Regional district prepares to borrow money if necessary

The money would tide the regional district over until property taxes arrive

Here’s a summary of key discussions from the full board meeting May 22 of the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine (RDKS) and its committees.

Some directors and staff were present at the RDKS offices for the meetings and sat two metres apart. Most called in due to the need for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were seats for four members of the public to attend safely. The district is looking at ways to make future meetings available electronically.

READ MORE: Regional district puts COVID-19 safeguards in place

Sign and sanitizer at the entrance of the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine boardroom, May 22, 2020. (Ben Bogstie)

Planning Committee

BC Hydro is in the process of refurbishing the transmission line in between Terrace and Kitimat. They say they are replacing existing structures that have reached the end of their service life. Most of the work will be done in the existing BC Hydro right of way but the company proposed four new adjacent sites for anchors and poles. Work is scheduled to take place during a scheduled outage from June 8 to June 26, 2020.

The Lower Dean River Lodge is set to receive a Licence of Occupation for a helicopter recreation business on around 650,000 hectares of unsurveyed Crown land. The area extends from east of Klemtu to east of Kitimat. Operations would be based out of the Lower Dean River Lodge, about 50 kilometres north of Bella Coola, BC.

The regional district concurs with Telus’ proposal to build three wireless telecommunication towers beside Highway 16 between Hazelton and Witset. The towers will be made of wood and stand 20 metres tall. They will be located around 16, 11 and seven kilometres east of Hazelton. Telecommunication towers are under federal jurisdiction but Telus was required to consult with the regional district.

Economic Development Commission

In collaboration with local chambers of commerce, municipalities and the Northern Development Initiative Trust, RDKS has created a business registry. It contains over 1,000 businesses, many of them in rural or northern areas. The initiative cost the regional district $300 and could be made public in the future.

“This COVID pandemic has really highlighted the need to be able to communicate directly with some of our businesses,” said economic development officer Maggie Hall.

The regional district awarded Upland Agricultural Consulting Ltd. the Agriculture Sector Support Plan. There were four bids to create a plan to support the agriculture sector. Upland Agricultural Consulting Ltd. was selected to create the $10,000 plan because it had the best qualifications and value for money. The completion date for the final plan is set for Oct. and will be made public when available.

“I’m fairly pleased that we had respondents be so generous with their time and resources so it should be a pretty comprehensive overview of what we have and where we are hoping to go,” said Hall.

Board of Directors Meeting

At the Board of Directors meeting, TANEx Engineering Corporation presented a draft strategy, highlighting the current state of connectivity in the region. Connectivity is diverse, with southern areas like Terrace generally well-served but northern or remote areas having poor or no service. Over 600 kilometres of major roadway in the district is without cell service.

“It’s really about making high speed internet connectivity available throughout your region to benefit all of your constituents regardless of where they live, so that they can benefit from the economy as well as important services,” said Kerri-Anne Thomas, TANEx project manager, to the district board.

The draft strategy also noted the region’s reliance on one fibre optic cable route, an issue that could be eliminated by creating a fibre optic ring in the north of B.C. TANEx Engineering Corporation will present a final report to the board in late July.

READ MORE: Still a lot of work to do to fully connect regional district

The Regional District Board of Directors adopted the Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Bylaw 739-20. This gives the regional district the power to borrow money to cover operating expenses until property tax payments start arriving in early August.

“This type of bylaw is pretty standard for a lot of other regional districts and municipalities around the province, although Kitimat-Stikine has not done one at least for the last 10 years because we’ve always managed to have enough funds to carry us between requisition periods,” said Yvonne Koerner, chief financial officer.

“It would give us permission to get an advance on the money that we would receive in August from our requisitions, and with the challenges local governments are facing with COVID, Municipal Finance Authority had advised that regional districts put one in place in case they need it, and this would only be used if we had a shortfall or possibly didn’t receive our full amount of requisition in August,” said Koerner.

Municipalities collect property taxes on behalf of regional districts and in this region, that amount makes up 23 per cent of the regional district’s base budget with rural taxes contributing the remaining 77 per cent combine to create the regional district’s total requisition of $10,240,611.

Due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the bylaw will allow the district to borrow $7 million if it needs to.


@BenBogstie
ben.bogstie@terracestandard.com

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