LAC LA BICHE - The second of the regularly scheduled question and answer sessions about the on-going downtown Lac La Biche construction project once again generated on main question; Where are all the questions?
Like the first public session held two weeks ago, last Wednesday night's open-house for Phase One of the three-phase project that will transform and update the infrastructure and surface of Lac La Biche Main Street drew just two community residents.
The total project, which began last week, will replace old cast-iron water and sewer infrastructure and replace gas lines under the community's downtown corridor from 105 Street to 100 Street. Split into three phases, the first phase will affect the roadway from 105 Street to the 103 Street intersection. The project is slated to run until October of this year.
Lac La Biche County infrastructure and transportation officials were joined by the hired design and planning teams at the question and answer session held at the Tea Room in McArthur Place. They say the first part of the project has so far gone with the planning, despite a late start due to the scheduling of the construction company. Water service disruptions to the half dozen businesses and residences tied into the utility service have been minimal so far, say the County's utility department officials.
For attendees Maria and Marvin Straus, the owners of The Print Shop, a downtown business on Main Street that will be affected by upcoming phases of the project, they were satisfied with the work and information at the session. Maria said the plans for the Richard Devonian Park makeover, which is also part of the Phase One work, is a very nice touch to the downtown entrance.
The Richard Devonian Park, named after former Lac La Biche resident Sid Richard, is expected to include a small community garden, a walled-in area with a chalkboard wall feature, trees and picnic tables. Work on the park is expected to be completed by November of this year. Officials at the open house expect more residents will take an interest in the project as the job progresses.
There are a few reasons for the lower than expected attendance, speculates Lac La Biche County Mayor Omer Moghrabi.
"The next phases, when we are right downtown, I think that will bring more people out because that will affect more businesses," he said.
Phase Two of the project is set to begin in 2022 and will see quadrants of the central Main Street area (from 103 Street to 101 Street) dug up on a rotating construction schedule through the summer to allow traffic — and commerce — to continue on the community's main road.
"I think that will draw in more people, when it's right downtown," said the mayor, who is pleased with the start of the project so far, and thinks other community members may share those thoughts and see no reason to attend yet.
As the sessions continue, however, the mayor would like to see a little more input from the community. And another way to draw in more people to the information sessions is to be more pro-active, he suggested. While it is fine to organize sessions and invite the public, the Mayor thinks for such an important project, that the sessions should come to the people.
"I think we could pick it up with the consultation and go to the people," he said.
As Phase One continues, so will the sessions. The input meetings have been scheduled for every two weeks throughout the project. Maria and Marvin Straus say they will likely attend other meetings to keep up to date on the progress.
The next Q&A session on the Phase One progress is scheduled for August 11 at 7 pm at McArthur Park.