Money available for barrier-free improvements

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Money from the city will provide businesses and non-profits with an opportunity to make improvements in regards to accessibility.

On Monday afternoon Grande Prairie City Council approved $125,000 worth of funding so businesses could offer more barrier-free access like ramps, accessible washrooms and signage.

The matching grant would provide a 50 per cent of cost reimbursement up to a maximum of $10,000 for any accessibility improvement project within the guidelines.

“These grants help for economic stimulus in the city of Grande Prairie, while encouraging the enhanced physical accessibility to existing properties and buildings,”  said Mayor Jackie Clayton. “There is an opportunity for people to bring their building up to standard to help with accessibility.”

There could be more money available, depending on the amount of interest in improving accessibility throughout the city.

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“Initially, the amount was allotted for $250,000, and I think council is still open to increasing the fund, if required,” Clayton said. “Council is looking to see the number of people and organizations that subscribe to the fund. Once the $125,000 is exhausted, council will bring it back for further discussion. It wasn’t about creating less opportunity for people, it was more about not tying up funds if they weren’t being subscribed.”

Initially, the Infrastructure and Economic Development Committee (EDC)  sent the matter to council on Feb. 16., following a back and forth discussion.

In the original proposal, which came from the EDC, it was recommended $250,000 be moved from a portion of the Economic Recovery Fund, designated for beautification or improvement.

Councillor Wade Pilat moved the total amount allocated for the barrier-free grant be reduced.

“(Providing) $125,000, to me, is something I am incredibly proud of,” Pilat said. “If we can advance it 12 to 15, (or) perhaps 20 businesses to create barrier-free for their customers to come in and their business to position themselves, I am ecstatic over that. I think that is a huge win for us.”

Pilat explained his reasoning behind reducing the amount by 50 per cent from $250,000.

“What I don’t want is to have another $125,000 sitting in a fund that maybe does not get prescribed,” Pilat said. “As much as it is nice to have money allocated for things, once we start allocating it, it is gone. If we get this (barrier-free grant) fully subscribed, and six months from now, if there is still money sitting in that (Economic Recovery Fund), we can ask for it again.”

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For more information contact the city at (780) 538-0300.

Fee waiver passed

City council unanimously agreed to amend a policy that would temporarily waive fees so restaurants and bars owners could diversify their businesses.

To help stimulate economic recovery in the hospitality sector, the move would allow restaurants to change their use to permit minors during the day, similar to a family restaurant, while prohibiting minors during evening hours.

Last week in council the Infrastructure and Development Committee forwarded this motion to council, with approval this week.

High-Performance Sports

Council approved exploring the concept of a high-performance sports centre in the Grande Prairie region, pending a review of a viable ¨detailed business case.”

Council will continue working with the Grande Prairie Regional Recreation Committee to proceed with a joint funding agreement that would contribute to capital and operating expenses.

Late last year, Ryan Pomeroy (CEO of the Pomeroy Lodging LP) presented a proposal for a high-performace sports training facillity west of the airport.

This motion passed with only Councillor Chris Thiessen opposing.

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