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After debate, Phase 2 of Build Belleville moves forward

Build Belleville

Phase 1 of downtown Build Belleville work saw streets closed last summer. City council has given the go-ahead for Phase 2 to take place this summer. File photo by Emilie Quesnel, QNet News

By Angus Argyle [1]

BELLEVILLE – Belleville city council has voted to move forward to the second phase of the Build Belleville [2] project, but not without a heated debate.

In a discussion at last week’s council meeting, councillors Mitch Panciuk and Paul Carr spoke out against continuing the downtown-revitalization project, predicting that Phase 2 would run over budget as the majority of the first phase did.

Council originally budgeted $21 million for the three-phase project. Phase 1 alone cost $14 million, leaving only $7 million for the rest of the work. At last week’s meeting, councillors accepted a tender of $8-million for the Phase 2 work this year and approved borrowing $1.2-million to cover the cost.

Panciuk, Carr and Coun. Kelly McCaw voted against the motion, which passed 6-3.

Panciuk predicted the total cost of Build Belleville could balloon to $40 or $45-million.

“I don’t know (why the project is over budget), but I do know they were right when they said there is no way this project can be done under budget,” he said.

He listed several instances of cost overruns that have already happened.

But other councillors defended the project, saying it may be expensive but it’s necessary.

Citing problems with rust in downtown water mains, some of which are over 100 years old, Coun. Jack Miller said: “We have a responsibility to fix the water that could be a danger to our citizens.”

Carr responded, “I understand the importance of water pipes to be corrected. All I’m asking for is ways and means that we can fit this project in the budget. And if we can’t, at least say, ‘This is what it’s going to cost.’ ”

Panciuk added that he worries about spending money on less important parts of the plan: “What I am frustrated about is the mayor’s implementation team (overseeing Build Belleville) hasn’t spent enough time focusing on the critical infrastructure and scaling down other components of the project … It’s nice to wrap it in a nice bow, but the reality is that the water pipes and the cracked sidewalks is one thing – the decorative bricks isn’t a liability issue. If you pave everything, there’s ways and means to fix it to scale the budget down.”

Phase 2 work is made up of three stages, concentrating on four downtown streets: Front Street, Campbell Street, Bridge Street and Victoria Avenue. It was decided to do the construction work in stages so traffic flow and access to downtown businesses could be maintained. In each stage, the street will be closed to vehicular traffic when underground work is occurring. When the underground work is complete, base asphalt will be applied to the road surface to allow for the road to reopen to vehicular traffic while surface work continues and underground work advances to the next stage.

Pedestrian traffic will be maintained at all times during construction, the city says.