Decorative lights deemed too costly for St. Jacobs project
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Decorative lights deemed too costly for St. Jacobs project

Property owners in the south end of St. Jacobs will have another chance to hook up to municipal services when King Street undergoes a major reconstruction in 2016. The township will also make use of the work to carry out some improvements of its own.

The Region of Waterloo project will see new pavement, sidewalks and bike and buggy lanes, among other changes proposed after a series of public consultations.

As part of the planning process, Woolwich councillors this week agreed the township should carry out some work of its own while the roadway is ripped up, including the installation of a new watermain and the replacement of some underground pipes. They balked, however, at a staff proposal to spend $237,000 on decorative lighting in downtown St. Jacobs, but were fine with $15,000 for some streetscaping, including such things as bicycle racks and trashcans.

Woolwich also plans to investigate the possible realignment of a municipal drain that passes through the construction area, said director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

With all the work going on, 16 property owners along King Street currently on private wells and septic systems can revisit the idea of shifting to full municipal services, he noted. The idea was last rejected in 2009, as property owners balked at the price tag of $36,500 for the extension of water and sanitary sewers or $13,500 for water only. Residents would also have to cover the cost of a line from the roadway into their homes.

Given all the other work that would be underway at the time, Kennaley said the cost this time around could be considerably less. As part of the report approved Tuesday night, the township will carry out a more detailed study to come up with a cost formula before going back to property owners for their input. An informal poll of residents shows eight of them have some interest in the idea, with another leaning in that direction, he noted.

Council rejected staff’s call for the township to pick up the $236,500 cost for decorate sidewalk lighting in the village. The work would complete a project started 20 years earlier when the underground infrastructure was installed, but never finished, said Kennaley.

“As a taxpayer, I’m finding it hard to justify spending a quarter of a million dollars on fancy lights in St. Jacobs,” said Coun. Allan Poffenroth, arguing that benefitting property owners should foot the bill, as was the case with improvements in downtown Elmira.

Manager of engineering Richard Sigurdson noted that, unlike Elmira, St. Jacobs does not have a Business Improvement Area (BIA) to coordinate cost-sharing for such projects.

Kennaley added that the improvements in the core would be of benefit to the village as a tourism draw.

“The local economy in general will benefit from these types of enhancements.”

Poffenroth’s sentiment was shared by his colleagues, however.

Coun. Julie-Anne Herteis, pointing to the fact most tourists are gone from St. Jacobs by the time the street lighting comes on, argued against the expense.

“They’re not going to be of any use,” she said of the lights. “I can’t justify them for the price.”

Coun. Mark Bauman suggested the work go ahead if the township is successful in receiving a grant under the Rural Economic Development program to cover half the costs, with property owners downtown covering 25 per cent and Woolwich the remaining quarter.

“Let’s throw that formula on that table and see where it goes,” he said, adding that staff should talk with Mercedes Corp., the major commercial landowner in the village.

In a related matter, Bauman led a separate resolution calling on the region to look into loosening proposed parking restrictions along King Street in the south end of town. He said he’s concerned about  plans to eliminate on-street parking,  particularly between the Fairway Lumber site and Printery Road, as it could have an impact on truck movements.

“I foresee problems coming,” he said, noting now is the time to nip that in the bud.

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