In the days leading up to the municipal election on October 16, we will be publishing the answers to questions posed by 2day FM to the candidates running in the City of Grande Prairie. The responses are listed in alphabetical order by position and are unedited. They have not been fact checked and 2day FM is not responsible for any errors or inaccuracies.

Q: How would you like the city to roll out the next phases of downtown rehabilitation?

MAYOR

Dick Baillie

A: I want to be clear on my stance regarding the downtown core.

I do believe that downtown needs to be revitalized BUT it’s more complicated than just building “facades.” Any changes made should be SUSTAINABLE for Grande Prairie; it’s not simply about creating an attractive street front or roadways. The money spent on this project needs be utilized to the best of our ability and not wasting money on things that are not suitable for our northern Alberta weather.

We need to ask ourselves what can be changed to improve things. What is holding us back? Will the changes currently proposed actually improve business or tourism in the core?

I do believe that the downtown core can be vastly improved with critical upgrades to essential services BUT I firmly believe that care and consideration needs to be given to our business owners and we really need to focus on SUSTAINABILITY for the downtown core. Residents and business owners are already frustrated and unhappy, if we have to fix things we just installed again next year people are going to be even further dissatisfied. 

I also do not believe in doing anything “for show”, the city should have improved services FIRST, instead of laying paving stones and building facades. The changes should have begun with the necessities before moving onto attractiveness if we have to choose the best ways for our tax dollars to be spent.

Bill Given

A: I believe the next phases of the downtown project need to proceed in 2018. In order to ensure an successful program the city will need to ensure that the project is tendered out as early in the new year so that construction can start as soon as possible in the spring to make the most of our short construction season.

Based on our experience with the first phases I would advocate that we partner with the Downtown Assocation or Chamber of Commerce to provide proactive marking support for downtown businesses. I also believe we need to provide individual property owners with more specific suggestions on what they can do to prepare for the project.

I will propose that we explore the feasibility of using the Bowes Family Gardens at Revolution Place as a kind of “temporary mall” for the summer. This could enable some businesses to consider relocating for a period of time during the project, allowing them to continue operating and speeding up the construction by reducing some of the challenges related to “working around” businesses while they are still operating.

Theodore Nikiforuk

A: Much more stringent time lines as well as greater oversee by city government to ensure to tax payers effective & effcient use of tax payer dollars, allowing leass amount of inconvenience as well as loss of revenue to adjacent businesses

Rony Pajput

Withdrawn.

COUNCILLORS

Clyde Blackburn

A: I am encouraged to learn that businesses along 100 Avenue downtown are now being consulted individually about the risks they may face and the steps they might take to mitigate them prior to the start of work on phases 3 & 4. Special care should be taken to ensure that clean, safe pedestrian access is created to each and every property along the Avenue throughout the project.

Dylan Bressey

A: We need to do better at supporting and working with affected businesses.

The biggest change needed: having someone whose only job is to look at the project through a business perspective. Their job would be to insure access, minimize disruption, and eliminate surprises to businesses. This person would make personal contact with all affected business before the project starts and would regularly drop in throughout. They would be a personal point of contact when problems arose for businesses. They would also proactively head off problems by reviewing progress and plans with the question of “how does this step impact businesses right now?” in mind.

We also need to set more aggressive completion deadlines, exercise strong accountability mechanisms with contractors, minimize the length of time any one business has construction out front, make alley accesses safe and as pleasant as possible, and strengthen public communication. Read about my ideas at www.voteBressey.ca/downtown

Jackie Clayton

A: The downtown conversation has been a difficult one. I personally did not support this initiative for a few reasons. I understand its intent for long term economic development and growth, but in my opinion it was phased-in with too short of a time frame, and could have been done with a great deal more consultation. Since phase I and II, there has been opportunities for more consultation in phase 3 and 4.

