A sidewalk from Benson to Poulton is on the District of Houston’s project list for this year. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today\)

A sidewalk from Benson to Poulton is on the District of Houston’s project list for this year. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today\)

Buildings, downtown improvements rank high in District’s strategic plan

Five-year plan is refreshed every year

The District of Houston continues to work away at determining the state of its facilities and other assets, what’s needed to maintain them and when they might need to be replaced.

Developing a master asset management plan, which would include projected costs, is a key part of the District’s strategic plan, a five-year document that is refreshed every year with the latest update presented to council last month.

That plan, being written by the consulting firm of Urban Systems, is to be presented to council soon.

As it is, the District has already set in motion a broad outline to replace the aging community hall and to replace the firehall.

The District has already applied for senior government grants to top up a reserve account of its own to replace the community hall, a project that could cost as much as $4.75 million.

A concept plan for a new community hall, however, was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and won’t be ready until early this year.

The pandemic has also delayed the completion of a concept plan for a new firehall. As with the community hall replacement, it will also require outside grants to help finance construction.

If the District is paying attention to its above ground assets, it is also anticipating work on its water system and other civic infrastructure.

That includes confirmed upgrades to improve water flows for fire protection in the downtown core and deciding to either replace or decommission the district’s water reservoir.

One visible result of the strategic plan is well underway — the rebuild last year of 9th St. downtown, the first phase of a multi-year and multi-million plan to revitalization surface and underground works.

It was scheduled to be finished late last fall but a late spate of inclement weather and an unplanned but necessary move of a BC Hydro utility pole has stalled completion until this spring.

Meanwhile a formal design for the next phase of the downtown project, improvements on 10th and 11th, is to be completed this year, giving the District a better idea of costs.

The District is also progressing on its long range plan for improvements to Hwy16 as it passes adjacent to the downtown core.

That includes a sidewalk from Benson Ave. to Poulton Ave., scheduled for this year, and a decision on a project that was deferred from last year — placing utilities underground. This work was put on hold when costs came in excess of what was budgeted. Council has applied for a BC Hydro grant to cover some of the costs.

The District is also encouraging businesses to take their own steps at improving the look of the community by putting in place a bylaw that provides tax breaks for work done on a building facade.

Asset management aside, the District continues its lobbying efforts for an increase in local health care services through the Houston Health Centre and to increase the level of service to seniors and others at Cottonwood Manor.

And it wants to promote backyard composting in residential and rural neighbourhoods while encouraging people to use the recycling services that are available.

Other advocacy issues include asking the provincial government to regulate air pollution from rail traffic and to improve regulations to reduce emissions from industrial sources.

Emissions concerns include having realtors remind home purchasers that wood burning stoves need to be certified. Although the District does not have a direct incentive program to replace older wood stoves with new ones, both the province and a local airshed society have rebates in place.

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