Last week’s announcement of the addition to GR Baker Memorial Hospital is welcome news on multiple fronts. The new, $27 million Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Department will address a number of long-standing issues with our hospital, it will also help us to attract and retain medical professionals (especially specialist nurses), and will provide a great boost to our local economy during both the construction phase (commencing as early as this Fall) and when it comes into operation in 2021.
But, the addition to the hospital is only one major construction project that we’ll see in Quesnel over the next few years. The Elliott Street housing development is approved and construction on that 32-unit supportive housing project will commence this year, along with potentially two other BC Housing approved projects in our City. Council’s housing strategy, slated to be completed by the end of September, will hopefully also stimulate private investment in multi-unit housing and we already have a number of investors making queries about what kind of market housing we need.
The City’s Public Works facility will be put out to tender this year and the new building at Alex Fraser Park will be going up this spring. We’re also awaiting notice from the Union of BC Municipalities about the Cariboo Regional District’s application for funding for the Recreation Centre addition and Lhtako Dene’s application for a fully-funded new cultural centre.
If the School District is also successful in obtaining approval from the Province for a new Junior School, then over the next few years Quesnel will potentially see the highest levels of public sector investment in our community’s history. We are also hoping to attract high levels of private sector investment through both our housing strategy and our forest sector manufacturing strategy.
All of this construction will create local jobs and opportunities for all of our businesses to engage with and benefit from these investments. As a Council, we’re hopeful that our business community will connect with the successful contractors and sub-contractors to ensure they maximize the benefits to our local economy from these projects.
In conjunction with these large projects, Council has approved a capital investment plan this year that will keep our public works department busy throughout the City repairing roads and sidewalks and maintaining and enhancing our core infrastructure. Some carry over projects from last year will also be completed; such as: the landscaping of the skate board park; the completion of the Patchett Street playground; the beautification of the plaza at the West Fraser Centre using the same theme as Reid Street; the replacement of the gazebo at LeBourdais Park; and new, on brand, gateway and directional signage throughout the City.
As a result of a number of years of disruptive road projects and all of the construction projects that will be happening throughout the City, Council decided to focus this year’s capital on maintenance and enhancements projects rather than major, disruptive road projects. Our overall intent for this year is to make sure that the entire City is spruced up to reflect our new brand and enhance our community’s attractiveness. The timing for this kind of work is perfect as it will all be completed in advance of our next major hosting event: Minerals North in spring 2020.
As a Council, we hope that our ratepayers and citizens will appreciate seeing their tax dollars invested in our community and that everyone will be patient and understanding as we move into what will be a very active construction period for our community.