The Strathcona Regional District approved a bylaw to allow them to enter an agreement with the Vancouver Island Regional Library to help finance a new library building in the city. File photo/Campbell River Mirror

Strathcona Regional District to enter into library agreement

Bylaws for borrowing to come to future board meetings

The Campbell River Library replacement project is one step further along the road to completion, after the Strathcona Regional District board voted to approve a bylaw that allows them to enter into an agreement with the Vancouver Island Regional Library.

The bylaw allows the regional district to enter into an agreement with the regional library, and provides in writing some of the conditions of that agreement. VIRL does not have the ability to borrow money from the Municipal Finance Authority. Instead, they are seeking to borrow it from the SRD and reimburse the district for all costs associated with the project.

Tom Yates, corporate services manager at the SRD, explained that “now we’ll be able to provide [the public] some assurances as to what that’ll look like, particularly with costs to them as ratepayers and that kind of thing. We’ll have an agreement signed that says that every penny we spend will be reimbursed, which is an important thing for them to know.”

This bylaw was introduced during the SRD board’s Feb. 26 meeting, and was given three readings and adopted during their April 15 meeting. The process has been slowed somewhat by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the board was unable to hold its regularly scheduled meetings before that date. The meeting on April 15 was closed to the public and media, and directors attended the meeting remotely to ensure proper social distancing measures were in place.

“We’re now in a position to work with the Vancouver Island Regional Library to sign off on the agreement,” Yates said. “That’s what the bylaw was all about, it was to authorize us to enter into an agreement. We’re looking to do that hopefully over the next few weeks.”

As part of the process to establish bylaws, the SRD board had to give notice of motion and provide the public the chance to give feedback on the bylaw at hand. The board received four written letters, but the feedback given, which was mostly about the location of the library and ensuring public involvement in the project, was considered out of scope for this particular bylaw.

“We’re not steering this project, we’re just the financiers,” Yates explained. “If there are issues about location and that kind of thing, those are things for VIRL and the city to consider, not the regional district.”

The board also asked staff to bring back bylaws establishing a service and authorizing the borrowing of the $14 million needed for the project. Before borrowing takes place, the district will need to run the idea by voters. They will use an alternative approval process, which will give people the chance to vote against the project if they see fit. If ten per cent of electors are against the project, it will proceed to a referendum. If the threshold is met, however, the SRD board will be able to move forward with the project.

The City of Campbell River and the Vancouver Island Regional Library are the two main entities at the table for this project, and further chances for public engagement will exist as the project moves along.

“If [people] think the project is not an appropriate one or if they don’t like that particular library, then they’re certainly free to express their opinion to those entities,” Yates said.

The SRD will be signing the agreement with VIRL in the coming weeks, and the borrowing bylaws will be coming to the board for approval sometime after that.

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