Going forward, especially in years like this year, the City communication team needs to consistently communicate with our residents and we need to proactively work with the contractors to ensure disruption is at a minimum.

John Croken

A: We need to have a better plan on the next phases of downtown rehabilitation we all know it will look great to attract shoppers downtown my goodness the sidewalks are too wide maybe tone them back on the next phases,more consultation with all business owners re access parking etc

Shannon Dunfield

A: A lot of work has already gone into the Downtown Rehabilitation plan and I would like to be supportive in ensuring that it is carried out in a fiscally responsible way. We also need to support our downtown businesses in safeguarding their interests as any city developments can have the potential to create challenges for them. Moving forward to future development, encouraging the communities voice in how we plan is essential in creating a city that we are all proud of.

Sydney Fletcher

A: As I have a problem with the whole project, that is a difficult question. The problem with all of it is indeed “where do we go from here”?? The current project has created such a mess that getting it finished is a mammoth task! We might be forced into “throwing effort after foolishness”, just to get it done! This is a perfect example of one council being left to “clean up the mess” that the previous council has left behind!

Eunice Friesen

A: One of my values for Grande Prairie is to be a vibrant city. I appreciate the work that has gone into downtown improvements, but I also understand the pain for a business that is losing revenue for a prolonged period of time over something they can’t control.

I see several areas for improvement as I’ve listened to those most impacted – business owners and frustrated customers. Everyone understands the need for the work, so let’s figure out how to make it less painful.

Planning:
 Communication came too little, too late. Business owners must be consulted in planning so that problem solving can happen ahead of time. I would suggest that face-to- face meetings with each business owner be built into the consultant contract.
 Some fine-tuning of the selection process for consultants and contractors may improve the results we are seeing.
 Undertake a thorough post-mortem on the recent 68 th Avenue and downtown projects, working to understand where improvements may be made, prior to starting work on the final phases of downtown. Where can the city improve, where can consultants improve, and where can contractors improve?
 I’d like to wait a full year before approving the next phases. There are widespread concerns about the practicality of the wide sidewalks and the narrow intersections. Will our big trucks fit two abreast with parking on either side? How will snow removal be impacted? Will vehicles be able to make those corners? It works on paper with measurements to the centimeter, but downtown users are skeptical about whether it will work in real life.

Implementation for businesses
 Daily bulletins to update business owners and other interested parties – via text or email – so that stakeholders know what to expect and how timelines are faring.
 Improved signage for detours, including arrows directing the way to individual stores. There were a few businesses that did this for themselves, but it should be built into the contract as it is as much for safety as convenience.

Perks for shoppers
 Consider a host group, much like the “White Hats” in Calgary, or the concierge at a nice hotel. Why not have people stationed around the entrances to the gauntlet of construction fences, ready to answer shoppers’ questions about the best way to get to the business they need. I believe there are enough people that we could consider a volunteer group, but why not find funds to offer an honorarium to non-profit groups like the Cadets, PARDS, or the SPCA?
 Consider displaying outdoor art pieces to draw in pedestrian shoppers. In fact, why not install sculptures as a permanent addition to our new, vibrant downtown?

John Kriska

A: I would like them to not roll out the next phases until this phase is complete and take a look at the budget to ensure the project is completed in the time and budget allocated. The tendering process moving forward needs to be more thorough in tender approvals and needs to ensure that successful bidders are qualified to do the work. Any future development needs to have an open and transparent communication with the tax payers and the respective area residents and businesses being affected.

Kevin McLean

A: On plan as it is slated this spring. This needs to be completed so the rejuvenation can move forward.

Yad Minhas

A: Our city like all cities in Canada have a real challenge to maintain downtown cores. This is the heart of our city, it must be kept alive and vibrant. But, the city must not burden the core with special taxes as we now do, it only pushes businesses away, rebuilding the core of your city benefits all.

