Bridge plan puts other projects on hold

"There is so much to be done with that (pedestrian bridge) right now that we need to hold off on the Riverfront Centre.” - Robert Cacchioni

While the city has all its ducks in a row to tender a new bridge – other capital projects such as a new library and a spruced up downtown have been temporarily put on hold.

The Riverfront Centre and third phase of downtown revitalization remain on the back burner pending construction of the pipe/pedestrian bridge this fall and its subsequent usage.

“We are in a holding pattern right now,” explained Coun. Robert Cacchioni, chair of the centre’s building committee.

“Everything has been finalized, in terms of engineering, with the pipe bridge. There is so much to be done with that right now that we need to hold off on the Riverfront Centre.”

Trail council has two days of strategic planning this week to set timelines on the larger capital projects, said Cacchioni, adding that in his opinion, ground won’t break for the new facility until 2016.

First, the city needs to study how the walking bridge will affect people accessing the downtown core.

“In reality, we are not going to be able to judge the traffic patterns until such time as you have that bridge in.” he explained. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with people walking and biking two bridges again.”

Sidewalk extensions and additional parking near the bridge site may need to be developed, he noted.

“And we can’t finalize a downtown plan until we see what impact the Riverfront Centre will have.”

He said a new building on Bay Street means 60,000 annual visits to the facility’s current Trail Memorial Centre locale will be redirected to the south end of town.

“Phase 3 of the downtown plan is delayed because it’s such an expensive operation,” Cacchioni said. “Also, because those library visits will eventually be downtown, traffic flow will definitely be impacted.

“We don’t know what that will look like.

“On top of that, we have to look at what is going to happen in the library space in the Trail Memorial Centre, because that will also change things.”

Some of the concepts and options for the future projects will be considered during council’s current strategic sessions, he added.

New bridge construction is being funded through federal gas tax dollars, meaning the cost won’t directly impact taxpayers.

However, there’s one shore-to-shore feature that will affect 2015 property taxes, and that’s the secondary water line.

Trail council approved to bump the capital budget by about $100,000 to $1.9 million during Tuesday’s governance meeting. The water line, which has been on the city’s books for a number of years, eats up $500,000 of this year’s capital plan.

That infrastructure upgrade, plus other pricey projects that include $450,000 for a new roof at the Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre and $250,000 for Bear Creek well repairs mean a hike in 2015 residential property taxes.

Last week, Trail council agreed to increase the annual levy by 2.6 per cent, or $25 for the average $182,000 home. That number only took into account the city’s operating budget.

After reviewing the capital budget Tuesday, council raised that amount to about 3.6 per cent, or $40 for the average homeowner.

“What this adjustment does,” says Trail Mayor Mike Martin. “Is set us on a path of improving the financial situation of the city after some heavy demands over the last year.”

He explained that the airport purchase and downtown improvements pulled money from the city’s cash reserves, which doesn’t fit with sustainable long term planning.

“With taking this move, which we believe is affordable to the community, we believe we are taking a step in the direction of dealing with infrastructure requirements and also reducing the amount we pull from reserves,” Martin added. “And as we move forward the situation will continue to improve.”

Although the city hasn’t finalized the 2014 year-end, initial budget projections indicate total consolidated surplus and reserves would be $6.6 million at the end of 2014 as compared to $8.7 million at the end of 2013, confirmed David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief adminstrative officer.

While the majority of this year’s capital projects aren’t visual, there is one that promises to be eye-catching.

The large yellow blocks at the 4-way stop on Bay Ave. and Farwell St. will be replaced with more pedestrian-friendly features.

Council agreed to a $35,000 makeover that includes benches and flower pots.

“We saw a picture of what this will look like, and it really is nice,” said Martin.

Council also earmarked $190,000 to light up the Victoria Street Bridge, though the project cannot proceed until the organizing group of downtown Trail business associates raises the other half.