$2-mill+ airport-land servicing project under way

Councillors Russ Hearne (left) and Kevin Chernoff visit Kinnaird Bridge to assess progress

Phase One of Castlegar’s over-$2-million airport-land servicing project is underway, and city officials spent some time this morning showing off the progress being made.

“Phase One is the hanging of the utilities under the (Kinnaird) bridge, being done by Acres Enterprises in conjunction with Seismic 2000,” said city councillor Kevin Chernoff. “Some of the funds required to facilitate the project were accessed through a Towns of Tomorrow Grant, which helped offset the costs. We must also acknowledge that, without the very supportive efforts of the Ministry of Transportation, this project would not have been possible.”

Chernoff answered recent criticism of the project by emphasizing the importance of economic diversification in the city, which he said means providing the amenities that will attract new business and commerce.

“I personally know of a business we lost within the last 30 days because we didn’t have five acres of land within the municipality that would meet their requirements,” he said. “We have empty properties within the city, but they tend to be smaller properties and smaller buildings. It’s important we develop all opportunities, not just the ones that are politically expedient.”
 
A 400mm (16-inch) water main is being installed on one side of the bridge, with additional capacity for future demands. This pipe will also be insulated with heat tracing cable, so no freezing can occur.
 
On the other side, an eight-inch sanitary main (also sized for future flows) and conduits for communications and power will be installed.
 
“The Airport and Doukhobor Museum lands are currently serviced by a traditional septic and disposal field system and, although the airport has had suitable water for present, the Doukhobor Museum itself has been on bottled water,” Chernoff said. “With the expanded system, we will also be able to meet present and future needs as required for expansion and fire protection, along with protecting the aquifer.
 
“These infrastructure enhancements were identified as priorities to support improved and expanded commercial and industrial growth, as well as to support the continued actions of this and previous Councils on the future of Health Care facilities in our region,” Chernoff added. “This project is in keeping with the direction of the Official Community Plan that the city has recently completed through an extensive public consultation process, and was identified as a priority back as far as 2007 by the community and council.”

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Airport Lands - $2 million plus?

I'm just wondering if the taxpayers of Castlegar actually know that they are on the hook for some $2 million plus dollars for the water and sewer to be extended to the airport lands? Yes the City was successful in securing a Towns of Tomorrow grant for $375,000 for the project - however that only pays for about 25 % of the project. The rest of the $2 million plus will be paid by the taxpayers of Castlegar...that is 75 % of the project or more (if there are overruns, etc.) for the extension. Usually the normal way that municipalities fund such expansions typically is through a local area service charge - kind of what Rossland did when they provided water and sewer to the Red Mountain Development - this way some money cames in, to service the debt while adding a parcel tax to each benefiting property over a 20 year period. Even in the City's 2009 Water Master Plan the plan states (let me paraphrase) - 'water extension could be funded by the developer and capital costs to the taxpayers would be negligible.' However, its clear to me that the whole cost - minus the grant money - the $2 million plus dollars - has been pushed onto the existing taxpayer in Castlegar in pure speculation and assumption that development will come to the area - the 'we will build it they will come' dream. After some research and doing by homework of engaging many residents - I'm wondering about the following: 1.) Was a return on investment analysis completed for the project? 2.) What would the cumulative utility revenue be if the airport lands were developed? 3.)Over how many years would the taxpayers be on the hook until we start realizing a profit from this 'investment'? 4.) Did the city add in enough contingency to cover repairs, replacement costs, etc of the lines? 5.)What's the lifespan of the bridge? 6.) What is the projected annual cost of the heat tracing cable used to keep the lines from freezing during our winter months? 7.) Why is this project a priority over a watermain extension from the Twin Rivers area towards Blueberry which would ensure sufficient fire flow protection? To me the benefits of this project has not been proven yet - there are many hidden costs here that the taxpayers are not aware of - yet this project has been pushed ahead of many necessary infrastructure projects such as those identified in the 2009 Water Master Plan. You remember that one right - the plan that called for some $66 million of capital upgrades over a 20 year period... I truly believe that the current City of Castlegar council has an obligation to be transparent and fiscally responsible with our taxpayers money. Therefore, what is the true cost of this 'extension' and do we really want a council that speculates with our hard earned taxpayer money versus reality! Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff 'A voice of Reason. A voice for the People'

Good analysis

Well done Sue, glad to see someone taking a stand against the rubber stamp committee currently entrenched in the city council offices. Good luck, where do we get a lawn sign?