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LETTER: City of Port Alberni is on same path to infrastructure deficits

Will council heed warning this time, letter writer asks

To the Editor,

In an Oct. 27, 2016 AV News article, it was reported that at the city’s 2017 budget meeting, CAO Tim Pley gave the council of the time an update of an “infrastructure deficit” facing the city. He suggested scaling back spending and resisting taking on new services.

At this past Feb. 13 council meeting, Pley again presented a report on the city’s “capital infrastructure deficit.” Essentially, how certain city assets need urgent replacing or upgrading and the need now to specifically spend a minimum of $1.75 million annually on targeted assets.

Since the 2017 budget, city property taxes collected have risen from $21 million to a projected $27.7 million this year. At the same time, the debt has risen from $10.5 million to $24.8 million. Even though the sewer lagoon replacement is a large part of that debt, it has been increasing as city reserves are dwindling. If not for our ever-increasing utility bills funding water and sewer upgrades and renewals, we would be in worse financial shape.

Historically, our councils have not scaled back spending. Rather, all have wanted to spend millions on “priority projects” such as the beautification of Johnston Road and uptown Third Avenue. This council still intends on spending $5 million (not including the $2.5 million grant) on a quay-to-quay path. The previous council bought the Somass Sawmill for $5.3 million resulting in a yearly tax revenue loss of $450,000 and has yet to explain the true costs that the taxpayers may be responsible for in the cleanup and demolition of the site.

In the face of “capital infrastructure deficits” resulting in deteriorating city assets like roads, parks, ballfields, trails, bridges, city buildings as well as Echo Pool, will this council heed the warning or continue down the wrong path?

Randy Fraser,

Port Alberni