Campbell River can’t have $3.5 million promised Area D

Grant cannot be transferred unless agreed upon by the Strathcona Regional District and the city.

The city will not have access to senior government funding awarded to the Strathcona Regional District for the Area D sewer project, according to the province.

The city, which wants to extend its southern boundary in order to provide sewer service to 1,000 properties from Jubilee Parkway south to Henry Road, wrote a letter Nov. 27 to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to inquire about funding.

Mayor Walter Jakeway, who wrote the letter, wanted to determine whether the city could benefit from funding already awarded to the Strathcona Regional District.

“Council wished to clarify whether the city could access the $3.5 million funding for the Area D sewer project to connect included properties of Area D to the city sewer if a decision is made to restructure the city boundary,” Jakeway wrote. “Council is requesting that the $3.5 million funding for Area D sewer continue to be held by the province, but in abeyance, and committed to connecting Area D residents to city sewer, pending a successful boundary restructure or until such time that the City of Campbell River decides it is not going to proceed with such an application.”

Don Fast, deputy minister of the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, responded that the grant cannot be transferred unless agreed upon by the Strathcona Regional District and the city.

“There is no formal way that the ministry can hold the grant funding award in trust for the city,” Fast wrote. “It was acknowledged that infrastructure grants can be transferred from one local government to another.

“However, specific criteria established by both the federal and provincial partners must be met, including agreement between both impacted local governments.”

Fast also cautioned the city that whether or not its boundary extension goes ahead is up to the taxpayers.

“Whether the project is to proceed through establishment of a SRD (Strathcona Regional District) service or through a city service following a boundary extension, is a choice that belongs to the electors of the proposed boundary extension area within Electoral Area D,” Fast said. “If the residents and property owners in the proposed extension area are in favour of joining the city, the agreement of the city’s own electors will also be required before the city and the minister could recommend the boundary change.”

Fast also warned that in order to ensure the electorate are making an informed decision, the city must provide a full disclosure on the benefits and implications of moving from rural status to municipal status, including the costs of extending the city’s sewer service to Area D and the tax impact on the average home.

Since announcing its boundary extension proposal last September, the city has said it will conduct a full consultation process to inform affected residents about service improvements and property tax changes should Area D residents vote to join Campbell River.

The city came forward with its proposal after talks with the Strathcona Regional District to extend its sewer service into Area D fell through in late 2011.

Brenda Leigh, director of Area D, said the regional district could not possibly accept the city’s offer because the cost the city was quoting was double the $9,350 her constituents approved borrowing in a 2006 referendum.