Carbonear councillors wondering when the work will start

By Mark Squibb/August 5, 2022

When Avalon MP Ken McDonald dropped by Carbonear April 1 to announce $849,70 in federal funding for the downtown revitalization, it was no April Fool’s joke.

But four months later, with nary a shovel or excavator in sight and the better part of the construction season over, Carbonear council maybe feels like a joke has been played on them after all.

“Any idea of the time frame (for work completion)?” Mayor Frank Butt asked at the last council meeting, noting it had been over four months since the Town was awarded the funding.

Town CAO Cynthia Davis explained consultants were still busy drawing up the plans for the construction work, which included electrical work and streetscaping. As to the duration of time, Davis pointed out that once the funding was awarded back in April, the Town then had to call tenders for a consultant, a process which takes time.

That consultant, in turn, needed time to complete the work for which the Town hired them.

Butt asked if staff have reached out to the consultant recently to check on how the work is going, and Davis said the Town does receive e-mails from the consultant regularly.

“I know that there is a pre-liminary electrical plan right now for streetlights that is being reviewed by the primary consultant,” said Davis. “So, the work is continuing.”

Butt countered that he felt like the work was taking a long time— a sentiment shared by several other members of council.

“It is a long time, I feel like it’s a long time, and there’s been no movement on it, so right now it looks like it’s going to be September or later, before we see any movement,” said Deputy Mayor Sam Slade. “And don’t forget, when we’re laying asphalt, if the weather happens to turn cold, or whatever the case may be, we won’t be allowed to lay that asphalt, and so that’s sort of concerning.”

Davis said realistically the work will not begin until the fall.

“And the amount of time for the amount of work that’s involved in that particular design, I don’t feel it’s out of the ordinary,” she said.

Councillor Danielle Doyle noted businesses in the downtown core are frustrated with the lack of information available regarding the construction.

“If I’ve learned anything here in five years, I’ve learned that things don’t get done as quick as we would like to see them get done,” joked Doyle. “Just look at the pool project, that went on and on and on, and the extension of the theatre, but I do feel that we, perhaps, need to put a bit of pressure on the agencies involved, because we have downtown businesses that are very concerned about closures and when this is going to happen, and they’re not receiving any information from the town, because we don’t have any information to give them.”

Doyle cited one business that held off on hiring summer staff because it anticipated they might be closed for part of the season due to the construction.

“And now it’s going to be at least September and I mean, I wouldn’t be shocked if this was put off until the spring at the rate things are going,” said Doyle. “So, it would be nice to get some information from those agencies that we could communicate to those businesses.”

Davis said as the funding has already been approved, the funding agencies can add nothing else to the conversation.

“It just takes time for the consultants to do all the design that’s involved in a project like this particular downtown project, and obviously we couldn’t even hire a consultant until the funding was approved, and as you know it took a little time to get the approval from ACOA, so once we did, the RFP was done and we went from there,” said Davis.

Deputy Mayor Slade said that, as far as any construction is concerned, businesses should be given at least 24 hours notice so they can adequately prepare for interruptions.

Councillor Ray Noel asked if there was an estimated project timeline once the work gets underway.

Davis said staff could try and come up with an estimate based on the duration of the last piece of work, but noted that as the consultants haven’t yet completed the designs, the Town hasn’t even yet tendered the construction work.

“So, as you know, that takes time as well,” said Davis. “The tender hasn’t gone out yet for the contractor, and that can’t happen until all the drawings and design work is completed.”

Butt asked if the Town could reach out to the consultant and ask what the delay is.

“I’m privy to the e-mails that are back and forth and right now they’re finalizing the electrical for the streetlights, so, I guess once that’s done, they may be able to tender for the underground work,” said Davis. “But I can follow up on that for sure.”

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