Only a handful of Bernard Avenue property owners are opposed to paying for part of the cost of a multi-million dollar plan to spruce up the look of Kelowna’s main street downtown.
According to the city, just four of the 77 property owners between Richter Street and Abbott Street submitted valid petitions opposing the streetscape plan.
The petition period for property owners to say if they are willing to pay for 25 per cent of the streetscaping work— a small part of the entire $14 million road project that will see Bernard Avenue torn up from Richter to Abbott and rebuilt with its underground utilities replaced—ended Monday.
Terry Barton, City of Kelowna manager of parks and public places, said city representatives have scheduled a drop-in meeting with the merchants and the public for Oct. 11 to present several scenarios about a possible time schedule for the proposed work. Based on the feedback from that meeting, city staff will present a final timing plan to council on Oct. 17.
On Monday, in a meeting with council, Barton said the merchants have made it clear they do not want to see construction take place between the Victoria Day long weekend in May and the Labour Day weekend in September next year as that is the time they make most of their revenues.
Barton said they also want to see any construction schedules strictly adhered to.
Some councillors want the city to start the work in the spring and take a break over the summer before restarting in the fall.
But the city’s Bill Berry said it is unlikely the project could be ready to go at the start of the spring as it will take at least six months to have everything in place.
“We would be ready to go just to stop (at the Victoria Day weekend)” said Berry, the city’s director of design and construction services.
As for working over the winter—another suggestion made by some on council—that has been basically ruled out because of the difficulties it would pose and the fact the city is not equipped to do cold weather construction.
Also, unlike some other cities in Canada such as Edmonton and Saskatoon, there is not the local experienced workforce to do it here, noted John Vos, the city’s general manager of community services.
Working in the height of the winter would drive the costs up considerably, he added.
The city has said it is looking at phasing the Bernard Avenue work over two years, and that prompted some councilors to suggest an accelerated work schedule.
“The longer it goes, the more it is going to cost,” said Coun. Charlie Hodge, saying that cost impact will not just be for the city, but also for the merchants.
What the city is considering, said Barton, is working on individual blocks of the street.He noted the city’s consultant says each block appears to offer different challenges.
The city is also considering using some of its workers for part of the project because that would help speed up some aspects because the tending time would be cut out for those phases.
The planned meeting with the merchants follows a gathering held Sept. 20 when possible construction schedules and other issues were discussed.
Barton said the merchants said they want to be constantly kept abreast of progress and anticipated impacts so they can continue to operate their businesses while the road work is going on.
For its part, the city wants to minimize any negative construction impact, Barton noted.
Options such as night shifts, double shifts, using two crews at a time to start from each end and meet in the middle, project management models and winter construction are being, or have been, looked at and weighed in relation to cost.