More than seven months after escalating costs prompted White Rock council to put the brakes on upgrades to the Helen Fathers Centre Street Walkway project, city staff have been asked to report back with lower-cost options for the refresh.
Council voted unanimously Jan. 16 to have staff review the entire walkway – which links Marine Drive with Victoria and Columbia Avenue – following an update from engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon that included news nearly $1 million in grant funding had been withdrawn.
“On Jan. 11, unfortunately we learned that… conditional approval for $996,000 was withdrawn,” Gordon said.
The loss, Gordon continued, meant the $3.4 million cost would have to come from community amenity contributions.
“So council is left with the cost of the project,” he said.
Council voted in February 2022 to re-name the hillside walkway in honour of Helen Fathers, following the popular councillor’s death earlier that month. It was Fathers who started the process for its beautification in 2012, Coun. David Chesney noted at the time.
The walkway was revived by the city in 2021, following a never-implemented 2014 conceptual plan, but was put on hold again in June 2022 when delays sent projected costs skyrocketing, to more than $3 million from the original budget of some $1.49 million.
The decision was paused pending news of the city’s application for the federal grant.
Gordon said at the Jan. 16 meeting that risks associated with moving forward now include increased costs and the possible continuation of litigation against the city, should a Dec. 30 ruling be appealed.
He explained that a judge in December ruled against the owners of three properties along the walkway route who took the city to court over steps initiated to remove encroachments that were complicating implementation of the new design.
If the city does not move forward, $170,000 spent on design costs would be lost, he noted.
Coun. Christopher Trevelyan – noting the pathway’s usage “will not justify” spending $3.4 million on an upgrade – suggested staff report back “looking at maybe $100,000 to refresh the bottom two portions.” It was unanimously supported, with a friendly amendment from Chesney to include the pathway’s upper portion as well.
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