Although there is still no word on whether the grant from the federal government’s strategic priorities fund to complete the Eighth Avenue/Center Street project has been accepted, the council was able to hear from a potential alternative funding source through a project known as the legacy initiative.
The Eighth Avenue/Center Street project is coordinated by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako. Gail Chapman, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and Bill Miller, Director of Electoral Area B, presented a recently completed report on the initiative to the Burns Lake council.
The report outlines high priority needs in the district, which would be submitted to industrial projects in the district as a proposal for an agreement to provide investment in communities.
The district hopes to create a single “legacy fund” which industry would contribute to under the idea that these projects have a social and financial responsibility to the region due to the short and long-term strain and impacts on our regional infrastructure and services. A draft of the report has been endorsed by the regional district’s board of directors and has circulated among regional mayors and councils for review and input.
Chapman emphasized the need for funding, detailing how the report revealed that there is $325 million worth of infrastructure replacement or upgrades in the district.
“We’ve been trying to secure grant funding for a number of years now, but we’re in a situation where we have an ageing system that at some point is going to fail,” said Chapman.
Miller added that the tax revenues from these large projects that go to municipalities are fairly limited, since most of the revenue generated goes to the province.
“Taxes alone will not support any significant development,” he said.
Mayor Luke Strimbold also revealed that a high percentage of projects in the municipality rely on grants, and that grants are not always forthcoming.
“If we continue to rely [only] on grants these [projects] won’t get done,” he said.
Chapman noted development in the Peace River and northwest regions of B.C. and how they benefit from similar funding agreements. She feels it is imperative that our region moves to make the same agreements.
“We are the conduit with the longest route of development and we have not capitalized on this opportunity,” said Chapman.
Chapman added there is precedence in terms of how other districts have handled agreements with industrial projects which informs how the district chooses to move forward.
“There are situations that have been put into play [in other regions] where we know we shouldn’t go there because they haven’t worked,” she said.
In terms of how the project will proceed, Miller explained that the first hurdle is to secure capital, and the second hurdle is to ensure that access to capital is fair and balanced so that all communities in the district have access.
Miller specified that the regional district executive committee job now is to oversee the development of a coordinated plan and create a strategic direction that all communities in the region will be happy with.