A St. John's city councillor wants to put the brakes on an ambitious plan to upgrade George Street, at least until public safety issues are addressed on the popular bar district.
"To see all those people, in one fell swoop, that was an eye-opener," Coun. Tom Hann told CBC News, describing what he saw at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning after he took a ride-along with a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary patrol.
City council was told that a long-planned upgrade for George Street — which would open up the street, allow for more lighting and include new developments — would cost $17 million. The projected cost was significantly higher than councillors had expected.
Hann said he is reluctant to vote for the plan until some key issues on improving public safety are addressed.
"There's rumours about drugs and there's rumours about fights breaking out, and I actually saw one," he said.
Although RNC officers told Hann their patrol on Friday night had been comparatively mild, Hann said he was taken aback.
"I mean, I saw a young woman fall flat on her back," he said. "There are challenges down there that have to be faced and I think those have to be solved before we start investing any of the taxpayers' money into rebuilding George Street ... I'm not against it, but I want to see the city work with the police to face those challenges and get them solved before we start investing money."
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has said it would like to have closed-circuit television cameras installed on George Street to help with surveillance on the street.
Hann said the matter has not yet been brought to council, but he will support such a proposal when it is made.