$15 million loan approval process called undemocratic

Campbell River taxpayers will get their say later this month as to whether or not the city should borrow several millions of dollars

Campbell River taxpayers will get their say starting later this month as to whether or not the city should borrow several millions of dollars to replace aging water and sewer infrastructure.

Council, at last week’s Tuesday meeting, voted to use the Alternate Approval Process to gain approval from the electors to borrow $15 million over 15 years.

Renewing old water mains as well as replacing the city’s drinking water system, which will be decommissioned when BC Hydro starts its John Hart Dam upgrade project, are just some of the items the city is looking to borrow money for.

Coun. Andy Adams said Tuesday that aging infrastructure is not a problem unique to Campbell River and addressing it is a priority for council.

“Upgrading infrastructure is a burning issue all across the country and I think through our long-term planning and strategic priorities, we’ve identified that sewer, water, and roads are important,” Adams said. “This is putting a funding mechanism in place…and also have matching funds in place to seek grant opportunities should they become available.”

Projects the city is looking to do include the water intake system (part of BC Hydro’s John Hart upgrade); water main improvements; a water booster pump station; a main chlorine facility upgrade; a Beaver Lodge reservoir expansion; as well as four sewer projects.

The city wants to borrow $10.2 million for the water projects and $4.8 million for sewer works. Both amounts would be borrowed over 15 years.

With the Alternate Approval Process, Campbell River voters will be giving the city permission to go ahead with the borrowing unless 10 per cent of the electorate (2,401 of the 24,011 eligible voters) objects by signing an elector response form, in which case the city would have to hold a referendum.

Mayor Walter Jakeway, along with councillors Larry Samson and Ron Kerr, was opposed to the city borrowing the money because he felt council was going about it undemocratically.

“I don’t agree with the Alternate Approval Process, I don’t believe it’s democratic,” Jakeway said. “Most people don’t even know about it (Alternate Approval) until it’s over. We have an election in a year and a half, put it on there as a referendum question.”

Jakeway also said city hall first “needs to get its costs under control” before it goes and borrows more money.

Coun. Samson had similar views.

“Some of my concerns are one, I believe it should be a referendum – you get a more accurate outcome,” Samson said. “Other concerns were holding this over summer holidays…and I believe that the capital expenditures here are just too aggressive when how do we know what we’re facing? I believe we’re facing increasing costs because of the amount of development we’ve been seeing in our community.”

Coun. Claire Moglove tried to ease some of council’s concerns by reminding councillors that even if the electorate gives its permission through the approval process, while it gives the city the authority to borrow the money, it does not mean the city has the go ahead to do the projects. Each project would still have to come back to council for approval.

The Alternate Approval Process is expected to start around the last week of August and electors have until Sept. 23 to sign an elector response form if they disagree with the city borrowing the money.

The forms are available at the city clerk’s office at city hall, 301 St. Ann’s Rd., and on the website at www.campbellriver.ca and must be submitted to the City Clerk, City of Campbell River, 301 St. Ann’s Road, Campbell River, BC, V9W 4C7, by mail or in person before the deadline.