Powered up: City wants connection
It appears Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar has the power.
After sharing his concern that BC Hydro wasn’t spending enough money on infrastructure in town, the province’s utility has responded.
BC Hydro has confirmed it plans to install two new power circuits in Kamloops by the spring of 2012, which it said will help meet the needs of a pair of big industrial companies that intends to set up shop on the east side of the city by the end of that year.
“We are confident we can meet the power needs in Kamloops,” said Dag Sharman, BC Hydro’s Thompson/Okanagan community-relations manager.
He wouldn’t disclose the names of the two companies, but confirmed the industrial end of the east side of Kamloops is reaching capacity.
Milobar’s major concern is that there isn’t enough power in Kamloops for the city to attract new business.
Sharman explained BC Hydro has two approaches when it comes to providing new power to a community.
For normal growth, the utility plans and builds infrastructure based on load forecast.
Sharman said when there is new, large demand on the load of which BC Hydro isn’t aware — such as an industrial company coming to town and requesting power — the Crown corporation ensures capacity is adequate.
Sharman contends it would be costly and unfair to customers for BC Hydro to construct infrastructure based on anticipated, but unconfirmed, loads.
But, Milobar said he is frustrated BC Hydro plans on increasing rates and starting major projects around the province, though nothing had been planned for Kamloops.
“When you’re talking about a 10 per cent rate increase year-after-year coming up, I don’t find it acceptable you ignore an area of the province,” he said.
“Quite frankly, that’s not good enough.”
He said the city is experiencing economic-development pressures and suggested the biggest stumbling block is BC Hydro.
It’s also a concern shared by the head of the city’s economic development arm.
Dan Sulz, executive director of Venture Kamloops, wants the city to be a priority for power upgrades so businesses don’t wait an unreasonable time to get power and look elsewhere to invest.
“We don’t want to lose businesses coming to Kamloops because of timing,” he said.
Meanwhile, as Kamloops looks for more power, a report to city council suggests desirable industrial land in Kamloops is running out.
An industrial land review has determined some of the inventory of industrial-zoned land is fragmented and considered to be less desirable to industries looking to invest in Kamloops.
The report noted vacant industrial land is particularly low in the southwest sector of the city.
Sulz said there is only three to five years of “desirable” land left and the city is considering opening up new lands for industrial parks.
The city is specifically looking at the Iron Mask area and some Domtar lands near the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.
“We can’t create new land within the city. We have to work with what we have,” Sulz said, adding it could be about 400 acres of new land that eventually becomes designated for industrial use.