop added.
The necessary work includes full replacement of water mains along with the separation of combined sewers into separate sanitary and storm drainage systems.
Road improvements, new sidewalks, lighting upgrades and traffic signal improvements will also be completed.
Sewer separation is a strategic priority for the town, because combined sewers place an unnecessary burden on the sewage treatment plant, since storm runoff is treated along with waste water.
The estimated total cost of the recommended three-block project is just under $2 million. If the town’s application for provincial Connecting Links Program funding is successful, the program would cover 90 per cent of the cost.
The town has already submitted an application to the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) for about $1 million in funding to separate storm and sanitary sewers. The total cost of the rehabilitation of Beckwith Street is estimated at between $7-9 million, said Dunlop.
“It’s transformative for our town,” said Mayor Shawn Pankow. “I’d almost prefer to see the whole thing done at once.”
The mayor expressed concern that if an upcoming provincial election resulted in a change in government, it might be impossible to secure funding the second phase of Beckwith Street rehabilitation.
Councillor John Maloney stated that he also had difficulty supporting the recommendation to rehabilitate only the first three blocks, citing the disruption to businesses of working on the same street for two years, as well as concerns about the availability of funding for the second phase.
“I’ve agonized over this,” said Councillor Lorraine Allen. “But I’m happy to go along with your [Dunlop’s] recommendations because I trust that you know what you’re talking about.”
In a recorded vote, Councillors Lorraine Allen, Jay Brennan, Chris Cummings and Dawn Quinn voted to accept Dunlop’s recommendation, with Mayor Shawn Pankow and Councillor John Maloney opposed.