Cheryl Montgomery

A: I would love to review and evaluate the experience of the past two years so we can learn how to avoid some of the same pitfalls that have already occurred. Then, consider all the feedback of downtown business owners and see if the plans moving forward might benefit from some minor tweaks to resolve issues. I think the construction needs to happen quickly and efficiently. That means, lets consider two shifts working daily. We have a lot of light during the summer, let’s utilize it and expedite the construction quickly and cause as little delay for our downtown businesses as possible.Contractors should be held accountable for delays and agree to dedicated timelines. I would also like to see further communications via face to face with business owners for open and transparent feedback.

Timothy Nesbitt

A: The downtown businesses have seen hard times recently and their situation looks like it will get worse when construction takes over 100th avenue. While I believe the rehabilitation project was done with the best of intentions, we need to keep in mind that real people are being affected and that it is a very sensitive topic. While the work being done is important, we must keep in mind why we are doing it. When we lose sight of the people in our community, we really need to reevaluate our delivery. Phases 1 & 2 of the construction were done with a “This is what we are doing, deal with it” mentality which put all the weight on the store owners. In the future we need to come to the table collaboratively asking what the local businesses need from us. This may manifest itself in free parking, tax breaks or alternative venues during construction. In the very least, the City needs to continue to grow and change our systems and priorities when going to tender on large jobs. We need to prioritize things other than money and look at businesses who can contribute more valuable options to the job. In the Downtown construction this manifests itself as time. We will share the weight if we can hire contractors who will have the job finished sooner and create less anxiety for the stores effected.

Kevin O’Toole

A: I answered this in question two. Let’s include great communication with all stake holders

Wade Pilat

A: I think we need to pump the brakes on this project for at least 1 year, and maybe longer. The consultation and communication process to downtown businesses and the community in general has been very poor. There is also the fact that several downtown businesses not only had their accessibility to the public greatly affected but then also had their business flood due to the construction. This issue hasn’t been addressed fully enough to ensure that this isn’t going to continue happening to more businesses in the future. This plan needs to be revisited ensuring that downtown businesses are on board and given an accurate assessment as to what they are to expect during the process. They need to feel as though their input is taking seriously since this has a direct impact on their future. It is my understanding that we are around $20 million into this project with a long way to go, so maybe we should see how well it is working before we keep spending.

Tyla Savard

A: Consultation of plans with businesses that will be affected, get their input before reaching the
action stage, increased communication on all levels in multiple ways to ensure the details are
reaching everyone effected (businesses, traffic). Where ever possible in what ever manner we
need to have contractors in and out; whether that’s working longer hours, multiple crews, ensuring
penalties are enforced for work not being completed on time, review of contracts to ensure there is
accountability and strategize on the impact of each piece being in play and how its going to affect
the community.

Morgan Suurd

A: I would like to see the city hold out on the Final Phase of downtown Rehabilitation give the business owners a break and continue on with it next summer winter is coming that means which also means delays are coming also winter .

Chris Thiessen

A: Slowly, with a thoroughly thoughtful approach. I did not vote for the streetscape upgrades and still question their necessity because this redevelopment started with our underground infrastructure that was starting to fail. It wasn’t pretty work for the money we were spending, but it was work that NEEDED to get done. Somewhere along the way, that changed by vote of Council. I totally believe and now we can see, how good it will look, but are the costs too high? If the streetscape project does continue with the new Council, I will advocate for better planning, communication, stakeholder engagement and in some cases, accountability measures to hold our construction companies (and ourselves) to. All future plans for construction, especially in the downtown, should have access and traffic flow strategies to ensure that we are doing everything in our ability to ensure ease of mobility for drivers and accessibility to the businesses affected. In some areas, this will be harder to do than others, but if we consult thoroughly and work collaboratively with our partners in the project (Construction firms, engineering firms, businesses affected) there will always be solutions found to every problem.

Cam White

A: Get some trees planted, get the businesses involved, and get rid of the park hotel!

Mike Wolfel

No response submitted.