Business Fears Major Disruptions in Revitalization

Pipestone Flyer

Back in the spring of 2010 people in Wetaskiwin were happy. The snow was melting, the days were getting longer and citizens were anticipating the revitalization of a run-down, dark and unattractive Main Street. They were anticipating they would be seeing equipment moving onto Main Street and digging up the old infrastructure (water and sewer) which would be replaced with water and sewer lines that meet today’s standards.  The community would be provided a modern Main Street design including new streets, sidewalks, street lights and other design features that would make it a functional and attractive refurbished Centre of town.

    City Council had advised the public they had, “acquired multiyear grants (2011-2013) to pay for the Main Street Revitalization project of which 90% has to be done because the infrastructure requires upgrading and the streets need to be replaced. The other 10% will provide designs that will improve traffic flow and operations, create a pedestrian-friendly environment and enhance the street’s visual appeal and functionality.”  

    As it moved forward there were some bumps in the pavement but nothing GENIVAR and City Hall couldn’t fix with some community consultation, design charrettes and open houses. It even got a progressive sounding slogan; ‘It’s Your Street – Make It Happen!’ Then one of the bumps turned into a massive crater and stopped the undertaking and a much larger repair job was needed. 

    Tenders for the Main Street Revitalization Project Phases I-IV closed on April 12, 2011. But there was only one bid and it was approximately 50% over the budgeted estimate. The bid was from Continental Earthmovers Ltd at a total project cost of $14,601,603.73. The submitted tender included the revitalization of the entire Main Street stretching from the High School to the Water Tower. 

    Following a lengthy discussion, Alderman MacQuarrie moved that Council reject the tender received from Continental Earthmovers Ltd. and that Administration be directed to review the Main Street Revitalization Project scope and the tender documents and prepare to re-tender a revised project for construction in 2012. While Alderman McFaul argued the project should proceed, the other Aldermen believed that to be fiscally responsible, the process needed to be reviewed and the recorded motion was carried. 

    The tender for Phase 1 (from Terracotta to RBC) closed January 24, 2012. Carmacks Enterprises Ltd. submitted the low tender bid of $4,224,151.05, and on March 12, 2012 Council awarded the contract to Carmacks. Phase I was completed at an approximate cost of $6M.

    Now it’s time for Phase II, extending from RBC to No Frills. The tenders have been prepared and on March 4th, 2013, the public were invited to review the plans for Phase II encompassing 50 – 53 Streets (west of the tracks from RBC to No Frills).

    Phase I proved to be very disruptive and a very trying and frustrating time for the citizens and businesses of Wetaskiwin. As planning for Phase II is progressing, business owners like Gord Lodge of No Frills are anticipating disruption to their business and customers. “The impact on No Frills? That’s a guess at this point. I am hoping our customers stay loyal. We try to maintain that level of consistency with our customers.  We hope they find a way to get to us while the City is doing its thing.”

    Parking adjacent to the popular No Frills store is congested now. Parking spills into adjoining streets from the No Frills parking lot that is often inadequate to handle the volume. Construction of Phase II of Main Street will further challenge shoppers attempting to access the store. As Lodge describes, “The contingency is I’m hoping that basically we find a way we can achieve a steady stream of people flowing through at a reasonable rate. It’s a guess again how it’ going to affect us once it’s happening. I’m hoping people remain patient. I know personally I’m going to find alternate parking for my staff and me so we aren’t taking up potential space from our customers.”

    As Lodge anticipates the challenging summer facing him and his business he comments, “Progress takes a little bit of pain sometimes and we are for progress. The biggest issue is the speed with which the process occurs. I am happy with the plan they are putting forward to the companies that are tendering. They are keeping the businesses and Main Street (merchants) in mind with those plans.

    At a time when consumers are feeling the pinch of a tightening economy will they be willing overcome the barriers of the Main Street Revitalization Project to access stores like No Frills.  The question, how much inconvenience are customers willing to undergo to save money at the checkout counter will be answered this coming summer.

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