By Lyonel Doherty
Town council is crunching the numbers with its consultant to determine how much a canal fix project will truly cost Oliver.
Recently, water councillor Rick Machial raised a concern about not knowing all of the numbers before council proceeds with any decision to borrow money. But he was assured by Chief Administrative Officer Cathy Cowan that council will indeed have all of the figures before a grant application is submitted.
The Town previously chose the option of rerouting the irrigation canal around Gallagher Lake after the siphon was damaged by a rockslide in 2016. The rerouting option will cost approximately $10 million.
The provincial government has committed $5 million to the project, but the Town hasn’t received any funding commitment from the federal government, which is worrisome for council.
However, the Town recently learned that the project could be eligible for a grant under disaster relief, but the minimum funding application threshold is $20 million.
So the Town is trying to meet that threshold by expanding the scope of the project. For example, it is considering adding some maintenance/repair work that is required for other sections of the canal to bring the total to $20 million, including a $5 million contingency.
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Machial mentioned a different grant project they are trying to get funding for – covering the canal at Tinhorn and Hester Creek where a previous mudslide compromised the irrigation system.
Mayor Martin Johansen said it is his understanding that the Town will take all of the projects related to the canal and consolidate them into one capital project (for the $20 million funding application).
Council has discussed borrowing $4 million in order to get all of the work done, but Machial said these discussions are preliminary because there are still a lot of questions that need answers.
Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger agreed, saying there is no indication that the grant will come through.
“If we apply for our grant and we get it, then we have to figure out how we’re going to pay for our share, through taxation or borrowing, or a combination of both. If we don’t get the grant, it’s hypothetical.”
Councillor Dave Mattes said the Town may end up borrowing no matter what happens.
Cowan reiterated that more information is forthcoming once staff and the consultant figure out the numbers. She said the Town might get an answer about its application in the spring or before July of 2019.
She said one thing they have to convince the government is that the canal project is a public utility and not a private one. She noted it’s a utility that all taxpayers pay for.