I have questions about the new library plan: letter

LETTERS

When do we get our promised public hearing on the new downtown public library?

All decisions dealing with the new $14 million library downtown have been made in private during a time of COVID and the borrowing approvals used the alternate approve method. The public has had no say. Now that things are opening up, will the mayor meet with the public and answer some questions?

I have tried to get information from Coun. (Colleen) Evans, the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) system board member but she does not seem to want to talk about it.

Do we need a new library? Does it need to be downtown? What’s wrong with the existing building? Does it need to be torn down at a cost of $798,000 tax dollars. Why did the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) lend the VIRL $14 million to build a new building? Who controls the SRD? The mayor said “the $798K is not tax dollars,” where is the money coming from?

There are many questions to be answered that have not come to light because of COVID and lack of public consultation.

I have nothing against libraries, I am against government waste. With the digital evolution do we need a bigger library?

The library building is 34 years young this September and to me is in good shape. The building is a $2.1 million asset to the taxpayers of Campbell River. The mayor wants to tear it down so he can keep the cultural precinct together. Why not build the new library at 5th and Alder next to the museum? The museum is certainly part of the cultural precinct?

The purposed new building will be owned by the VIRL and have a free, 60-year lease on the land.

The taxpayers of Campbell River pay $4,300 per day for library services. Should we stay part of this very expensive regional system? Would we be better off to give School District 72 the $4k per day and have them provide a public library? This would keep the $4k/day in town, instead we send it to Nanaimo.

One pigs-at-the-trough excuse I heard for building this $14 million building is “if we don’t use it some other community will.”

The money will come from the SRD, to quote board member Brenda Leigh from the June 30 Mirror “it is such an undemocratic and unacceptable way of operating a regional district.” She refers to the imbalance of power where Campbell River gets the mayor and five councillors on the SRD board with weighted votes.

Bylaw 383 and 384 which passed June 2020 during a COVID-restricted SRD meeting states clearly the funds they are borrowing are for a Campbell River building, they cannot go to another community.

This spring, Campbell River city council passed a motion, not a bylaw, to budget $798k to tear down the existing $2.1 million library building. To spend tax dollars on a project you need a by-law with first, second and third reading. This three-quarters of a million dollars are coming from the non-statutory funds of the downtown improvement five-year, no-taxes-for-new-construction fund. The 2013 council set up a tax break for new construction downtown, it worked and we got Berwick, Broadstreet, Tyee apartments, the casino and a few more.

Well time is up and now they pay property taxes but unlike the rest of us, they pay into a non-statutory fund with a 2020 value of over $13 million that can only be spent downtown. I question the legality of this as the local governance section 188 talks about new tax dollars but it must be for a stated project not an open ended, undefined “Non statutory “ fund.

The library is slated to be torn down this fall. What is the rush? Can we wait until the next city election and have a referendum? We could ask a few questions: do we need a new building, does it need to be downtown, should we stay in the VIRL system? Mayor Adams please let the people have their say.

Brad Zihrul

Campbell River