The downtown improvement project now underway is the first phase of a long-standing plan to beautify and modernize the downtown core. (Houston Today photo)

Provincial grant boosted District projects

The 2019 annual report released

A $4.486 million one-time provincial grant last year helped the District of Houston finance much-needed projects, mayor Shane Brienen has highlighted in the District’s 2019 annual report.

“It is exciting to see provincial funding flowing to northern communities and we are happy to received continued support from other levels of government,” he said.

The money has now been allocated to a continuing series of projects stretching into the next several years and a further $2.074 million this year from the province will help continue the District’s efforts to replace infrastructure and finance repairs of facilities and assets.

From the $4.486 million, the District was able to commit $225,373 to help finance the engineering for its comprehensive downtown rehabilitation and beautification program and it added $360,000 to its road rehabilitation program.

Another $150,000 was used to close the financing gap to replace the aging ammonia plant at the arena.

And $1.796 million of the 2019 went to replacing downtown utilities, a significant help in the District’s longterm downtown rehabilitation and beautification plan.

A further $421,300 went to road rehabilitation elsewhere and $200,000 was allocated to playground safety upgrades.

In 2022, the District is scheduled to put $891,968 toward a new community hall but it will need additional senior government grants to complete financing of this project.

The District has already committed $40,000 for a community hall design and spent $50,000 on a firehall replacement design, both of which were financed by that 2019 grant.

If the 2019 provincial grant helped make projects possible the District could otherwise not afford, Brienen noted that the past year was one of planning by District staffers.

“We also made strides in our asset management planning with the completion of our road asset management plan and master facilities lifecycle maintenance plan,” he said.

Annual reports by municipalities are a legislated requirement under the provincial Community Charter and the 2019 version was officially presented this week.

Report Highlights

Housing – A comprehensive housing study was released, noting deficiencies and gaps in the current housing stock. New housing would help attract new residents to the community, particularly professionals. But senior housing allowing older residents to stay within the community is also needed.

Bylaw enforcement – In partnership with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, the District approved a 50/50 cost split to increase bylaw enforcement, education and compliance. This follows community concern about the state of some housing and housing appearance.

Major projects – Planning was completed for the 9 St. downtown improvement project, now underway. That’s called Phase 1 of a larger program. This District this year is advancing on Phase 2 by seeking financial support from senior governments.

Roads and sidewalks – By the numbers, the District spent $639,296.25 on paving repairs and $75,331.76 on sidewalk repairs. Paving repairs were done on Winter Ave., 6th and Copeland, 4th and Copeland, Buck Flats and Riverbank Drive. Sealcoating took place on Pioneer, Gushwa and Estates.

Safety – A lighted crosswalk was installed across Mountain View Drive to increase safety for pedestrians.

Paul Gordon remembered – The District suffered a key loss when engineering and operations director Paul Gordon passed away in late 2019. His name is now on the dog park he helped create last year.

Fire department calls –The 30-member volunteer fire department responded to 202 incidents in 2019, fewer than the year before. Of that number, 53 were fire-related, 127 were first responder driven and 22 were rescue calls related to motor vehicle accidents. A new rescue truck was ordered late last year and is due for delivery this October.

Highway 16 –In addition to projects planned in 2019 that are either taking place this year or subject to approval — placing utility lines underground and building a sidewalk — an additional sidewalk is being sought. And that is for an age-friendly sidewalk on the southside of Hwy16 downtown.

Leisure services – A continuing popular attraction is the leisure facility with 978 membership passes sold and 22,846 single admission users recorded. There were 210 participants in swimming lessons offered and more than 500 guests attended a Hallowe’en event in partnership with the PV Plaza. Approximately the same number of people attended Canada Day celebrations at Jamie Baxter Park.

Water, sewer – The District pumped 402,246 cubic metres of potable water and treated 341,888 cubic metres of sewage. There’s a plan to replace Well No. 2 with a subsequent decommissioning of the current Well No. 2.

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