Downtown makeover won’t happen in 2014

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Katie Tower
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The aging infrastructure on Bridge Street is in need of an upgrade, however without the necessary funding commitment from all three levels of government, the project isn’t on tap for this year. TOWER PHOTO

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Sackville’s downtown revitalization committee was hoping 2014 would be the year funding would come through for a much-needed and long-awaited makeover on Bridge Street.

But that hope was dashed earlier this month with news that at least a third of the funding for the project wouldn’t be coming through as anticipated.

“It’s not going to happen this year,” said Rob Lyon, outgoing chair of the downtown revitalization committee and a local business owner.

Lyon said the committee members heard two weeks ago their application for federal funding through ACOA had been turned down, another frustrating turn of events for the project, which has now been put on hold for the second year. And with only a half-hearted pledge of support this year from the provincial government, Lyon said there just isn’t enough of a commitment to move the makeover ahead this spring.

The downtown improvement project, expected to cost an estimated $1 million, gained support from the town last year, with council making a funding commitment for one-third of the cost as long as the other levels of government came through with the remaining funds.

But without a shared funding arrangement, the project isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, said Lyon.

The proposed project, which would essentially be a makeover of downtown Bridge Street, includes a total reconstruction of the roadway – 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. The project also includes removing the power poles along that street and burying the lines underground

Lyon said the committee isn’t asking for “new money” from the town or the province, it’s simply requesting that the money that has been paid into commercial property taxes be allocated back into improving the aging infrastructure.

He said he’s frustrated that the project isn’t gaining wider support from the provincial or federal governments, who regularly pledge to put more monies into economic development through initiatives such as Canada’s Economic Action Plan or New Brunswick’s Growing Together economic growth strategy.

“This is a perfect example of what they should be doing,” he said, noting that aging municipal infrastructure is an issue facing towns and cities across the country.

Lyon’s frustration is just one reason he has decided to step down from the downtown revitalization committee, a group he has been a key member of for more than six years.

“I think it’s time for somebody new to come in; I’ve got no new ideas,” he said.

He said the committee developed an extensive vision plan for the downtown in 2008 but pointed out that the lack of action on the recommendations laid out in the document has been discouraging.

“I’m frustrated we haven’t been able to effect greater change in the downtown.”

Lyon said the committee has done most of the legwork on the proposed Bridge Street project so there is not much left to do but wait.

“It’s in the town’s hands now; it’s kind of up to them,” said Lyon.

He is hopeful the project will eventually receive enough financial support to make it a reality but believes that day is at least a year and half away from “possibly happening.”

“I don’t think the project is dead . . . but I do think it’s still a long ways away,” said Lyon.

Geographic location: Bridge Street, Canada, New Brunswick

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