qathet Regional District directors have given first three readings to a $5.5 million borrowing bylaw for construction of a resource-recovery centre and waste-transfer station at the old incinerator site in Westview.
At the July 30 regional board meeting, directors voted in favour of the first three readings for bylaw 561 without any discussion. During question period, acting chief administrative officer Michelle Jones said the matter does not need to go to the electorate for a referendum. It is part of the regional district’s solid waste management plan, which has been approved by the provincial government.
Electoral Area A director and board chair Patrick Brabazon said it’s an anomaly with issues pertaining to solid waste.
Before final adoption of the bylaw, it must be approved by the inspector of municipalities. Once it has received approval, it can come before the regional district board for final approval.
“We assume the inspector of municipalities will act expeditiously,” said Brabazon.
According to the bylaw, the estimated cost of developing and constructing the resource-recovery centre and waste-transfer station is $12,202,000, of which the sum of $5.5 million is the amount of debt intended to be borrowed by this bylaw. The regional district has received a $6 million federal grant for the project and is also contributing reserves toward the total cost of the project.
The bylaw states that the regional district waste management plan has been approved by the minister of environment and climate change strategy under the Environmental Management Act and the borrowing authority to implement the waste management plan does not require approval of electors.
The bylaw also states that the regional district board is empowered and authorized to undertake and carry out development and construction of the resource-recovery centre and waste-transfer station within the waste management service and to do all things necessary in connection therewith, to borrow on the credit of the regional district a sum not exceeding $5.5 million, and to acquire all such real property, easements, rights-of-way, licences, rights or authorities as may be requisite or desirable for or in connection with the work.
Maximum term for the borrowing is 30 years.
Earlier in the board meeting, when the resource-recovery centre bylaw was discussed as matter referred from the finance committee, Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he was not necessarily opposed to it but thought the matter warranted some discussion and clarification.
He said with the recent fire at Augusta Recyclers, there had been a lot of conversation about the future of waste management at the resource-recovery centre. There was confusion about how the regional district got to the point where it was responsible for solid waste, he added.
Gisborne said he wanted to outline his understanding of the history.
“I think the board would like to move on; the board does not need a history lesson as to how we got to the resource-recovery centre,” said Brabazon. “The recommendation from the finance committee is to give first to third reading to the bylaw. That’s the discussion.”
Gisborne said he’d like to explain his understanding and if there is any misinterpretation, he would like it to be corrected.
He said he’s heard a great deal of conversation and controversy about relocating the dump to the Willingdon Beach area. He said his understanding is the site was owned and operated by the municipality of Powell River. A great deal of material was dumped onsite, and various locations in and around Powell River, he added.
Gisborne said in the 1990s the provincial ministry of the environment mandated all waste management services should become regional district services. There is some confusion about who is responsible and liable for various contaminated sites in and around Powell River, he added.
“The ministry of the day said the dumpsites are the liability of the owners of those dump sites that operated the services prior to the change to regional district services,” said Gisborne.
He said the regional district has healthy reserves and the municipality did not necessarily have the funding to clean up the contaminated sites.
Electoral Area C director Clay Brander brought up a point of order and said if the board discussed the history of every decision it was making they would never get out of the boardroom that evening.
“We have a motion in front of us and we should move on it,” said Brander. “You’re going beyond the scope of the motion in front of us.”
Brabazon told Gisborne he was trying the patience of the board. Brabazon asked Gisborne what his point was.
“You’re in the 1990s and this is 2020, said Brabazon. “What is your objection to the loan authorization bylaw?”
Gisborne said he would get to that but he needed to provide some background information.
He said grant funding was being made available to the regional district to clean up the contaminated site on the condition that a recycling centre be built on top of the contaminated site.
“We all know the grant funding does not provide 100 per cent,” said Gisborne. “I believe the electoral areas are still paying more than their fair share.
“I see the recycling centre as an olive branch. It’s going to take a multi-million dollar liability off the municipality’s books and I hold no ill-will or grudge toward the City of Powell River for decisions made 30 or 40 years ago.”
Gisborne said the regional district was offering to spend $12 million to fix this problem.
“I am very much willing to support this project, even though we don’t own the land,” said Gisborne. “I would like something in return, hopefully.
“I would like the city councillors to take this back to council and I would like the City of Powell River to consider potentially transferring the water licences from Hammil Lake to the regional district. I’m just putting this out there and I don’t need an answer to support the project.”
Regional directors voted unanimously for the board to consider the first three readings of the loan authorization bylaw, which they also carried unanimously.