Loan leaps hurdle

Rossland has the green light from voters to borrow $6 million for infrastructure upgrades, following a successful public consultation process.

Only 19 Rossland residents formally oppose city

borrowing funds

Rossland has the green light from voters to borrow $6 million for infrastructure upgrades, following a successful public consultation process.

The city is considering upgrades to Columbia Avenue and Washington Street and is required to get the permission of Rossland’s electorate before committing to a substantial loan.

“Whenever you go through long-term borrowing, it’s legislated that municipality has to go through this process of referendum or alternative-approval process,” said administrator Tracey Butler.

Rossland residents who opposed the loan were required to obtain an elector response form and submit it by Feb. 10 at City Hall. Ten per cent of registered voters are required to force a referendum or abandon the plan altogether.

That meant a minimum of 247 signatures was needed to thwart the process but only 19 were submitted, said Butler.

With the public consultation process complete, the loan authorization bylaw for borrowing the money is subject to council approval.

If the bylaw is adopted, there is a 30-day quashing period and after that the city can apply to seek the financing through the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia, she said.

However, the administrator noted that there is a lot of work to be done before council goes ahead with the loan.

The first step is to undertake an engineering study that will cost the city around $250,000.

“After we get the engineering studies back, then we will know what we are looking at dollar wise, and then council will have another opportunity to go ahead with the project or not.”

Council is also applying for three grants to offset costs of the project and the Ministry of Transportation is committed to paying for paving and one-half the cost of curbs, 75 per cent of the drainage costs, and design and engineering costs for storm systems, roads, curbs and sidewalks – all for Columbia Avenue.

“If the grants are successful, the taxpayers’ costs will be greatly reduced,” said Butler.

Rossland city councillor Laurie Charlton is firmly against borrowing the money and has accused city staff of misleading the public.

“The cost of borrowing $6 million over 15 years is about $300,000 per year for interest alone,” said Charlton. “That amount of money will repair a lot of leaks and patch a lot of asphalt. Is this project really necessary?”

Charlton launched a concerted campaign to inform residents of the perils of the potentially unnecessary debt, yet less than one per cent of voters agreed.

Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom was impressed with the resounding lack of response in spite of Charlton’s efforts.

“I think the proof is in the pudding,” said Granstrom. “People understand that this is a very valuable part of our community and nay-sayers can write what they want but at the end of the day it’s the citizens that know best.”