Campbell River could get a helping hand with its infrastructure

The city’s infrastructure, particularly water, is aging and the longer the upgrades are put off, the more costs will rise

City council adopted its 2013 budget Tuesday night and may get some help with the most expensive items in the financial plan.

The city’s five-year financial plan includes a 3.91 per cent residential tax increase, $100,000 in airport business opportunities, $40,000 for RCMP building repairs and $30,000 for exterior painting on the Community Centre among other things.

But one of the most significant items in the budget is council’s authorization to borrow $15 million over 15 years to pay for nearly $60 million in water and sewer projects between 2013 and 2017.

Mayor Walter Jakeway, who does not support the city adding to its existing $6 million debt, said the 2013 federal budget could provide some relief.

Jakeway said Tuesday reports indicated there would be a $30 billion infrastructure item in the budget, expected to be tabled by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Thursday after the Mirror went to press.

“There’s potentially money that’s going to be available and we need to be ready to jump on it,” Jakeway said. “It’s always good to be first out of the gate. We need to be ready or else some big city in Ontario is going to get it all.”

The Conservative government two years ago said it would work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to replace the infrastructure stimulus programs that expire in 2013-2014.

According to media reports, the federation is expecting the government will provide between $4.25 billion and $5 billion per year for municipalities.

That would be welcome news to the City of Campbell River.

Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, has warned council the city’s infrastructure, particularly water, is aging and the longer the upgrades are put off, the more costs will rise.

Coun. Claire Moglove stressed the importance of dealing with those major projects during budget planning in January.

“Water and sewer are the number one and two services,” Moglove said. “You turn on the tap, you get water. You flush the toilet, things go away.

“This is our staff saying to us in order to have a viable water and sewer system, this is what we need to do.”