Highlights of the Special Council Meeting Concerning the Almonte Downtown Revitalization held on Thursday, September 26/19

That the gallery was full is an indication that there is a great deal of interest in this project.

The meeting began with a high level presentation by the Director of Public Works who indicated that this project originated as a combination of below grade infrastructure replacement along with downtown beautification.  Since then many of the “nice to have” elements have been deleted and the original cost estimates have been halved.

A lengthy discussion by Councilors and Town Staff ensued that touched on many aspects of the revitalization plan.  Councilors asked questions relating to: 1) the full extent of downtown beautification, 2) the cost of trees, 3) the cost of below grade infrastructure, 4) pedestrian traffic studies, 5) existing soil contamination, 6) parking space numbers, 7) the status of the old gas station site, 8) accessibility, 9) potential parking alongside the OVRT and 10) funding options. 

Since the cost of trees at $10,000 per tree comprises a large part of the beautification plan it was decided that the decision on the number of trees to be planted would be made when the full costs of the project are known.

The Director of Public Works indicated that the projected cost of below grade infrastructure makes up 90% of the total project cost while the remaining 10% relates to beautification. Options for change appear to be limited.

The Director of Public Works indicated that no pedestrian traffic studies have been conducted and pedestrian traffic plans have been developed on an observational basis in addition to feedback received from residents.

Soil contamination excluding the old gas station site does not appear to be an issue according to a report received based on borehole sampling taken throughout the downtown area.

Council is awaiting the receipt of the Staff Parking Study prior to making a final determination on any options relating to parking in the downtown.  It would appear that the ability to increase the number of parking spaces is limited and may involve inclusion of the Library parking lot.  A suggestion that land alongside the OVRT be used for parking will involve some input from the County of Lanark.

The status of the old gas station site has not been determined as the current owners are unwilling to make the site available until the extent of suspected environmental issues affecting the site can be determined.  In the interim, the owners are prepared to continue to make the site available for parking during special events on a no cost basis.

The Director of Public Works stated that accessibility is a major issue given the steep incline of Mill Street.  He stated that the Accessibility Advisory Committee has been instrumental in assisting with the development of an Accessibility Plan for Mill St.

Funding options were discussed at length and the Director of Public Works indicated that the Province does not approve grant requests without a finished design that is “shovel ready”. 

He recommended that the Town proceed to complete the design to 90% as quickly as possible in order that Council can more accurately decide on the financial impact of further design changes.  Once this is done and final design changes have been completed, the Town can proceed very quickly to 100% completion and be ready to apply for available Provincial grants.

Council voted to change the future traffic pattern on Little Bridge Street so that traffic flows one way from Bridge Street to Thoburn Mill and both ways from Thoburn Mill to Mill Street.  It should be noted that this decision can be reversed at a later date should the traffic flow not perform as anticipated.

A list of action items by Town Staff was developed in order to assist Councilors in making further decisions affecting this project.  They include:

  1. Receipt by Councilors of the Golder Consultancy ESA report,
  2. Acceptance of the Parking Study, currently underway,
  3. Assessing further options with respect to the old gas station site, and
  4. Exploration of available financing options such as Provincial grants.

PRATAC recommends that residents of Mississippi Mills contact Councilors and request a further Town Hall Meeting when the design is 90% in order that residents can view the design and express their views.