City of Fernie poised to approve $19.3m loan for multi-purpose centre

The City must prove it can pay its portion of the $72.5 million centre if successful for a grant

The City of Fernie has taken the first steps towards authorizing a $19.3 million loan to prove it can pay for its share of a $72.5 million multi-purpose community centre.

It is also considering amending the 2019-2023 Five Year Financial Plan to include the project, providing three readings to the relevant bylaw at the February 11 regular meeting of council.

The new centre will merge and replace current community and recreation facilities, such as Fernie Memorial Arena and the community centre, which are beyond their life expectancy.

The City has applied to two funding streams, which offer cost-sharing grants with a maximum senior government contribution of between 73.33 and 90 per cent.

While the City is in the process of identifying fundraising opportunities to avoid raising taxes, it must prove it is capable of covering its share of the project if successful for a grant.

“A primary component of our application to the Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure and Rural Northern Communities Program funding streams is to provide evidence that the City has its share of the costs secured prior to application to the program,” said City staff in their report to council.

“The Loan Authorization Bylaw to authorize the borrowing of $19,324,204 will fulfill that component.”

There was some concern among councillors during consideration of the 2019-2023 Five Year Financial Plan amendment at the Feb. 11 meeting.

Councillor Kevin McIsaac said it felt like the “the horses are chasing the cart down the road” and he was not comfortable approving such an expense without more public consultation.

Mayor Ange Qualizza responded: “We’ve already inherently approved this because we approved the (grant) application,” she said, noting it is a requirement of the funding streams.

Councillor Phil Iddon echoed McIsaac’s concerns, asking whether the City will “pigeon hole” itself into spending by approving the loan and financial plan changes without being able to investigate other funding options.

Chief Administrative Officer Norm McInnis clarified for council, saying allocating funding for the centre is not a direct hit to taxpayers. Tax rates are set in the tax rate bylaw.

“We certainly understand we have a lot of work to do before those tax rates that impact this particular project are set in stone,” he said.

“There is some excess property that we may use as a funding source, there are other partnerships that we may be looking at, we may embark upon a sponsorship program… year by year, the actual impact on a tax basis will be set by that tax rate bylaw.”

Council provided three readings to both the Loan Authorization Bylaw and financial plan amendments, which will come before council again for adoption.

Fernie residents can have their say on the 2019-2023 Five Year Financial Plan at a community open house at the Fernie Aquatic Centre on March 4 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Fairy Creek Pathway grant

The City of Fernie has applied for grant funding for a north-south commuter trail that will improve connectivity and public safety.

The Fairy Creek Pathway project will create a safe and inclusive corridor for cyclists and pedestrians traveling between town and the Ghostrider subdivision over the Fairy Creek pedestrian and cyclist bridge.

At the February 11 regular meeting, council approved a grant application submission to Bike BC for up to $95,000 of funding for phase two of the Fairy Creek Pathway project, currently estimated at $94,053.75.

Phase two will improve on the current trail between the Fairy Creek bridge and the visitor centre, which was built by the Fernie Trails Alliance (FTA) in 2016 as a temporary solution for pedestrians and cyclists until funding for the remainder of the commuter trail was secured.

If successful for the grant, the FTA will manage the project on the City’s behalf. The City will also be required to contribute 25 per cent of the cost.

The FTA originally offered to pay the City’s portion, however, limitations on third party funding contributions mean that’s not possible.

Council agreed the City’s contribution will not exceed $24,000 and be funded from the 2019 Matching Fund account.

It also directed staff to develop a framework to support third party partnerships and future funding opportunities aligned with the Fernie Trails Master Plan and council’s strategic priorities.

Dike contract awarded

The contract for engineering a major dike improvement project in Fernie has been awarded.

The Maiden Lake Dike Improvements project aims to improve the Maiden Lake dike, including raising and extending the dike to protect nearby commercial and residential properties from flooding.

It comes after the Elk River Flood Mitigation Plan 2017 found flood protection for the Maiden Lake dike was low or non-existent, potentially allowing high water levels from the Elk River to enter the City and flood the surrounding area.

The City of Fernie successfully applied for a $1.5 million grant through the National Disaster Mitigation Program for the project.

Under the requirements of the grant, the available funds must be spent and the project completed by March 31, 2020.

The City’s goal is to finish construction by October 30, 2019.

On Feb. 11, council awarded the contract for engineering services to McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd. in the amount of $119,966 plus GST.

The City received eight submissions in response to the Request for Proposal, which ranged from $119,966 to $302,025.

McElhanney received the highest rank in the evaluation, with all references providing positive feedback on the company’s past performance.

CBT funding meeting scheduled

The City of Fernie will hear funding applications for a Basin-wide program on April 21.

The Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) Community Initiatives Funding and Affected Areas Program supports local projects that add value to Basin communities.

The Regional District of East Kootenay manages this program for the CBT and requires that council hold a community meeting to hear presentations from eligible applicants to the program.

A special meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. to receive community presentations.

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