Coun. Larry Samson says the waterfront is “our greatest asset.”

City to reapply to rebuild Highway 19 from Simms Creek to south of Big Rock Boat Ramp

City council will resubmit a grant application to upgrade another section of the Old Island Highway despite hesitation from some councillors just weeks ago.

At last Wednesday’s committee of the whole meeting, council endorsed the Highway 19A improvement project as the priority for this year’s intake of the New Building Canada Fund – a joint fund between the province and the federal government.

The city tried to secure a grant from last year’s version of the grant program but was unsuccessful.

The project involves a rebuild of Highway 19A from Simms Creek to just south of the Big Rock Boat Ramp and would continue on the improvements made along the stretch of highway between Hilchey and Rockland nearly five years ago.

The project last year had been shortlisted by city staff from a list of 21 capital projects and subsequently endorsed by city council.

But at the last council meeting, on Feb. 21, council seemed as if it may have had a change of heart.

Coun. Charlie Cornfield questioned what would happen if council changed its priorities and Coun. Ron Kerr said he wasn’t confident the highway project was on the top of his list any longer.

“At this time I’m not 100 per cent sure that I think this highway improvement is a high priority,” Kerr said. “I think we should have more conversation about this and the organics facility.”

An organics facility, which would be run out of the city’s Norm Wood Environmental Centre, has been on the city’s radar for some time.

The proposal is to build a compost facility that would serve the North Island and the Comox Valley and would process household, commercial and institutional organics and yard waste.

However, consulting firm AECOM, hired by the Comox Strathcona Waste Management Service to study the region’s solid waste system, came back with a report in 2013 that suggested an organics facility may be more expensive than it’s worth.

Coun. Larry Samson reminded council of that at the Feb. 21 council meeting.

“We’ve heard that the Comox Strathcona Waste Management, they’re not giving much credence to organics,” Samson said.

“There was a business case done that doesn’t show there’s much advantage, so we’re going to be butting heads with the Comox Valley.”

Samson urged council to continue to support the highway upgrades.

“Our greatest asset in our community is our Sea Walk,” Samson said. “It’s what everybody talks about, it’s what everybody uses. All you have to do is drive by there, day after day, and see the people out there, whether it’s raining, whether it’s sunny. It is in my estimation one of our greatest assets.”

But council still made the decision to defer the item to its committee of the whole meeting, which took place two days after the regular council meeting.

Now with council choosing to stick with the highway project, the city has until April 28 to apply to the New Building Canada-Small Community Fund Program which provides up to two thirds of project funding to local governments with populations of less than 100,000 people.

The federal and provincial governments together have committed to $1 billion for eligible projects which must related to economic growth, a cleaner environment, and stronger communities.