Downtown group continues to hold out hope for provincial funding
© Katie Tower - TC Media
Improvements to the Bridge Street area of Sackville that the community’s downtown revitalization committee have been waiting for may not happen this year.
SACKVILLE, N.B. – The hope of a long-awaited makeover on Bridge Street this summer is slowly fading.
Robert Lyon, chair of Sackville’s downtown revitalization committee and a local business owner, said as spring creeps closer and the committee continues to await word from the province on possible funding, the Bridge Street project is looking less and less likely.
“I’m afraid our window to get this done this summer is slowly closing,” said Lyon.
Lyon said the downtown improvement project has already received a funding commitment from the town and the grant applications for ACOA funds also look promising. But the project hinges on also receiving funding from the provincial government, he said, which isn’t looking encouraging.
He said although the downtown committee has met with local MLA Mike Olscamp about this project, there has been little communication with provincial officials since January, other than an e-mail from the MLA stating there is no money available for Bridge Street.
Lyon said the group had hoped to meet with Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claude Williams to discuss the project but has yet to hear back on whether they will have the opportunity to “plead their case” as they try to get the province on board as a partner.
“We’re just in a holding pattern right now, waiting for a meeting. Everything’s there and in place . . . so it would be really nice to see the province step up to the plate.”
Lyon said without provincial support, the project will not move ahead because ACOA requires a funding commitment from the other levels of government – in this case in particular, because, although Bridge Street runs through the municipality, it is a provincially-designated highway.
“We’re not talking about a big amount of money from the province,” he said, noting that the provincial government would only need to contribute less than a third of the cost of the project, at $300,000.
The Bridge Street facelift would include the total reconstruction of the roadway downtown – including installing new water and sewer mains that would replace the aging infrastructure that was put in in the 1930s and a much-needed re-paving.
“It’s not just about making it pretty. This is necessary work.”
Lyon said the project also includes funds to remove the power poles along that street and bury the lines underground, making the downtown area much more aesthetically pleasing.
MLA Olscamp, however, pointed out that although the project is a good one, the provincial government simply doesn’t have the funds to support it this year.
“There is just no money.”
Olscamp said he did meet with the committee members before Christmas and let them know in January that he wouldn’t be able to commit any funding toward Bridge Street.
He said the committee has suggested that perhaps the Queens Road project that has been approved for this spring could be put off this year and those funds allocated instead for Bridge Street.
But Olscamp said that’s not going to happen. The funding for Queens Road (Route 106), which will see re-paving done from Fairfield Road to the Y-intersection at Route 935, was anticipated to come forward last year but got delayed with all the departmental budget cuts, he said. But it’s back on the table to be done this year and Olscamp said he’s not putting it off any longer.
“These people have been waiting for 15 years (for Queens Road to be paved),” he said.
He said that section of Queens Road –which sees a lot of traffic coming to and from Dorchester, Woodpoint and Rockport on a daily basis – is in worse shape than Bridge Street.
Olscamp said he made a promise to his constituents and he doesn’t want to go back on that word.
“I told them as soon as money became available, I would have that done for them. I’m not going to renege on that.”