A city engineering and planning department report to council Monday recommended the conversion of Bay Street from four lanes down to three, with a multi-use trail on the street’s south boulevard.
Ward Three City Councillor Matthew Shoemaker, however, told council he was uncomfortable with council being asked to "rubber stamp" the Bay Street project.
"We had a (council) meeting in early August at which a report could have come forward asking city council to approve the funding application (to the province for the Bay Street project), which was ultimately submitted for the reduction of Bay Street to three lanes," Shoemaker told SooToday.
"That didn't happen due to staff holidays and I certainly do not fault staff for having their holidays, but I do think it's the role of the department head to ensure that when staff members are absent there are others in place, to make sure these reports are completed and brought to council," Shoemaker said.
"We never approved this as a priority (at a previous council meeting), and this isn't to say Bay Street lane reduction isn't a good idea, it's just the process by which we came to that decision, it was flawed and it needs to be looked at to ensure it doesn't happen again."
The Bay Street item was pulled from council's consent agenda and voted on as a separate item.
The Bay Street item passed.
"I expected it to go through, I was just voicing my concern and expressing a discontent in the way it came forward, but not the outcome," Shoemaker said.
The cost for the Bay Street project is estimated to be $3.1 million (after rebatable tax).
There is approximately $1.7 million left from the 2015 capital works budget for Bay Street, the report to council points out.
It will be necessary to apply for $2 million in provincial funding to complete the project with no impact on the city’s budget.
If the application to the province is successful, $600,000 would be left over for the remainder of Gore Street reconstruction between Queen and Wellington.
The provincial money would come from a successful application to the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF).
Municipalities with a population under 100,000 are eligible to apply to the $50 million OCIF fund for an eligible project.
An initial Expression of Interest to the province from the city was due September 11, as a first step in the funding application.
If that expression of interest from the city is approved by the province, the city will be invited to submit a full application.
In other major infrastructure news, council granted its approval to enter into a funding agreement with the province for the reconstruction of the Fort Creek Aqueduct on John and Wellington Streets from Queen Street to Carmen’s Way.
In December 2014, the city applied to the Small Communities Fund (SCF) portion of the federal government’s Build Canada Fund for the reconstruction of the Fort Creek Aqueduct.
That application was recently approved.
The city, the province and the federal government will share the $31.2 million project in thirds, or $10.4 million each.
That means the city will benefit from $20.8 million from the senior levels of government.
The city’s share of $10.4 million will be covered by the $2 million annual capital allowance in the city’s five-year capital works plan, with no additional hit to the city’s budget.
The project is scheduled to be constructed in several phases over the next seven years.
Council’s approval of the funding agreement must be in place by September 18.
The first phase of the Fort Creek project was completed in 2013, and engineering for the next phase is underway, according to a city staff report.
Along with its approval of the funding agreement, council gave the green light for a Request for Proposal (RFP) to be issued for engineering services for the remaining phases of the Fort Creek project.