The impending tourists caused Ucluelet’s council to pre-approve a 2014 budget item so beautification work can begin downtown and be done by the time tourists flock in.
During last week’s regular council meeting, council agreed to spend about $9,600 clearing up the sidewalk outside the district office, removing a wall and making the area more level, useable, and accessible.
The budget item was not included in the meeting’s agenda package and was brought forward by Coun. Dario Corlazzoli as new business.
Corlazzoli said early budget approval was needed to complete the work before summer’s tourists arrive.
“Its something that I think would need to happen here in the next week or so to get started so that we catch the window where we’re not interrupting the Farmer’s Markets and things like that,” he said.
The project will be funded using resort municipality initiative dollars (RMI).
Coun. Sally Mole asked if the area’s surrounding businesses had been consulted. The district’s manager of planning Patricia Abdullah responded they had not.
Coun. Randy Oliwa said he did not support rushing things through the budget process.
“There’s a lot of other projects that have been proposed and brought forward to council…that the community’s brought forward and, as I see it, those projects are in the queue above this particular project,” he said. “I think it’s a little bit premature to put this through. I wouldn’t be voting in favour of this tonight.”
He said the district’s planning department has drafted preliminary drawings for “an extensive array of beautification” downtown but suggested the local merchant committee has not been involved or brought into the conversation.
“I know they haven’t met yet to discuss this,” he said of the committee.
Mole said she did not disagree with Oliwa but “the fact that it is RMI money gave me a little bit more confidence in moving forward a bit faster on this.”
Lyons said he empathized with Oliwa’s concern and suggested the district has prioritized budget items in the past “perhaps misguidedly,” but he supported the project moving ahead.
He suggested a private contractor be sought to avoid bogging down the district’s public works crew. “Maybe this is something we can look at contracting out to someone that is more readily available so our staff are able to carry on on the projects that we want to see happen,” Lyons said.
Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving said Oliwa’s point was “well-taken” and council “shouldn’t get in the practice of moving along this way.”
Oliwa reiterated his concern over the absence of feedback received from downtown merchants.
“I know we’re stewards of the community but without some sort of feedback, if somebody can’t tell me that the local businesses beside there are in favour of something like this…I really don’t like to see things like this come forward.”
Irving assured the area’s businesses would be consulted and he reiterated council would not make a habit of pre-approving budget items.
Oliwa was the only vote in opposition as the rest of council approved the $9,600 project.