Refurbishment - What it could look like for Wakaw

At a meeting in the Wakaw Recreation Centre on the evening of Oct 25, 2022, representatives of Town Council met with the business owners/operators with properties along 1st Street South in Wakaw. The purpose of the meeting was to bring all the parties concerned together for a preliminary meeting regarding a plan to refurbish 1st Street.

It comes as no surprise to any who reside in the area that the street and sidewalks are in need of repair, the work is needed but a plan is also needed. It makes no sense to fix one issue only to have to ‘undo’ it to fix another. In 2017, Deputy Mayor Markowski shared, the members of council laid out a 30 year revitalization plan comprised of multiple phases. The first 3-year phase, started in 2018, was the repair/replacement of a portion of the sewer main from the lift station and along part of Highway 2. It is now time to start the next phase, and this as well will involve underground work. Data needs to be gathered via camera, about the condition of the infrastructure below street level, the water mains and sewer, so that improvements and repairs can be completed before above ground improvements. Joining council members at the meeting was Brett LaRoche, Principal Design Engineer representing the engineering firm Catterall & Wright who are acting as consultant in this project. The firm just completed a refurbishment of the main street in Biggar, SK and gave some relevant perspective on the recommended way forward. Brett himself has 20 years of direct experience in municipal engineering. His areas of expertise include roadway and parking lot construction and rehabilitation; residential, commercial and industrial land development; storm water management systems; water distribution systems; sewage collection systems; sanitary mains; sewage lagoon design and construction; roadway design and construction; and servicing, planning, and infrastructure studies.

Naturally, more consultation with the impacted businesses will happen moving forward as collectively Council and businesses come up with a plan for what refurbishment of 1st Street from the Post Office to Railway Avenue should look like. As LaRoche pointed out, with 27 different individuals (the number in attendance at the meeting) invested in the outcome, there will in all likelihood be 27 different ideas of what the project should ultimately look like, and all those ideas need to be considered in the final product so that everyone feels a part of the process. Future meetings will invite input from the community at large, but as this was the most preliminary of meetings, Recreation & Community Development Manager Dwane Burke, brought together the businesses first as they are the primary stakeholders in any refurbishment of the street scape. It is vital that everyone remember that there are numerous steps to complete before the community will see “shovels in the ground”. Before any funding can be sought or secured, decisions need to be made as to what we as a community, want the end product to look like, and since it will not be a unilateral decision by Council, reaching that decision will require a number of meetings where a consensus will need to be reached, and it should come as no surprise that consensus can take time.

At the meeting of the Economic Tourism Committee held on October 17, 2022, Sagehill Community Futures CEO Susan Wehage noted that they have identified Wakaw as a potential “Destination Creation” location. Wehage spoke to the number of services and support Sagehill can provide to facilitate businesses and the community strive to make Wakaw a destination tourists are drawn to. As the community hosts more activities like the SUMA golf tournament and with ongoing development of the Wheatland Express Excursion Train offerings, the opportunity is ripe to move forward on ‘sprucing’ up the face of the community. First Street South is the first impression visitors have of the community and first impressions go a long way to encouraging return visitors. Two of the issues already identified that need addressing are the state of the sidewalks, and then the surface of the street itself. The depth and breadth of the project beyond that is yet to be determined as already mentioned, through communication and consultation. Some ideas already voiced include adding more slopes to sidewalks for ease of access, adding more nature through trees and/or other plantings, and encouraging businesses to revamp their frontage. CAO Dieno, Deputy Mayor Markowski and Burke all affirmed that the first look for funding for the project would be to look at government grants rather than using Reserve Funds. Phase 1 was carried out through the acquisition of a loan which the town then paid back over the intervening three years.

Stay tuned for more information regarding the extent and the timeline for the much needed facelift for 1st Street South in Wakaw.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder