Investing in our community

January 27, 2016
Council Column

The next few years will be banner years for taxpayer investment in our community. Between the almost $9 million the City will invest in the West Quesnel Land Stability (WQLS) project and additional road improvements associated with that project, our normal capital investment and infrastructure improvement programs, and the Arena Project, Quesnel will be abuzz with activity -- with plenty of economic opportunities for local workers, contractors, and businesses.

In order to guarantee we truly maximize the local benefits of these and other taxpayer funded projects and purchases, Council is conducting a comprehensive review of its procurement policies. Our intent is to ensure our purchasing policies reflect current and emerging best practices in sustainability, ethical purchasing, the provision of a living wage, and the maximization of local benefits.

An additional upcoming community investment project that Council believes is necessary and timely is a new public works facility, which we intend to build on land previously purchased on Sword Road across from United Concrete (the old soccer fields). We want to have our new procurement policies in place to ensure this project returns maximum benefits to our community too.

A new public works facility is a long overdue investment that previous Councils continually delayed undertaking (with resultant cost escalation) and which the current Council is now committed to expediting. This $10 million investment is necessary to provide a modern, efficient, safe, and healthy work environment for our Public Works employees (about onethird of the City’s workforce). We also need to move Public Works off the Quesnel river floodplain. Relocating public works away from our Riverfront Trail will give us opportunities to enhance our green space amenities along the Quesnel River, including the long asked for possibility of an RV Park near the downtown core and West Fraser Timber Park.

As a result of the fiscal discipline Council applied to its 2015 and 2016 budgets and some forward planning, City staff and Council believe we can borrow the $10 million needed to build this new public works facility without incremental taxation. This will be accomplished through cost efficiencies associated with the new facility, making final payments on the Johnston Bridge loan, and ending further annual contributions toward the WQLS reserve.

The City’s annual debt burden will continue to remain well below our allowable limit of 25% of our revenues after borrowing the money necessary for this project. The % debt of total operating costs after the loan would be approximately 6%.

The borrowing bylaw for the public works project has passed second reading and we are now in the public consultation phase of this process, as Council requires public approval to borrow this money. This week Thursday (January 28) there is an open house in Council Chambers starting at 7pm. The concept drawings and business case for this project will be presented at this Open House and public comments and input will be actively sought.

The process for obtaining voter assent to borrow the money to build this proposed new public works facility will also be reviewed at this meeting. Please make time to attend this important community meeting.

After this meeting all the information presented will be posted on the City’s website. We will also be sending out a special Q-City News to every household in the coming weeks.

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