Top priority: Council to debate spending plan

CITY COUNCIL is meeting tomorrow to decide how it might spend nearly $400,000.

CITY COUNCIL is meeting tomorrow to decide how it might spend nearly $400,000.

The majority, $375,000, comes from a provincial grant originally sent to help pay for the Davis Ave. reconstruction project, which was received after the city committed its own money to the project.

And approximately another $15,000 is now available because the Davis project came in under budget, says mayor Dave Pernarowski.

“It will be an interesting conversation,” said Pernarowski of the meeting set after council decided July 25 to defray a decision to demolish the city-owned Co-op building until it figured out what it exactly wanted to do with the nearly $400,000.

“I didn’t know that we had actually decided to go ahead with the demolition project,” said councillor Lynne Christiansen at the July 25 meeting. “We’re looking at awarding contracts and reallocating funds, and there were other options we were considering. I wasn’t really aware that we were going ahead.”

Other options under consideration by council include putting money into its long-planned Skeena Industrial Park (known as the airport lands) adjacent to the airport and putting money into the My Mountain Co-op effort to buy the Shames Mountain ski hill.

“Addressing the Co-op building is important for our downtown revitalization,” said councillor Brian Downie about what he plans to bring forward at today’s meeting. “Taking the building down is a positive first step in the investment.”

But councillor Brad Pollard is in favour of moving the Skeena Industrial Park along.

“Until we develop industrial land away from the downtown core, all industrial development will have to happen in the centre of town,” said Pollard. “So for me, that’s the priority.”

He said there’s an extra incentive to use city money on the airport lands because it’ll be matched equally by the federal and provincial governments.

That dates back to a commitment the city received several years ago from the federal and provincial governments to provide $668,000 each on the condition the city also comes up with $668,000, making for a total package of just over $2 million.

But the city has had trouble coming up with its end of the arrangement.

Pollard wants to see an intersection from Hwy37 to the intended location of the industrial park.

And should the city commit the $375,000 from the province and the surplus from Davis Ave., the federal and provincial matching dollars would result in spending close to $1.2 million at the location.

Pollard said the rational is that once the land is developed with sewage, power and adequate road access, there will be incentive for major industry to develop the land.

“It’s not sexy, because nobody will see anything except for a big set of lights, but it’s a first step.”

Councillor Bruce Bidgood said in the July 25 council meeting that he’s in favour of demolishing the Co-op building.

But at a short council meeting July 28 called to discuss topics to be raised when meeting with provincial cabinet ministers in the fall, Bidgood also said buying Shames Mountain was a priority.

He said that position stems from a Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce on-line opinion poll which favoured buying the mountain.

But spending public money on a private enterprise is a concern for Christiansen.

“I see the value of putting the money into the ski hill,” she said late last week.

“It encourages people to come here, but I’m not sure if that’s something the city should be putting money into so I’m kind of torn.”

Christiansen said she has not yet decided how she wants to spend the money and will remain open to hearing from others at today’s meeting.

Councillor Bruce Martindale also wants to remain open to hearing other opinions.

“This is not an either or proposition,” he said. “I am in favour of making the Co-op site more marketable if feasible, and I am in favour of Terrace remaining a town with a community ski hill.”

Pernarowski said he too will be open to hearing what is brought up, and said that city staff will prepare a list of projects council has talked about in the past.

“There’s road infrastructure that we always seem to look at,” Pernarowski added.

And just because council is going to decide on to spend nearly $400,000, it doesn’t mean the city can’t borrow more to finance a longer list of priorities.

Councillor Carol Leclerc couldn’t be reached before deadline.

Tomorrow’s session begins at 4 pm at city hall.