PORT HAWKESBURY: Town officials here are providing more details about the financial breakdown of an ambitious overhaul of Reeves Street, while pledging further public meetings on the issue and insisting that the project won’t drive up town tax rates.

With a conceptual design developed by town staffers and engineers with Nova Scotia’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR) now in the hands of provincial and federal government officials, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Terry Doyle has pledged to update the progress of the Destination Reeves Street initiative at this month’s meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council’s Committee-of-the-Whole and hold additional public sessions to bring residents up to speed.

“We’ve had an indication that things are moving forward, and once we have confirmation that things are moving forward, not that the plan is complete, but that the project can move into that stage, that’s the time for public consultation,” Doyle explained.

“Until we get that, we’re still going to be waiting for it.”

The CAO added that business owners, residents and other Reeves Street stakeholders will be consulted once the project reaches the road-diet stage, which will see the number of lanes and the general configuration of the road altered to enable developments such as entrance-exit redesigns and active-transportation amenities such as bicycle lanes.

“I know that there were meetings, even today [before the council meeting], on that issue, so we’re waiting to hear back on that before we move forward with the next stage, and that’s the public consultation,” said Doyle.

“It’s a complicated project with many pieces to it. There are road additions, there’s road dieting, there’s access management, there’s façade and streetscapes. This package puts all of that together and hopefully creates a project that is going to really create change in Port Hawkesbury.”

The April 4 council meeting also saw Port Hawkesbury’s Director of Finance, Erin MacEachern, respond to concerns raised during the meeting’s public question period regarding the potential for residential or commercial taxes to rise as a result of the Destination Reeves Street project.

Described by Doyle in November as having a “very early ballpark estimate” of $4.5 million to be split between three levels of government, the Reeves Street upgrade would also feature a minimum of $500,000 and a maximum of $750,000 from the town’s share of the Canada-Nova Scotia Gas Tax Fund, MacEachern explained.

“The funds that we’ve identified are Gas Tax Funds, which don’t come out of the residential or commercial tax rates – they filter from the federal government to the provincial government,” MacEachern pointed out.

“There had been approval of two years of Gas Tax funding, with an option on the third. So that would be on the capital budget in this upcoming year as well.”

Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton added that none of Port Hawkesbury’s Gas Tax Funds have been spent on the Destination Reeves Street initiative and insisted that tax rates will not be affected by the development.

“Right now, the plan is to not use our residential or commercial tax rate to fund this particular project,” the mayor declared.