The cost of a proposed 10th Avenue Roger Creek Crossing has gone up to $14.6 million, city engineer Guy Cicon told city council on Monday night while presenting the Active Transportation Plan. The idea for the bridge has been raised before but the terms of the last referendum fell through, making it invalid.
Earlier this year council considered adding a non-binding public opinion question on the 2014 municipal election regarding the crossing. The issue was tabled in order for staff to come up with information on whether the question should be binding.
“The basis of the death of the last referendum [was] that it was passed based on a half payment by the city and the other half paid for by the Ministry of Transportation,” city manager Ken Watson said.
That’s what the public voted for the last time, but the Ministry of Transportation subsequently was unable to commit to those funds, he added, which is why that referendum no longer counts.
“As far as I’m aware, the Ministry of Transportation didn’t give us any signals that they would be interested in cost sharing [this time,]” Watson said.
The new referendum question council considered on July 28 was: “Do you support a 10th Avenue bridge crossing over Roger Creek with funding of $14.6 million from borrowing resulting in tax increases to the average homeowner of approximately $160 per year for 25 years. Yes/No.”
However Councillors Chopra, Cole and MacLeman were opposed to yet another non-binding referendum.
“We voted ‘yes’ on [a non-binding referendum question] to get the 10th Avenue Crossing twice in my lifetime here in Port Alberni and we still didn’t get it,” said McLeman.
Chopra raised the question of making the referendum binding during the current meeting but the Watson said this was impossible without further staff review.
“I would recommend that if council wants to make the referendum question binding then refer it back to staff, because my worry is that we would need to have the borrowing approval in place before that binding referendum question is asked,” Watson said.
“We would need to confirm the costs much more accurately before we could go to a binding referendum.”
Since the resolution could not be made binding at this time, council tabled the issue to the next meeting with the intent to vote on holding a binding referendum at that time.
In a related matter, council nixed the idea of including on the 2014 ballot a question about adding a cycling/ walking trail across Roger Creek at 10th Avenue.