The first ever Sparwood Town Hall was held at the Leisure Center on Wednesday, May 13 where the mayor addressed top issues affecting the district before opening the event to public comment.
Mayor Cal McDougall began the meeting by discussing the delay in the Highway 3/43 Middletown Crossing project, which was first discussed at the April 7 council meeting.
Construction on Phase 2 of the project has been postponed while the district waits for the approval of an $8.6 million grant that was expected to be announced this spring but was pushed to the fall.
“What that grant will do if it gets awarded in the fall, we’ll be able to tender it this winter when we can hopefully get some better pricing and we’ll get started on construction once again in the spring,” explained McDougall.
Other projects that have been delayed are buildings by Teck Coal and Joy Global as well as the hotel by Schickedanz.
“As we all have noticed, Teck Coal and Joy Global have not exactly jumped into construction mode and we don’t have to be rocket scientists to figure out that the economy around the world is in bad shape,” said McDougall. “Often the Elk Valley seems to be able to avoid these global set backs but unfortunately we haven’t … so we can’t really expect these companies to invest millions of dollars in their current state.”
Projects that are moving forward include a building permit by Tim Hortons. Construction of a Sparwood location for the Canadian coffee chain is slated for completion in December.
Further construction moving forward this year is the repaving of Douglas Fir Road.
“There have been discussions of paving it for years and it just hasn’t happened … but the decision has been made to finally go ahead and repave a good portion of Douglas Fir this year,” said McDougall, adding that tenders for the project will be awarded in June.
Other notable issues included the possibility of a helipad being reintroduced into the district.
McDougall said that due to the sizes of new STARs equipment that the old location at the Sparwood Health Centre was no longer an option.
“We’ve made some preliminary inquiries and there’s only one thing that is obvious and that’s that we cannot put a helipad down by the Health Centre where it was,” said McDougall. “With the new STARs helicopters, it’s too big to land there. Even if we can get rid of all those power lines, which is one reason why people think we don’t have a helipad and that’s not really the case anymore.”
McDougall noted that council is open for further discussion on bringing a helipad to the district but that Interior Health has not identified Sparwood as a viable helipad location and will not provide funds to build one — leaving the tab in the hands of the district and its taxpayers.
“Their contention is we have the Elk Valley airport that’s 10-12 minutes away that could be used either for flat-wing planes or helicopter access if the need arose. Certainly council is here to talk about any other potential ideas we have to ask ourselves if it’s worth having a $750,000 helipad? It would have to be funded by the district.”
When comment was opened to the public, a top concern was that of the temporary retirement of the district’s float. Residents voiced that the float’s objective was to advertise Sparwood to other towns and attract more people to live in the district.
Coun. Lois Halko responded that the float had been temporarily retired so that funds could instead be redirected to installing LED lights onto the Titan Truck as well as to allow time for improvements to the float to be made.
“We thought that we could find other ways to advertise the town and one of the things we came up with was placing LED lights on the truck, similar to those that light up the parliament buildings in Victoria,” explained Halko.
McDougall lastly encouraged residents to fill out a service request form regarding issues or complaints they may note in the community.
“There will be accountability held for these forms, they will be tracked and you will receive a response,” assured McDougall. “Hopefully these forms will work to get a few things done, a lot of them little things, around our town.”