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qRD to ask City of Powell River for resource recovery debt help

Regional board passes motion to send letter with request to partner in reducing facility's debt
MONETARY ASK: qathet Regional District Electoral Area C director Clay Brander recommended sending a letter to City of Powell River, asking that it allocate a portion of the growing communities fund grant it received from the province to reduce the debt of the resource-recovery centre [above].

qathet Regional District (qRD) will send a letter to City of Powell River requesting that the city consider partnering in an effort to reduce long-term borrowing associated with the resource-recovery centre.

The motion considered and accepted by the qRD board at its May 24 meeting also recommends the city contribute an equitable portion of the growing communities fund, allocated by the province for capital projects, towards the resource recovery centre.

At the meeting, Electoral Area C director and board chair Clay Brander, who had brought the motion to the board, said that as he had stated at the May 3 finance committee meeting, qRD and city were given the growing communities funding from the province.

“It wasn’t expected and it wasn’t included in our budget,” said Brander. “There are many benefits to reducing the amount of borrowing on the resource-recovery centre for the next 30 years, which is an awfully long time. So if we can reduce that debt taxpayers will be paying for the next 30 years, if we have an opportunity to lessen it, we need to take it.

“This is opening up an invitation to the municipality to see if they want to join us. No final decisions are being made. It’s an opportunity.”

Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he supported the motion. He said the municipality is part of the regional district for the cost of the centre and the solid waste management service is paid for by everyone.

“If we can collaborate with our grant funding to reduce the debt, we pay more now, so we pay less later,” said Gisborne.

City directors George Doubt and Cindy Elliott were not in agreement, however.

Doubt said he was opposed to this resolution when it was brought up at finance committee.

“The taxpayers in the city pay taxes twice; they pay one tax to the city and are assessed by the qRD another tax for regional services,” said Doubt. “The regional services the qRD allocates to the city’s taxpayers is the city’s fair share, including the resource-recovery centre. There is a significant increase in this year’s assessment from the regional district and most of that significant increase is resulting from borrowing for the resource-recovery centre, which, through the regional service, is equally distributed to all the people who participate in that service, which is fair.

“What this motion asks is that after having paid the one tax for the centre, we send a letter to the city saying we would like you to divert your resources to reducing the debt of the regional district. I’m saying this letter actually asks the city taxpayers, who pay taxes directly to the regional district, to pay that way, and then they also pay again in city taxes that are not part of the regional district service. I’m opposed to this.”

Elliott said she knows the city has a number of priorities for the growing community fund.

“I understand the request and why it seems like a great idea, and it’s not a terrible idea, but it is just not going to be a priority of mine when looking at all the competing funds over at the city,” said Elliott. “The funding for the resource-recovery project has been identified, approved and gone through. That will make it less important on my scale of importance. I don’t support the motion because I am not going to make it a priority when the letter reaches the city.”

Brander said when he brought the proposal to the finance committee, he was recommending a greater than one-to-one amount than was being asked of the municipality, meaning qRD would be contributing more.

“I see it as an opportunity,” said Brander. “I don’t see it as downloading or double-dipping into the city.”

Doubt said regional district debt and municipal debt are distinct and separate things.

The regional board passed a motion to send the letter to the city, with Doubt and Elliott opposed.