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Telkwa turns down water tower grant

Telkwa council is refusing to raise taxes to pay the Village
Telkwa council is refusing to raise taxes to pay the Village's one-third share of a $2.5-million grant for a new water reservoir.
— image credit: Interior News

Read the full story in the March 22 edition of The Interior News.

 

Telkwa will not be accepting a grant to build the $2,493,200 Trobak Hill water reservoir.

Mayor Darcy Repen also said Friday that he was suspending his campaign to be the next MLA for Stikine to focus on Telkwa. He added that he will not be seeking re-election as mayor in the next municipal election, but will run for MLA in 2021.

Telkwa council believes the tax burden was too high for the Village to pay its one-third portion of the project, according to Repen.

"We're at a taxation threshold in Telkwa where if we increase residential property taxes – look, people love Telkwa, but there's a breaking point for everybody. We have some of the highest residential taxes and charges for a community our size in the province.

"We don't have paved roads, never mind libraries or medical clinics or swimming pools. We don't have paved roads and we have problems with our water and sewer systems, so something's got to give. And what it is is that again the property taxation mechanism fails the village of Telkwa on a personal level because the people in Telkwa make money, they have good jobs, they contribute to all these industries; and I think we're all aware that the wealth of the province of British Columbia isn't generated by buildings or machinery, it's generated by people. And we have 1,327 ... of those people living in Telkwa that are not seeing equal benefits as the people who are living in other municipalities because of that tax mechanism," said Repen.

Repen made the announcement in current NDP MLA Doug Donaldson's office, and that he would be reaching out to Liberal candidate Wanda Good for support in funding the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance. The Alliance is the group of municipal governments from Vanderhoof to the coast seeking money from Province to be distributed in a deal similar to the ones made for the Peace and Columbia Basin regions.

Telkwa had again applied for the Small Communities Fund last April, but council decided to break up the project into parts and applied for a Clean Water and Wastewater Fund this winter after it was announced last September for an engineering and architectural study. That study would result in a new cost assessment, according to Repen.

CWWF total federal funding from all sources can be up to 50 per cent in provinces. The provincial government has committed to funding 33 per cent, meaning the municipal contribution would be 17 per cent.

The ultimate goal was to start building a tower, likely at a smaller scale, by 2018. Repen said a module approach could be used to expand the reservoir as the village grew.

Repen said the Village will also know by next winter if its grant application to the UBCM Gas Tax fund for full funding of the project is successful.

When asked why the Village applied for the Small Communities Fund it now says it can't afford, Repen said they received new information after an asset management study.

"We're many years from when that original study was done. We have new information about the evidence of growth – or lack of it – in the community, and the construction costs have changed. So we have to work within our financial ability and the Province and we recognize it may not be a 1.6-million (litre) reservoir," said Repen.

But he added that growth can be expected when more water infrastructure is in place.

"With the downturn in the logging industry and in the mining industry, still Telkwa's only decrease in population in this last census, 23 people, really can be attributed to smaller families and the restrictions that we're facing in not having water capacity," said Repen.

"We have developments ready to break ground that would turn that around."

Donaldson pointed to his bringing up the issue in the legislature, where he also decried the money going towards government advertising.

"Every government has spending decisions and it wouldn't be my approach when there's something as basic and fundamental as water to double an ad campaign the taxpayers funded," said Donaldson.

"Essentially, there's taxpayers in Telkwa funding an ad campaign telling them how good this government is doing when they can't get a water tower project approved."

The MLA said NDP leader John Horgan voiced his support in Terrace last year for negotiating a funding deal with the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance.

Liberal candidate Wanda Good could not yet be reached for comment.


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