The city has gained permission from voters to borrow several millions of dollars to replace aging water and sewer infrastructure using a process the mayor has called “undemocratic.”
The city obtained the approval of electors to proceed with two loan authorization bylaws after less than 10 per cent of eligible voters were opposed.
Taxpayers had roughly one month to oppose the city borrowing $15 million over 15 years by signing an elector response form at city hall.
City Clerk Peter Wipper said 751 people submitted forms against the city borrowing $10.2 million for water projects and 743 people objected to borrowing $4.8 million for sewer works. As the city has 24,010 registered voters, both tallies were low enough for the city to move forward with its borrowing plans; at least 2,401 would have had to object to stop the process.
“On the basis of the elector response forms received, elector approval…has been obtained,” Wipper said in a report to council.
While renewing old water and sewer mains are important projects for the city, Mayor Walter Jakeway has had his reservations since budget planning in January.
He said city hall “needs to get its costs under control” before going out and borrowing money and he disagreed with how council went about getting the public’s permission.
“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.”
The Alternate Approval Process began at the end of August and the deadline for elector response forms was Sept. 23.
Council still needs to approve the borrowing for each of the sewer and water projects before any improvements can go ahead.
Council was expected to make that decision at Tuesday night’s council meeting after the Mirror went to press.
Projects the city wants to complete include a new drinking water system to replace the original which will be decomissioned by BC Hydro once the John Hart upgrade project begins, and water main improvements as well as a water booster pump station, a main chlorine facility upgrade, a Beaver Lodge reservoir expansion, and four sewer projects.
Coun. Andy Adams acknowledged at a council meeting in August that upgrading the city’s infrastructure is a priority for council and is an issue facing communities all across Canada.
“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.”