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Beautification tops priorities for both township BIAs

A new greenery project and other beautification efforts top the list of some $133,000 in spending planned by the Elmira BIA. The organization’s counterpart in St. Jacobs also has beautification atop the list of its $215,000 budget for 2022.

Public washrooms are also a priority in St. Jacobs, where the BIA is hoping a grant will cover the $150,000 cost for a new structure.

Both budgets were approved Monday night by Woolwich council, which oversees the operation of the business improvement area groups.

In Elmira, the BIA is rolling out a new $30,000 greening initiative to begin adding trees to the downtown core. Many of the former trees were ash, which had either died or were threatened by the ongoing invasion of the emerald ash borer insects.

The plan currently calls for above-ground planters with seasonal greenery and the potential for larger trees, Elmira BIA chair Jon Clay told councillors, noting the scope of the project will depend on the success of a grant application.

“Pending the grant money that could come in, if this is all we have and we’re denied by the activator program then we will do what we can with this money available. It may just be a smaller-scale project than what we’ve envisioned,” he said.

Including the greenery project, the BIA will be spending almost $100,000 on beautification projects. That includes $20,000 for its storefront façade program identified under a recent community improvement plan (CIP) approved by the townships. That program provides 30 per cent of upgrades to the fronts of buildings up to $5,000.

“Also back by popular demand, we have our façade-improvement stream of the CIP. It was a light year on the signage stream – we only had one grant given, but I think everyone was a little nervous with what was happening with COVID and waiting to spend money on their front area,” Clay explained.

Of the $132,695 in the budget, $57,574 is coming from the organization’s accumulated surplus.

The St. Jacobs BIA is also drawing on its surplus to the tune of $70,000 to fund up to $215,000 in spending, almost half of which is beautification work in the core.

A top priority, however, is a long-term solution to lack of public washrooms in the village, said BIA treasurer Graham Spence of Block Three Brewing.

Where Mercedes Corp., which owned buildings and operated many of the businesses in St. Jacobs, used to provide for restrooms, the situation has been different since the company sold its holdings, he said. The township has helped fund temporary measures, including the use of washrooms in private businesses, the goal now is to put in place a pre-fab structure similar to the one in use seasonally at Bolender Park in Elmira.

“I’m not sure how aware you are but that has been a hot button issue for us for quite a while and it’s something that we hope we can improve upon going forward. Right now we have a single bathroom located in or just above Block Three Brewing and it is probably the most used bathroom in the region. It is in very heavy use – long lines on weekends and it’s bad. To be honest, it’s kind of embarrassing for us because we get a lot of feedback from people coming in and getting upset with the lack of public facilities,” said Spence.

Jenna Morris, the township’s economic development and tourism officer, said the above-ground, three-piece accessible washroom facility is earmarked for the municipal parking lot at Water and Albert streets. There, it can be accessed by visitors to the village but also trail users.

The goal is to have a grant pay for the estimated $150,000 price tag, which would include about $10,000 in artwork.

Operating costs, which would include cleaning and maintenance, have been estimated at as much as $42,000 a year, a figure that was cause for concern for  Coun. Larry Shantz, who also balked at the proposed location.

“Do you think once COVID opens up that the businesses would open up their washrooms to the public?” he asked Spence. “It seems when I look at where the washrooms are going to be located, they’re quite a distance from the main drag and quite a walking distance if somebody really needs a washroom break.”

“There’s a number of people that use those trails back there and there’s nothing back there [washroom-wise],” Spence replied. “I don’t think having something back on the trails is necessarily a bad thing.”

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