Squamish officials weren’t charged on dedicating big bucks to bury the downtown area’s power lines before finalizing next year’s municipal budget. So the project has been put on hold.
At last week’s Committee of the Whole, District of Squamish staff presented a plan to hunt down a B.C. Hydro grant to clear the community heart’s skyline. The project’s planning would kick off next year, with a redesigned Second Avenue. The main thrust of the work was slated to take place in 2015, burying lines from Main Street to Pemberton Avenue. The overhaul was estimated to cost the municipality approximately $1.8 million, with B.C. Hydro’s grant covering an additional $585,000.
To apply for the grant, the district’s funding had to be endorsed by council by Nov. 15 — before district officials have finalized the 2014 budget.
The initiative isn’t new, Coun. Patricia Heintzman said, noting officials could put it off another year to allow for a more detailed plan and incorporate it into the capital budget cycle. Council agreed, voting to postpone the project for a year.
“I am not happy that Telus and Shaw don’t participate in this system,” Coun. Patricia Heintzman said.
The utility providers currently don’t have beautification programs to help cover the cost of burying their services. Municipal staff estimated that work would cost the district $572,000.
Coun. Doug Race questioned why staff choose downtown as the grant recipient. Second Avenue is uninviting, creating a burden on commercial viability, district planner Sabina Foofat answered. Between Victoria Street and Pemberton Avenue, there are 15 vacant storefronts, she noted. It’s the last place people say they’d reinvest in, Foofat said, adding two developments on the avenue haven’t proceeded partly because of the street’s unattractiveness.