Terrace Mayor Sean Bujtas says he’s open to suggestions from city residents as to how to spend more than $9 million sent to the city by the provincial government recently.
Nearly half or $4.633 million came as part of the $1 billion distributed by the province to local governments in March while a $5 million grant, also announced in March by the province, now means the city won’t have to pay for the full closure and environmental clean up of its dump north of the city.
And although Bujtas would not commit to the city establishing a formal structure so citizens could make suggestions as to how the city could spend the money, Terrace residents “know how to reach us,” he said.
Bujtas added that city council has asked its senior staff for a list of priority projects.
“Do we put it into Lanfear Hill,” Bujtas asked of the city’s long-sought wish to improve the road going up the hill to the increasingly-populated Bench area.
“Or do we put some money into downtown infrastructure,” he added of another project high on the city’s list — replacing underground piping beneath the 4600 Block of Lakelse Ave. and combining that work with a complete makeover of the street to make it more attractive for pedestrians and shoppers.
Bujtas noted that the $5 million for the dump closure is already having an impact on city projects. Without that $5 million, the city would have had to use a substantial portion of a previous provincial grant of $14.7 million sent by the province in 2019 and 2020.
That previous grant is now being used selectively to either top up projects at threat because of inflationary pressures or to finance projects the city could not otherwise afford.
One recent example is the decision to allocate $500,000 of that previous grant to tear down the canopies now covering the sidewalks on the 4600 Block of Lakelse. Erected decades ago, the canopies have been judged as far past their useful lives and would not fit in with a redesign of the block.
Bujtas did add that residents might wonder why the city may decide to repave some streets in bad travel shape but not others.
It has everything to do with the city preference to replace water and sewer pipes running underground down a street when required as well as redoing the surface for reasons of cost and efficiency.
“Just because a road is bad on the surface, it doesn’t mean the pipes underground are bad as well,” Bujtas said.
While the city may not have a formal structure of how to spend the more than $9 million now at its disposal, the mayor hinted at resident participation regarding a long-standing lobbying effort on the part of northwestern local governments.
Now nearly a decade old, the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance made up of local governments in the northwest has been pressing the province for a share each year of the tax dollars from large industrial projects now flowing south to Victoria.
“When we do get that, I think we may want some kind of public engagement,” said Bujtas of how to spend this additional income. “It’s crossed my mind for sure.”