Provincial grant tapped to finance downtown project

Butler and 10th next on improvement list

The District of Houston council continues to refine how it’s spending a major provincial grant, with an emphasis this year on continued plans to improve underground and above ground services within the downtown core.

In 2019 the District received $4.486 million and last year it received $2.074 million from the provincial Northern Capital and Planning Grant outlay for a combined $6.56 million, plus any accumulated interest.

As of Jan. 1, the District had already spent approximately half of the amount, leaving $3.41 million in a reserve account. Of that amount, it is assigning $1,387,986 this year to Phase 2 of its long-range downtown revitalization plan which calls for water system and accessibility improvements for portions of 10th and Butler.

That decision follows along with council’s use last year of a portion of the provincial grant total in helping finance the improvements on 9th Street, called Phase 1 of the long-range downtown improvement plan.

By the end of this year, the estimate is that there will be $1.047 million left in the Northern Capital and Planning Grant account, said District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck in providing an update on grant expenditures.

In all, council has decided to spend $2.270 million of the grant this year, with the $1.387 million for Phase 2 of the downtown being the largest amount. Another $154,632 is being assigned to the community hall replacement project, a suggested design and planning document for which was released by council this month.

Both Phase 2 and the community hall replacement are, however, contingent upon receiving senior government grants to flesh out required financing, added Pinchbeck.

The District will also be spending $200,000 on playground safety and equipment replacements, $50,000 on Jamie Baxter Park, $144,200 to add a right hand turning lane from Copeland to Hwy16, $250,000 to continue implementing the District’s master asset management plan, $25,000 for a Bymarc Park redesign and business case plan and $18,911 on a concept plan for a new fire hall.

In 2019, the first year the grant was received, the District assigned $225,373 towards engineering costs for its multi-phase downtown revitalization plan, $360,000 to boost its road works budget that year and $150,000 to close the financing gap in what was needed to install a new ammonia plant at the arena.

Last year council used the grant to allocate $1.996 million to the downtown project, beefed up its road work spending by $421,300 and spent $17,089 on the beginning stages of the design and plan to replace the community hall.

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