Gibsons may have to borrow for major water and sewer projects

Gibsons council is moving forward with loan authorization bylaws so it’s able to borrow money for major water and sewer projects if necessary.

During a briefing on the long-term financial plans for the water and sewer systems at the Feb. 5 committee of the whole meeting, councillors were told that staff recommends continuing with five per cent overall increases to parcel taxes and user fees for both systems over the coming years in order to cover inflation and build up reserves.

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Coun. Aleria Ladwig said she was worried about the impact of those steady increases, especially when the utility bills in Gibsons are compared with those in the surrounding Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) rural areas.

“One of the biggest complaints I heard during the election was young families that had moved in [to Gibsons] from the SCRD to get closer to the city for commuting or whatnot, were shocked at how much more they had to pay to live here,” she said.

The projects that could require loans are the Zone 3 water project, which will allow the Town to supply all water users from the aquifer, and upgrades to the sewer lift station at Prowse Road.

The proposed borrowing for the Zone 3 project is $1.44 million for a pump station and well pump, and $1 million to replace the water main on Reed Road.

The Prowse Road upgrades could require a loan of around $1.73 million.

The Town is hoping senior government grants could cover some of the costs for those projects, but they aren’t guaranteed to get them.

Director of infrastructure Dave Newman said the work at the Prowse Road lift station is becoming urgent and his department wants to have funding in place, regardless of source, so that the work can be done this year.

“If we do not start that [loan authorization] process now we will miss our construction window, because down in the area of Prowse Road lift station it’s very wet and we have to be doing it in a dry season, so ideally we’d be breaking ground in September,” Newman said. 

Lorraine Coughlin, manager of financial services, also told councillors that the proposed borrowing for the Zone 3 project will likely be less costly than it seems at first because it will be balanced by the savings from not having to buy water from the SCRD.

“We pay approximately $300,000 a year for that right now. Once we transition off, the cost for that debt is about $165-170,000 [per year], so once the project is done we will actually have reduced costs,” she said.

The loan authorization bylaws, which will go to council in the coming weeks, would set up an Alternate Approval Process for the borrowing.

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