A referendum date of March 8 has been set for Sechelt residents to decide whether they're in favour of borrowing $7.4 million for Sechelt's new sewage treatment plant, to be paid back at an estimated interest rate of 2.25 per cent over 10 years.
The $7.4-million loan from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Green Municipalities Fund would also come with a non-repayable grant of $1 million, which would in effect take care of the interest owed on the loan.
The alternative would be for Sechelt to use large amounts of its reserve funds and borrow a smaller sum of $2.5 million for the project. That $2.5-million loan wouldn't require a referendum as the sum could be paid back within five years.
"The referendum is about making a decision between two funding choices," Sechelt Mayor John Henderson told Coast Reporter this week. "As far as the referendum goes we want to make sure that people have the clarity, they understand the financial issues associated with getting a $1-million grant and then of course the very low interest rate loan."
In an effort to help the public understand the issue, the District is hosting an information session this Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Seaside Centre.
Those wishing to attend must pre-register by emailing email@example.com or by calling the District at 604-885-1986 to ensure enough space, Henderson said.
"We're going to do roundtables. The idea there is that people will have an opportunity to ask staff and the volunteer members of the finance advisory committee questions," Henderson said. "It could be 'what would the interest rate be if we didn't get the Green Municipal Fund?' Or 'how are we going to repay the loan?' Those are the sort of things that I hope people are interested in understanding because, if they are, I'm confident they'll realize that this is a tremendous opportunity."
He was unsure if all of council would be in attendance at the information session, but noted, "this is about those who are interested in learning facts so they can make an informed decision.
"It's kind of the reverse of what typically happens, because usually we're looking to council to be informed so that we then have a vote and make a decision. In this case the tables are turned a bit in that we want the public to know what's going on because they're the ones that have to make a decision," Henderson said.
For those who can't make the information session there will be a staffed information table at Trail Bay Mall from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday between Feb. 8 and March 1. More information can also be found on the District's website at www.sechelt.ca.
Voting on March 8 will take place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at the Sechelt Seniors' Centre, West Sechelt Elementary School and Davis Bay Elementary School.
Advance voting opportunities will be made available on Feb. 26 and March 5 at the Seaside Centre between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
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