The City of Quesnel is hoping to receive a federal grant to advance a new bike park and the revitalization of Quesnel and District Arts and Recreation Centre trails.
At the Oct. 20 council meeting, City staff recommended pursuing a federal Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) grant for the bike park and trails instead of event flooring and storage at the West Fraser Centre (WFC).
The North Cariboo Joint Advisory Committee (NCJAC) — which is also commonly referred to as the North Cariboo Joint Planning Committee and includes City of Quesnel councillors and northern Cariboo Regional District directors — had recommended that the City apply for event flooring and storage at the WFC for this grant cycle following its Oct. 13 meeting.
On Oct. 20, City manager Byron Johnson brought a report to council saying staff considers the bike park/Quesnel and District Arts and Recreation Centre trails revitalization project, which was discussed at the same NCJAC meeting, to be a better choice for the grant at this point in time. Johnson says these concerns were raised at the City’s Oct. 19 executive committee meeting, and the committee asked him to provide details to council about the relative benefits of the two projects.
Johnson emphasized the strength of the bike park application.
“The City grant writer, Lindsay Blair, feels while an application could be made for both projects that fits within the grant parameters, the bike park grant fits the CERIP grant program criteria better, making for a stronger grant,” he said. “While they are both applicable, the bike park grant, she feels, is quite a bit stronger application. It fits the criteria better; in particular, the bike park project creates immediate employment developing trails, and one of the focuses with the CERIP grant is immediate employment. It’s what they want to see.”
The event floor project will provide community economic benefits in the long run, which will theoretically generate employment as well, but that is in the future after large community events are allowed again and once people start coming back to events, noted Johnson.
“We’re not saying that [floor project] doesn’t have employment benefits, but from the perspective of creating immediate employment, the bike park project is significantly better,” said Johnson, noting they are estimating they will be able to hire three to four employees during the construction of the trails and potentially create employment with bike rentals.
Johnson also pointed out the bike park project better fits these current COVID-19 times, as it encourages outdoor recreation in a socially-distanced manner.
“The event floor project will only be of use once the pandemic has passed and large group events are allowed,” he said. “This grant program was designed to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, and of those two projects, only the bike park does that.”
Johnson said the bike park project aligns more with the City’s strategic plan, as well.
Several councillors expressed concern about going back on a decision made at the NCJAC meeting, although Simpson clarified the resolution from the meeting was simply to recommend an option to the City to consider for the grant application.
“I agree with what staff is saying here, but I hate to get in this role where we decided something at Joint Planning, and then we re-neg on it,” said Coun. Martin Runge.
Coun. Mitch Vik felt some of the angst was probably coming from the fact they had such a robust, “well-thought-out” discussion at the NCJAC meeting.
“That relationship we have with Joint Planning Committee, I feel, needs work, and it does cause me some angst that a decision we made is being changed,” he said.
Coun. Tony Goulet voted against the change to the bike park project for the CERIP application.
“I’m going to be opposed to the motion, and I’m opposed for the reasons that we did have this meeting with the Joint Advisory Committee, and it was a unanimous decision,” he said.
Mayor Bob Simpson emphasized the City always advances grants “for the maximum opportunity for success.”
He noted work needs to be done on the event floor idea to see how much it would cost and whether the City would be able to attract big events, and he also pointed out they have talked in the past about getting together with Williams Lake and 100 Mile House to see if all three communities ought to jointly purchase a floor and move it about to increase economies of scale.
Coun. Ron Paull said after the NCJAC meeting, he did have some questions about when that event floor would be used.
“I’m certainly not abandoning my desire for the floor; I think all we’re doing is sensibly postponing it,” he said.
The CERIP grant application is due Oct. 30, and City staff will bring a detailed report to council at the Oct. 27 meeting with more specific information about the bike park project and the costs to obtain the necessary resolution of support.
The City will communicate its decision to the NCJAC and also go back to the committee to discuss getting the work done to create a business case for the West Fraser Centre event floor — which will include investigating the potential to work together with Williams Lake and 100 Mile House — and be prepared to apply for future grants for that project.