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LETTER: Public has duty to speak up about council spending

Debt continues to climb as Port Alberni city council continues to borrow, says writer

To the Editor,

Re: Somass sawmill site ‘a pivotal piece of land,’ Alberni Valley News Progress edition, June 8, 2022

City of Port Alberni debt from external borrowing has reached $25 million, up $17 million during Mayor Sharie Minions’ eight years on council.

City council recently authorized more than $3 million of new internal borrowing, to fund capital projects that were bid 30 percent to more than 300 percent over budget when tendered, including the sewer pipe under the Somass River costing $1.8 million more than budgeted.

Meanwhile, millions of dollars already taxed from property owners for repairs, maintenance or replacement of other city infrastructure, remains unspent, because council defers that work.

READ: PROGRESS 2022: Somass sawmill site a gem on the water in Port Alberni

With council not ensuring that this work be completed in a timely manner, taxpayers will pay more in the future to get the work done, due to higher input costs and loss of purchasing power of taxes previously obtained to pay for it. Apparently not concerned about the previous, mayor and council have taken on a capital project, budgeted at $7.2 million, to build a path that will parallel the water’s edge for just a few hundred metres. Extrapolating from budget overruns for other recent major capital projects, suggests that council’s budgeted cost for the path could easily increase to $9 million, or more, by the time it’s completed.

The public asked council to rationalize the building of the Quay-to-Quay path, and what route it follows, and also asked if it was a good plan for council to invest millions of dollars into the Somass lands. Despite claiming it’s a fabulous opportunity, council continues to keep many details of the Somass transaction away from the public who have to pay for it.

Questions asked of council about this, have been characterized by the mayor as “verbal negativity”. But it’s our money. I say it’s wrong for the mayor to suggest it’s “verbal negativity” when taxpayers ask her and council to explain their financial and project decisions.

Roland Smith,

Port Alberni