City Council Roundup Sept 11 2023
Queensborough was the scene of the September 11th New Westminster City Council meeting that included two lively sessions. We first look at the update from city staff member Tobi May on the progress of the Temesewtx Aquatic and Community Center, initially forecast to open in the fall of 2023. In the presentation to council May outlines the problems that were encountered that resulted in a delay until the spring of 2024 for the Aquatic and Community Center to be open to the public. None the less, the presentation offered to both the city council and the public viewing this presentation a hint of the massive amount of work that went into keeping this project going and only a few months behind schedule.
The presentation clarified for council that the project will be moving forward at all due speed, even with the pandemic delays with off-site infrastructure revisions, problems with supply chain issues and a delay in construction from a labour dispute. With these problems behind them, the center is poised to be ready for the busy summer season in 2024.
After this update a delegate of bus drivers, union members and senior citizen groups came forward to voice their support for HandiDart. While part of the Regional Translink Transportation Network, the service for the handicapped and the elderly who have challenges using the regular transit system has been vastly underfunded for the last several years. The Save Our HandiDart organization came to voice their support for Mayor Patrick Johnstone for presenting to the Mayor's Council on Regional Transportation the need for robust support from the Mayor's Council to find solutions to the current crises.
With an increased dependence on taxis because Translink is having problems with staffing, many find it harder and harder to get around in the New Westminster area if they are unable to use the standard transit system. They asked the mayor to sign a letter they have drafted asking for solutions to this problem and urged the council to support this move to keep HandiDart viable. Councilors Nakagawa, Campbell and Fontaine all spoke of their experiences with HandiDart and their support for the continuation of this vital service in New Westminster and the region. While the possibility of having a formal statement from the city to the Mayor's Council was discussed, it was decided to instruct staff to look into this and return to city council with some options for an official proposal from New Westminster to the Mayor's Council on increased support for HandiDart. This will be explored at a future council meeting.
These two presentations, while only a portion of the city council meeting, were by far the ones that both took up the majority of the time and presented council with some food for thought on the future of New Westminster. For seniors living in New Westminster, the prospect of a new and vastly bigger Aquatic and Community Center, coupled with the hope for a HandiDart service that could be better funded to ensure its continuation, presented a posative look into the near future for all New West residents. While Mayor Johnstone's comment that " In aquatics, like in running, you don't start celebrating until you touch the wall or you touch the tapes." was cautious, he continued by saying " In March 2020 we had to take a step back because the world was falling apart.Kudos to staff for getting us through all of that uncertainty. This is not just something where we turn the lights on and start operating. " Indeed, it will be worth celebrating when the lights do turn on in the new community center and all of New Westminster will benefit from this long awaited center to our civic lives.