Uncertain future for downtown Vernon revitalization project

Tie vote among council forces a special meeting Wednesday

Coun. Brian Quiring hopes Vernon council will endorse revitalization of 30th Avenue at a special meeting Wednesday.

Coun. Brian Quiring hopes Vernon council will endorse revitalization of 30th Avenue at a special meeting Wednesday.

Procedural wrangling has a high-profile project hanging in the balance.

Vernon council will hold a special session Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. after a motion to increase the budget for 30th Avenue revitalization died in a tie vote at Monday’s regular meeting.

“This is a fairly serious situation because it’s a large scale project,” said Will Pearce, chief administrative officer.

“It will give the engineers and ourselves time to go through the project and bring back a new resolution.”

Staff had recommended Monday that the original budget for revitalizing 30th Avenue, from 33rd to 35th streets, climb from $2.1 million to $2.4 million because of higher than expected tender prices.

The scope of the project had been reduced somewhat so staff was seeking an extra $267,130.

Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe declared a conflict of interest as her family owns land within the  area, and when the matter went to a vote, it was 3-3.  Legislation stipulates that a motion dies in a tie vote.

A few minutes later, Coun. Brian Quiring attempted to have the motion reconsidered. But that did not proceed because there wasn’t unanimous support from council to bring it back.

It was then decided to hold a special meeting Wednesday as a way of possibly keeping the project on track.

“There is a concern it may collapse,” said Quiring, who supports revitalization.

“Too much time and energy has gone into the project. We’re a little bit over budget and we need to find the money.”

Timing is critical because city staff want the work completed before the summer tourist season. If it can’t be done by then, revitalization may wait until next year.

Coun. Catherine Lord wants the project to proceed but she opposed the staff recommendation.

“It’s strictly an issue of financing,” she said.

Instead of relying on potential surplus budgets from low capital tenders in 2013 or eliminating some priority capital works, Lord suggested deferring the next phase of the 29th Street Polson Greenway because she doesn’t believe it’s critical at this time.

Coun. Bob Spiers insists he will not endorse revitalization in any form.

“We’re going to take from priority, necessary infrastructure to give to Pleasantville infrastructure,” said Spiers, who has previously referred to revitalization as cosmetic.

Previous revitalization attempts have been shot down by property owners in the two blocks, but they recently asked the city to move ahead with the work.