City seeks to spruce up school fence
A chain-link fence for the new elementary school doesn't cut it esthetically for New Westminster council.
While endorsing some recommendations made by the New Westminster schools project task force, council decided to ask its public arts committee to consider a heritage-themed work for the fence along Agnes Street. Current plans for the school, which is expected to have its first shovel in the ground at 200 Royal Avenue, call for a chain-link fence around the kindergarten and daycare play areas because the Ministry of Education is unwilling to pay for anything more elaborate. The cash-strapped board of education doesn't have any money laying around either to pay for something more appealing to the eye.
While the task force recommended the city not contribute to spending $27,000 to upgrade to a metal picket fence, councillors want to have some art work possibly recognizing the site's previous occupant, St. Mary's Hospital.
"This is ugly. We need to somehow to deal with it, and to make the whole building and the streetscape more appealing," said Coun. Bill Harper, a member of the task force.
Coun. Lorrie Williams said the demolition of St. Mary's was upsetting to the community and a promised memorial to it has yet to materialize. She pointed to historical mosaics in the new Brewery District development recognizing the area's past as an example of what could be done.
"Surely we could put historical markers with the milestones of the property and the hospital," said Williams. "It would probably be not that expensive."
Although the task force rejected such a possibility, council also decided to ask its bike and pedestrian committee for input on a bicycle path through the property to help connect Downtown to the Queen's Park neighbourhood.
Coun. Jonathan Coté, chair of the bike/pedestrian committee, made the suggestion because one of the priorities of the school for the city is for it to be for both students and the community as a whole. He said the John Robson parent advisory committee had also expressed some safety issues about students not being able to get out of the site.
Harper was OK with the motion, but he said somebody has to show him a practical reason for having a public pathway cut through a school yard.
Fellow task force member, Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, was the only one to say nay to keeping the path discussion going. There's little room for it on a restrictive site with dense compact play areas, said Puchmayr. In addition, he doesn't believe there's an appetite for a bicycle path because there are other ways to connect with the Downtown.
"It doesn't serve anybody's purpose to send it back to the committee," said Puchmayr, who is worried any type of action that could put yet another roadblock in the way of the schools projects.
"Delaying any of that could give reason for someone to say there are obstacles in the way, and I don't want to send that message. We have seen out there that there are groups out there wanting to throw a wrench in anything."
At its meeting on Tuesday, the committee voted to recommend the city look into a perimeter path, either on or off the site, and the central pathway through the site remain in the design and be built when funding becomes available.
Coté said the committee wants to take advantage of the area having one of the more gentler grades from Downtown up to Royal Avenue.
"There was never an expectation to redesign around the current situation," said Coté on Wednesday.