Day three of the first round of 2023 budget debate at the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) addressed new proposals for the solid waste, water and wastewater treatment services.
All but five of 37 new budget proposals submitted by staff considered at a Jan. 25 finance committee meeting were approved and incorporated into round two budget discussions.
There were scattered votes cast in opposition to proposals by directors, but the day resulted in about $6.2 million of new projects being sent on as “approved” to the budget’s next round of debate scheduled for Feb. 21 and 22.
Chapman water system projects
A budget ask for $100,000 to fund the potential removal of the siphon from Chapman Lake was approved but generated questions. Committee members indicated support for keeping the Chapman Lake siphon in place to augment water supplies and mitigate potential drought impacts in future years. Staff at the meeting explained that making the budget commitment for the removal would demonstrate to the province that the board is aware of the current requirement to take the siphon out by Oct. 31, but it would allow it time to advocate with senior government for the infrastructure to stay in place. Staff also noted that the board would be informed before any removal actions commenced.
“We need the siphon as a back up,” Area A director Leonard Lee stated. “What is the risk of leaving it in, would we get fined?” Lee asked, voicing his concerns about the consequences of deferring the budget approval to 2024 and leaving the siphon in place past the permit expiry date.
Recommending approval of the project in the 2023 budget, Area E director Donna McMahon also asked for a full discussion on the matter and the committee recommended that the issue of the siphon be placed on the agenda for the Feb. 9 committee of the whole meeting.
The highest dollar value proposal that moved forward in the budget debate on Jan. 25 was also related to the Chapman Water System. That was the second phase of a project to replace the ultraviolet disinfection system at its water treatment plant valued at $1.9 million. Staff noted that this involves the replacement of equipment installed when the plant was built 17 years ago and that UV processing is a requirement of the facility’s operating permit. It is to be funded via a short-term loan.
Other 2023 proposals approved for the Chapman system include treatment plant chlorine gas decommissioning and mechanical upgrades, dam safety upgrades at Chapman and Edwards lakes, rehabilitation of the Chapman Lake intake line and zone metering for the Sechelt Nation Government District. They total over $900,000.
“In terms of bang for the buck, this project is a bargain,” McMahon said of a $50,000 feasibility study and development of a request for proposal on extending the useful life of the Sechelt landfill. The committee recommended that work along with two projects related to hydro service at the site and the second phase of a feasibility study on landfill biocover options at be included in the 2023 budget.
Upgrades at the Pender Harbour Transfer Station budgeted to be funded through a $765,000 short-term loan were recommended to be included in this years budget. Additional base-budget funding for island clean-up and the Coast’s green waste program, plus $75,000 for analysis of future waste disposal options, also received committee budget approval recommendations.
More debate to come
The four proposals that will come back for debate during the second round budget meetings include planning for a Square Bay wastewater treatment plant upgrade, budgeted for $15,000. There will also be further discussions on adding a Capital Projects Implementation Coordinator position, purchase of aggregates for use in and around Sechelt Landfill – estimated to cost $32,000 – and generator purchases, where costs of $375,000 are to be funded from the SCRD’s gas tax revenues.
The purchase of a pneumatic boring tool at an estimated price of $57,000 was the only item deferred to 2024 at the day three budget meeting. No budget asks were cut during debate on Jan. 25.
Process changes proposed
As the meeting closed, McMahon asked that discussion of budget proposals from the different functions be re-ordered in future years. She suggested that the committee consider items of higher public interest earlier in the process, rather than addressing services like regional water on day three. “Let’s try to organize our budget in the order of urgent and essential services,” was her suggestion.
Committee chair and Sechelt director Alton Toth requested that discussion be moved to the budget debriefing session, which is to be scheduled by staff in April or May.