Sunday, April 12, 2009

Downtown Revitalization Update

Last November I wrote here about the Town’s multi-million dollar application to revitalize Pelham’s downtowns. I am writing now to provide you with an update.

As you will recall, last September the Federal and Provincial Governments announced the Building Canada Grant Program for communities under 100,000 people.

The Town of Pelham submitted an application to the program requesting a total of $7.1 million to revitalize downtown Fonthill and Fenwick. In December, the Building Canada program deemed our submission to be two separate projects and the Town had to choose one project over the other. The Town amended the application to fund the downtown area of Fonthill – the larger and more expensive of the projects (at more than $4.6 million).

In February, 2009, I was informed that the Town would receive $852,572 from each level of Government for a total of $1.7 million. Based on the amended application, this left a shortfall of nearly $1.3 million in funding from the two levels of Government.

Later, Town staff was informed that Building Canada deemed burying of the hydro lines, and the purchase of benches and planters as “ineligible expenditures” under the program. While the cost for the benches and planters are minimal, the cost to bury the hydro lines (including contingencies, engineering and Environmental Assessment costs) was budgeted at approximately $1.9 million (for all three levels of government)!

On March 17, the CAO and I met with representatives from the Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs in Toronto. We not only sought clarification on these exclusions, but we also implored them to agree to fund expenditures relating to the burying of the hydro lines.

While we were again informed that the burying of hydro lines was not an eligible expenditure, Ministry representatives indicated that very small pockets of funding may be available once the Town finalized the design. An eternal optimist, I continue to be hopeful in this regard.

In the meantime, Council recently awarded the contract for the engineering and infrastructure design of both Fonthill’s and Fenwick’s downtowns. We continued to include Fenwick’s downtown in the contract to get better pricing and so that we will be "shovel ready" for any further grants. This engineering design will not only advance the projects but will also provide an accurate cost to bury the hydro lines in both our downtowns.

I will continue to keep you informed on our progress.