The next phase of a planned series of improvements along Hwy16 passing through town has been given the go ahead by the District of Houston council.
Called Phase 2A, this involves the burying of Telus and BC Hydro utility lines as well as new lighting.
The District applied for and received a $181,500 grant from BC Hydro for the work but it was conditional upon the District first confirming its own financial participation by April 8 for a work program not to exceed $750,000.
Council decided April 2 to use monies from surplus to cover the $568,500 gap between the projected $750,000 cost and the BC Hydro grant.
District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck said $200,000 will come from a dedicated District account meant for economic development initiatives created through dividends paid by the Dungate Community Forest with the remainder coming from unallocated surpluses.
“Our goal is to convert the utility lines and replace BC Hydro street lamps with LED streetlamps to maintain a consistent level of roadway lighting,” he said of the project.
There had been some expectation of the District using a portion of the $4.486 million coming to Houston from the provincial government’s $100 million grant program for northern local governments.
But a briefing note prepared for council members indicated otherwise.
The grant “cannot be utilized for this project as it does not result in the District obtaining a capital asset. As a result, the remainder of the [project] cost must be secured from District funding,” the note indicated.
Had not council approved using monies from surplus and the economic development account, the project would have been shelved for this year and require re-costing in future years.
Taking $200,000 from the economic development account leaves sufficient monies to cover the cost of two other projects, a community marketing video and an expansion of the community forest.
And a planned sidewalk, traffic control lighting, and walkway lighting will be installed in 2021 as part of Phase 3 of the highway improvement project, Pinchbeck explained.
This year’s work involves placing BC Hydro and Telus lines between Butler Avenue and Ninth Street underground as well as some pavement patching and repairs in addition to the LED street lights.
Longer range downtown beautification plans include construction of a community barn and plaza space that would be visible from the highway and act as a landmark anchor to the Poulton Avenue corridor.
(With files from Flavio Sachett Nienow)