By Dan Rankin
Some rain last Thursday, Oct. 20 wasn’t enough to dampen the mood of St. Marys Town Council and downtown business owners, as they took a break from celebrating under tents and umbrellas to officially cut the ribbon on the newly reconstructed downtown.
In his speech before the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, Mayor Al Strathdee commented on the strong tradition of retail in St. Marys dating back to the 1840s.
“Timothy Eaton and others that have followed maintained the downtown, investing in the downtown to maintain the historical buildings and the structure,” Strathdee said.
While Council was nervous to undertake the project, they knew it was an important job and, more importantly, “we had good partners,” he said, thanking Lavis Contracting and B.M. Ross and Associates Engineering, as well as local merchants and the people of St. Marys for putting their confidence in Council and being patient during the process. “The cooperation of the BIA and merchants from downtown was unbelievable,” he said.
The project was originally budgeted for $2.1 million and, as of this week, about $2.03 million has been spent on the completed project. CAO Brent Kittmer said that the project finished $115,511 under budget.
Downtown BIA members past and present spoke and were recognized at the event, including current BIA chairperson Julie Docker-Johnson, Sue Hyatt Griffiths, former Mayor Dick McPherson and Charlie Hammond.
“It looks pretty darn good out there, don’t you think?” said McPherson. “They did a great job.”
McPherson admitted that, when news about the planned project first began to spread, there were some concerned people around town. However, Council proved to be more than up to the task, he said, stating that not only did they show that they cared about the cost of the project, “but also about minimizing the inconvenience to us and improving the streetscape as well and, at the same time, solving the big problems of inaccessibility to so many buildings.”
Also during the ceremony, a new commemorative plaque bearing Hammond’s name was unveiled on the bench outside Scotiabank, “in recognition of 20 years with the St. Marys Downtown BIA.”
Docker-Johnson presented representatives from B.M. Ross and Lavis Contracting with keys to the town.
Judging by the mood of those gathered on Thursday, it was “mission accomplished.”
“It’s our hope that, with the investment, St. Marys will continue to prosper and be one of the most beautiful towns in all of Canada,” Strathdee said.