Kimberley City Council has made the decision to place the two walking bridges contracted from Tyee Log Homes to Mackenzie Street and Marysville Falls to replace two older bridges.
The decision was not arrived at without a debate and the vote was not unanimous.
Council has been wrestling with what to do with the bridges, originally planned for the Mark Creek flume project. Funding for the bridges was covered by an Accessibility grant. The problem is that if the bridges are not installed in 2014, the grant obligations are not met and the money would be lost. The total cost for all three bridges is $134,475.22 plus applicable taxes. The federal accessibility grant for $50,000 will be put towards this project, reducing the overall cost to $84,475.22 for all three bridges.
One bridge has already been installed as part of the flume project, at St. Mary’s Avenue, which replaced a vehicle bridge.
The question Council deferred from a previous meeting was — with the decision about whether to proceed with Mark Creek flume rehab still not made, pending grant applications, should Council return the grant money and re-apply for it when the project goes ahead, or use the bridges elsewhere?
It was the recommendation from the Operations Committee, said Coun. Albert Hoglund, that if the decision is made to not proceed with the flume this year, that the bridges go to Mackenzie St. and the Marysville Falls locations. Hoglund said that part of Council’s concern was where the money to install the bridges would come from, but that the Chief Financial Officer had found other funds in the budget so the money wouldn’t come out of the capital budget.
CAO Scott Sommerville reported that he had contacted the federal government about deferring the grant, but said considering that the city had already been granted one extension, he was unsure whether a second would be received kindly.
Coun. Kent Goodwin said that with that still up in the air, he was inclined to defer again.
Mayor Ron McRae said that the city had made a commitment to a contractor and needed to be mindful of that.
“We should fulfill our commitment no matter where the bridges go.”
Coun. Don McCormick said he would vote against relocating the bridges.
“The St Mary’s bridge was never identified as a required project for this year,” he said. “It’s been there a very long time and I can’t believe that this is the first time anyone noticed it is installed below the flood plain. The accessibility grants won’t go away, we can re-apply.”
McCormick said that even if money was found from proceeds of land sales rather than the capital budget, there were plenty of other projects which could use that money, nor had a final decision been made on going ahead with the flume project.
“At the end of the day, choosing to go ahead with Plan B when Plan A is not finalized is the wrong message to send to taxpayers.”
“I’m excited about these bridges and I think one at Marysville Falls would be stunning,” said Coun. Darryl Oakley. “But I have concerns about spending this money. If there are more line items where extra money can be found, there’s been no discussion about priorities for that money. I can’t support this.”
Coun. Jack Ratcliffe said that he would like to defer until final word was heard on flume grant applications, and made a motion to do so, which Council quickly voted down. He then said he’d support putting the bridges in different locations.
Hoglund said he thought the bridges were a superb fit for the two proposed locations.
“The chances of getting another accessibility grant for bridges for the flume are pretty good,” he said. “If we return the money we may not get another chance. We could end up with only one bridge instead of five.”
Coun. Bev Middlebrook said she would support the motion, and believed getting other grants was possible. “I can’t believe no one has said we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” she added.
“It’s an opportunity for additional enhancement in the community,” McRae said. “I feel obligated to satisfy our commitment to a local business with a long history of supporting Kimberley.”
The motion passed with Oakley, McCormick and Goodwin voting against.