City says no thanks to program with $1.9 million cost
City council has decided to pull out of a Strathcona Regional District emergency supplies grant program that could leave taxpayers on the hook for up to $1.9 million.
The regional district board has already given first three readings to a bylaw that if passed would leave Campbell River and Cortes Island as the only financial contributors to an Emergency Rescue Supplies Grant-in-Aid Service.
With regional district Areas A (Sayward Valley), C (Quadra-Discovery Islands), and D (Crawford Road, Oyster Bay) wanting to opt out of the service, Campbell River would be left to pay the majority of the bill.
Mayor Walter Jakeway said at council’s Tuesday Committee of the Whole meeting that council voted to “advise the regional district that we want to be exempt” from the bylaw. “We’re trying to avoid getting stuck with us spending $1.9 million. The public doesn’t need to be worried, we’re not going to lose anything.”
By bowing out of the emergency supplies grant program, the Strathcona Emergency Program will still be available to city residents as it’s an entirely different service. The city will also still be serviced by Search and Rescue, a service that Areas A, C and D wish to be removed from.
City Clerk Peter Wipper pointed out in a report to council that having those regions opt out could create complications. “Campbell River Search and Rescue is responsible for a much larger area that runs from the Oyster River to the top of Vancouver Island, over to the west coast and across to the mainland coast,” Wipper said. “The area encompasses all of the Strathcona and (Mount) Waddington Regional Districts. With electoral Areas A, C and D opting out it does not seem reasonable that the city should be left paying 94 per cent of a service that supports a much greater regional area. Besides, the city is already providing Campbell River Search and Rescue with an annual grant-in-aid.”
Meanwhile, the regional district is trying to convert the Emergency Rescue Supplies Grants-in-Aid to a service that would operate under the authority of an existing Strathcona Regional District bylaw. The service provides financial assistance to organizations to purchase emergency rescue supplies and with Areas A, C and D opting out, Campbell River and Cortes Island would split the costs of the program based on the converted value of land and improvements. The regional district is proposing a maximum requisition limit of $0.50 per $1,000 of net taxable value of land and improvements within the City of Campbell River and Cortes Island.
Wipper said based on those numbers “city taxpayers could potentially be required to pay up to $1.9 million.”
However, he cautioned that figure is only hypothetical.
“Obviously, it is very unlikely this would happen; never-the-less, why would the city agree to such a high amount?”