Festival of Lights volunteers have been busy stringing trees with lights downtown (Submitted photo)

Town of Ladysmith updates plans to help businesses recover from COVID-19

Local service clubs and businesses made donations of tables, and lights to support the efforts

The Town of Ladysmith is moving ahead with a plan to bring outdoor seating to First Avenue after a host of donations from local service clubs and businesses.

Originally, the project aimed to purchase six tables, stanchions, and lighting poles. With installation included, the estimated cost was $35,000, with funding to come from unspent Gaming Grants, and $15,000 through the Island Coastal Economic Trust Small Capital Restart Program.

Thanks to community donations, there will now be 18 round concrete patio sets distributed in nodes along First Avenue from the Aggie Hall to Gatacre Street. The sets will have colourful umbrellas, and feature interactive lighting over head. The proposal will also include portable washrooms and a handwashing station downtown where the permanent downtown washrooms are expected to be in the future.

Microtel Inn & Suites Oyster Bay donated 30 sets of Edison Lights, the Old Town Bakery donated a table, Uforik Computers donated umbrellas and interactive lighting, and the Ladysmith Kinsmen Club donated six tables. The Ladysmith Festival of Lights has been at work stringing lights along First Avenue.

“Downtown is often referred to as the living room of our community. This will contribute to and significantly enhance this sense of place. Places to gather, connect, visit, rest and linger are good for business. It will provide value far above and long beyond the investment we’re making,” Mayor Aaron Stone said.

There will be an accessible seating area in each of the main seating areas along First Avenue. There will be no impediment to crosswalks. All tables are out of the travel areas on the sidewalks.

Council supported a resolution to spend up to $15,000 from the Grant in Aid budget for the revised proposal. $20,000 remain unspent in the Grant in Aid budget for 2020, as many programs that are normally funded have been cancelled due to COVID-19.

“The total budget with donations and grant, we’re hoping to come in well under $15,000 – closer to under $10,000 – but I will be asking council for a resolution to support up to $15,000 in case we have any other incidentals during installation,” Stone said. “That would leave us approximately $5,000 to $10,000 – depending on the final project cost – in our Grant in Aid funds, so if we do get requests to support COVID recovery, or other issues in the community, we can have that bit of funding left.”

Councillor Rob Johnson raised concerns around the cost of maintaining the cleanliness of tables and washrooms downtown. Town CAO Erin Anderson said staff will form a plan to make sure the washrooms and tables are cleaned regularly. The Town does have funds set aside to maintain public washrooms in the 2020 budget.

“We have to keep in mind they won’t be cleaned all the time. Users will have to be wary of using a public facility. It will not be constant cleaning of the washrooms,” Anderson said. “There will be hand sanitizer and equipment that are normally in washroom facilities.”

Restaurants on First Avenue will also have the option to setup parklet patios in the parking area directly adjacent to their establishment. Town Council voted to establish a three year pilot program that runs from May through October each year to see what benefits the parklet patios could bring.

The Town engaged the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce and the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association, (LDBA) with a survey asking what businesses needed in terms of support from the Town. The results of the survey revealed that the majority of respondents appreciate that the Town, Chamber, and LDBA are taking steps to support economic recovery by local businesses.

The survey was sent to all members of the Chamber and LDBA and was open between Monday, June 1 and Monday, June 8. A total of 47 responses were received.

• 55.5 per cent of respondents closed during Phase 1 of the COVID-19 pandemic

• 70 per cent of those who closed have already reopened

• 91 per cent of those who had not yet reopened indicated that they plan to do so

• 93 per cent indicated that they are able to configure their business to follow physical distancing and sanitation guidelines

• 64 per cent were not aware that the Town can issue permits for sidewalk patios and retail display

• 48 per cent indicated that use of the sidewalk adjacent to the business would not assist in serving customers, while 26 per cent indicated that it would help them, and 26 percent indicated that they did not know

• 60 per cent of respondents stated that use of parking spaces would not help their

business

• 59 per cent would support closure of some parking spaces in each block of downtown during summer 2020 for a parklet and outdoor seating

• 48 per cent would not support closure of parking spaces in front of their own business

• 64 per cent would not support turning angle parking into parallel parking on 1st Avenue at any time

• 50 per cent do not support making 1st Avenue one-way at any time; 27 per cent indicated they would support this during summer 2020

• 43 per cent of respondents support closing 1st Avenue to vehicle traffic at certain times, closely followed by 41 per cent who do not support this idea

• Should 1st Avenue be closed, 54 per cent would like to see it closed on weekend days and evenings

• 60 per cent of respondents indicated that they would consider extending hours into the evening

• 95 per cent would take part in a Shop Local campaign (to be run by the Chamber and LDBA) with 70 percent in favour of a comprehensive campaign (context, passport, gift card program.)

• The majority of respondents (approximately 88 per cent) of the 34 who answered the question are from the downtown area

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