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City moving forward with $10 million loan plan

Bylaw must be approved by province before coming back for public input.
The City of Cranbrook is moving forward with a plan to borrow $10 million that will go towards road and infrastructure improvements.

The City of Cranbrook is moving forward with a plan to borrow $10 million for the 2017 Capital Road Program and it is now in the province's hands to approve the process.

Council gave third reading to the 2017 Capital Roads Program Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 3862 on Monday night, which was initiated under an Alternative Approval Process (AAP).

The AAP process is laid out in the province's Community Charter and can only be adopted with the approval of the electors or through a full referendum. Once the province rubber-stamps the bylaw, electors will have a chance to provide feedback to City Hall.

Following approval from the B.C. Inspector of Municipalities, the city must receive less than 10 per cent of Elector Response forms that are opposed to council borrowing the money for the proposal to proceed.

If the city receives more than 10 per cent of elector forms that oppose the borrowing action, then Council may not proceed.

"If ever there is to be any gain made on our roads and our water, storm sewer and sanitary sewer infrastructure in town, the timing is perfect," said Mayor Lee Pratt. "Interest rates are low; now is the time to act."

The $10 million figure is derived from this past winter's budget process, as council approved an expanded roads program for 2017 that would include replacing underlying water and sewer infrastructure.

City staff is using a series of water, storm, sanitary sewer and road priority plans and the city's Integrated Infrastructure Capital Plan (IICP) to decide the which roads get replaced first.

The $10 million to be borrowed would be on top of the $4.1 million already budgeted for road work.

"The reality of the situation is that a lot of our roads and the underground services are 50 years old or more and they have simply worn out and must be replaced," said Pratt. "The longer we delay, the more it is eventually going to cost. Ignoring this problem has not helped and we must formulate a plan to replace it. This is the first step of a new approach to rectifying this situation and it must be implemented sooner than later."

According to numbers released from the city, the tax hit would be relatively minimal.

For residential, there would be a $10 increase for general municipal property tax per $100,000 of assessed value. For business, that would be a $27 increase.

Water parcel tax and sewer parcel tax — both based on a lot with 15.25 metres of taxable frontage — would increase $15 for both residential and business.

"I hope the citizens of Cranbrook approve of this borrowing," said Pratt. "Paying a small increase in taxes now pales in comparison to the alternative. If we continue to do nothing, future taxes required to fix this problem will become burdensome to some home and business owners."

City staff is hoping to have the provincial approval for the bylaw by the middle of August. Once that comes through, the public will be able to have the chance to see an information package and state their opposition, if that's their position, through an electoral response form.

Staff is also in the process of creating an online tool that will allow home and business owners to understand the impact that the borrowing will have on taxes based on their assessed property value.





Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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