Virden Town Council has chosen a Winnipeg-based company to develop a plan to make the community’s downtown core more aesthetically and operationally pleasing to both residents and visitors.
Councillors passed a motion at their regular meeting on Tuesday to hire HTFC Planning and Design, a 50-year-old business that specializes in economic development, community and resource planning, urban and interpretive design, and landscape architecture projects. The company has been involved in urban design developments in Winnipeg including the University of Manitoba, the RBC Convention Centre and Manitoba Hydro Place; and community development projects in Portage la Prairie, Churchill, Brandon, Kenora, Ont., Souix Lookout, Ont. and elsewhere.
HTFC will be working with the Virden Boost Committee as they seek and evolve ideas to improve the town’s central commercial area along with marketing and branding initiatives.
Virden Economic Development Officer Liza Park told council HTFC went beyond what was expected of the Request for Proposals put out by the municipality. Not only did it provide an extensive portfolio of projects they have designed and developed, but the references included with their proposal recommended them due to their ability to stay on budget and work effectively with stakeholders.
Park also pointed out that HTFC provided before and after Google images of Virden’s downtown that included digitally retouched suggestions for councillors to see what kind of aesthetic changes could be made.
Town council had already set aside $50,000 through the past two years to hire a planning and design company for Boost’s downtown beautification project. Although town administration sought potential grants from provincial and federal levels of government, none were forthcoming. HTFC’s proposal fell within the town’s budget for the first phase of the project.
HTFC and the Virden Boost Committee will meet to discuss their next steps, which will include the collection of input from downtown stakeholders and the community at large.
“(The BOOST committee) is a group that got together about a year and a half ago… to liven up the downtown area of our town; to get it back presentable to the folks coming into the town,” Virden mayor Murray Wright said after the meeting. “This group has done a lot of work. They have a lot of meetings, they have a lot of ideas and we’re helping them push some of this through tonight so they can get stuff out there.”
Until now, the committee had been tied up with paperwork and procedural responsibilities, he continued.
“I’m hoping in the spring we start to see some stuff come back from that,” he said.
RCMP calls increase
In his monthly report to the municipality, Staff Sergeant Colby Argue of the Westman RCMP Detachment told councillors that officers continue to respond to more calls than were seen year-to-date in 2018, but the numbers do not tell the whole story.
RCMP members responded to 69 calls through November, up from 41 the same month the year before. This brought the total number of calls for 2019 to 835, compared to 739 in 2018. However, Sgt. Argue pointed out that this data now includes traffic incidents and other minor issues. He suggested the true number of emergency calls without traffic-related enforcement is 38.
Sgt. Argue also told council that the detachment had held seven impaired driving check stops in the area where about 200 drivers were screened. No impaired drivers were found during the campaign. Most of the issues that did rise had to do with unregistered vehicles and individuals driving without a license.