By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on June 15, 2022.
City officials, community partners and the public gathered at Medicine Hat’s Towne Square on Tuesday to celebrate completion of 18 provincially and federally funded COVID stimulus projects.
In total, the city received $18.4 million in funding through Alberta’s Municipal Stimulus Program and the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
“These programs provided communities across the province with a much needed economic boost during some very challenging times,” Mayor Linnsie Clark said. “We are grateful for the contributions.”
The Municipal Stimulus Program funded five projects – conversation and expansion of the Gas City Campground, development and extension of two multi-use trail systems, construction of Big Marble Go Centre’s multi-court pickleball facility, upgrades to a BMX track and creation of the Towne Square.
The Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program funded 13 projects – an addition to the First Street municipal office; upgrades to Athletic Park’s ball diamond; improvements and upgrades to Echo Dale Park; replacement of fire and security alarms, water tanks and rooftop/rooftop units at several city-owned sites; redevelopment of the city website; repairs for pedestrian bridges; development of sidewalks, pedestrian trails and cycling trails; installation of a boat launch at Fire Station No. 1; and two technology updates for Medicine Hat Transit.
Following two years of work by city staff, Clark hopes Hatters will enjoy the completed projects.
“The pandemic caused unprecedented challenges for construction, from global materials shortage and supply chains delays to distance workers and illness,” she said. “Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the city remained committed to these projects, bolstering economic recovery with construction activity and infrastructure upgrades. Some of these projects were highly visible to the community, and some were less noticeable.
“Now, as we mark the wrap-up of these projects, we can look forward to working with community members, user groups and the business community to find ways of maximizing the use and enjoyment of these assets.”
Clark, joined by councillors Sharp, Andy McGrogan, Cassi Hider, Alison Van Dyke and Ramona Robins, ended the celebration event with a ribbon cutting, officially opening the Towne Square.
Funding was received in 2020 and the city began work on the projects soon after. While there was an amendment to project budgets in 2021, city Business Transformation Office director Joe Cartwright confirmed all projects ended on budget.
“A couple of the projects did require budget amendments as we went through,” Cartwright told the News. “And that was really just tied to some changes to scope as we went through.
“From a project-management perspective, there were no hiccups. We continued with the direction we had been given and within the project scopes we had developed.”
First chosen in 2020 by the city’s previous council, Cartwright is grateful to council for support of the projects.
Prior to Tuesday’s celebration, city councillors and the mayor toured each of the projects on the Sunshine Trolley.
Coun. Shila Sharps enjoyed meeting with individuals involved in each project.
“All of them were so good,” Sharps said. “Such good information. And I asked a lot of questions.”
Since taking office last year, Sharps has inquired numerous times about project development and budget, particularly the Towne Square. Regardless, Sharps says she will be supporting the projects now, as she believes they have the potential to benefit the community and Medicine Hat business as a whole.
“I’m quite happy with what we’ve done,” she said. “I was the biggest proponent against the Towne Square, and I’ve still got my doubts, but I’m going to fully, 100 per cent use it.”
Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes is also looking forward to utilizing new and updated spaces and recreational opportunities created.
“I like the pickleball project,” Barnes said. “I love what the volunteers and our tax dollars have done there to bring people together and provide great exercise. I’m also really big on those walking trails which were put through the city. I always see people walking their dogs or with their families.”