Petit de Grat resident Robert Samson appeared before Richmond Municipal Council on February 26 to support a sidewalk project for Arichat.

ARICHAT: The capital of the municipality might finally receive sidewalks, as council decides how to fund the long-delayed project.

During the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on February 26 in Arichat, Petit de Grat resident Robert Samson appeared before council to request that the municipality proceed with a sidewalk project for the village of Arichat.

Samson said with a “mini baby-boom” talking place on Isle Madame, many young parents are concerned with having to walk with their children on gravel road shoulders.

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“I want to keep this project alive,” Samson told councillors, noting that the sidewalk project is now at the top of the municipality’s capital priority list after the conclusion of water plant and waste water projects in other parts of Richmond County.

Samson pointed out that Strait Engineering did a conceptual plan in 2011, and the next year, the sidewalk project was added to Richmond County’s capital list.

In 2016, Samson represented the Petit de Grat Beautification Sidewalk Committee in their unsuccessful pitch to tie the sidewalk project with a paving project in Petit de Grat.

With the municipality entering budget deliberations and undertaking strategic planning, Samson said last week that he wanted to follow through with council.

Samson said phase 1 of the project includes sidewalks from St. Ann Community and Nursing Care Centre to Godfrey’s Lane, with phase 2 originally slated to run down the lane to Rona Hardware and along Veteran’s Memorial Drive. Last Monday, Samson proposed changing the second phase to construct sidewalks up to the Charles Forest Co-op.

At an estimated 2.2 kilometres and a price tag of $2.2 million, Samson said this is the time to “take a serious look” at starting phase 1 and he requested a motion be made to have municipal staff explore financing options.

After discussions with Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner, Samson was told the federal Gas Tax Fund can be used for sidewalk construction since it is part of the Building Canada Fund. He noted the municipal asset management strategy can be used as engineering information for the project.

For phase 2, Samson said the municipality would likely have to wait for the new criteria to receive money under the Building Canada Fund, which will be released in the spring.

Samson asked if municipal staff can consider an Isle Madame area rate, versus just an Arichat rate, where people in Arichat would pay more, and those in communities like West Arichat, D’Escousse, and Petit de Grat would pay considerably less.

Because residents around Isle Madame frequent École Beau-Port, go to the municipal building, require the services of St. Ann, the pharmacies and the doctor’s offices, and shop at businesses along the High Road in Arichat, Samson said it makes sense for the entire island to help finance the project. He also pointed out that many communities across Nova Scotia of similar and smaller size have sidewalks.

District 2 councillor Alvin Martell expressed his support for the proposal and asked that staff explore funding sources, then have councillors present those options to the public.

District 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher suggested using the Gas Tax Fund to pay for phase 1, then using the area rate to fund phase 2.

Warden Brian Marchand cautioned that although another project could be added to fit the new Building Canada criteria and ensure the sidewalk project continues, it is still forbidden to “piggy-back” on federal funds.

“If you’re getting federal funding through one program, you can’t use this Gas Tax money which is federal funding,” the warden noted. “So you can use the Gax Tax money to supplement some of what the residents would pay but if we apply for funding elsewhere, we can’t use that funding.”

Like Boucher, the warden supports using the Gas Tax Fund to pay for phase 1, from St. Ann Centre simply because of health and safety concerns for nursing home residents.

Samson responded that he wants the municipality to consider both phases of the project and not break it up into two parts.

Deputy Warden James Goyetche agreed that staff should look at all aspects of the project, then provide council with cost projections and funding avenues. Before putting a levy in place or deciding on an area rate, like Martell, Goyetche added he wants to hold meetings around Isle Madame to hear from the public.