Despite Cavers’ concerns, council will spend
Spread out the pain or pay it now?
That was the debate that arose at city hall this week as Kamloops council prepared to round out the year by borrowing $8.7 million for roadworks, wastewater mains and streetlights.
At its final meeting of 2012, on Tuesday, Dec. 18, council agreed to start an alternative-approval process to borrow $2.4 million for lighting upgrades on Tranquille Road.
It also agreed to borrow $2.9 million to twin a force main between the Domtar pulp mill and Mission Flats road and another $3.3 million to widen Highland Drive.
However, the new debt load had Coun. Donovan Cavers alarmed and calling for the city to change its strategy when funding expensive capital projects.
“I’m not comfortable with our current philosophy with debt,” Cavers said.
“To me, it’s kicking things down the road and it’s not a good way to operate.”
Instead, Cavers said, the city should look at saving for its big-ticket projects, only building when most of the costs can be covered upfront.
He proposed a workshop in 2013 to examine the idea in more detail.
“I’m definitely not suggesting we throw the entire budget at any given capital item,” he said.
“It would obviously be a very long, slow change of philosophy where we build up surpluses.”
Other councillors, however, remain comfortable with the city’s current strategy, with the majority voting against Cavers’ proposed strategy session.
“I don’t want to tax people today for big-ticket items,” Coun. Tina Lange said.
“I want their kids to help pay for it as well.
“For things that last a long time, that’s what we want.
“We want future generations to share the pain.”
Coun. Pat Wallace doubted citizens would embrace a plan to hike tax rates without any short-term gain.
“I don’t know that taxpayers are quite prepared to say, ‘That’s OK. Add $500 a year onto my taxes.’” she said.
“We did that in the ’80s. We tried to pay for everything we did.
“And, we found out, you can’t do a lot.”
Mayor Peter Milobar also rejected the idea.
“We would need to jump taxes 10 per cent this year to do these three projects, which is a stretch of road, a sewer main and a strip of lights,” he said.
“I don’t know if the citizens in this city would ever build anything again if they were seeing fluctuations like that.”
Highland Drive development
Drivers entering and leaving Juniper Ridge will get some extra breathing room as a road-widening project for Highland Drive forges ahead in 2013.
The widening will see an extra lane for cars headed south, uphill, into the neighbourhood, as well as construction of a multi-use pathway for pedestrians and cyclists.
The project will cost the city more than $5.8 million, with half the cash coming from development-cost charges and half through borrowing.
City transportation engineer Chris Darwent said the single northbound downhill lane will be wider than average to accommodate cyclists who could reach speeds of 50 km/h or more.
Darwent said the road, which is the main point of entry into the neighbourhood, is already used by 7,000 cars a day, noting Juniper Ridge still has room for around 650 additional homes.