Local villages get infrastructure windfall from Province

·3 min read

West Kootenay local government administrators are welcoming a cash injection from the Province for infrastructure projects, but still have to figure out just how to spend it.

“The $919,000 the Village will be receiving is certainly welcome news,” says Kaslo Chief Administrative Officer Ian Dunlop. “We have a long list of projects, totalling millions of dollars, so prioritizing what to do with these funds this will be a main point for discussion with mayor and council at our upcoming 2023 budget and five-year financial plan special meeting.”

“I think it is very important for the community,” echoes Regional District of Central Kootenay CAO Stuart Horn. “We have not received communication on the final scope of what we could use it for, and I would not want to speak for the board at this time.”

“The announcement said the funding would come with guidelines and parameters on how it could be spent,” agrees New Denver CAO Lisa Scott. “We haven't seen that yet, so it's premature for council to make any decisions regarding the funding.”

Earlier this month, the provincial government announced the ‘Growing Communities Fund,’ more than a billion dollars to spend on infrastructure projects. The one-time grant will be distributed to the province’s 188 municipal and regional governments using a formula that reflects population size and growth. Each municipality received a minimum of $500,000, which will be distributed by the end of this month.

“We still have not received all of the conditions attached to this funding, and there will be some,” notes Nakusp CAO Wayne Robinson. “As a result, we really have to see the funding agreement before we can really dive into how we can best use this money.”

Robinson said the money was “not only appreciated, but critical to the survival of small municipalities.”

He said municipal governments everywhere are far behind on our asset management contributions, and are usually scrambling to raise funding through grants, taxes or borrowing to replace or renew aging infrastructure.

“Without this kind of funding, any projects we contemplate need to wait until we receive funding from a granting agency or higher level of government, or we are forced to borrow - especially for anything that is time sensitive,” he says. “This money could potentially be used for seed money for other grant opportunities that become available.

“Being able to leverage this funding against other grants would maximize its usefulness for the sake of the community - however this means projects may take longer to initiate and some uncertainty since other grants are not guaranteed.”

Meanwhile, Kaslo’s Dunlop said it would be nice if senior levels of government would replace the one-time-windfall system with more regular support for local government.

“It would be great to see this kind of funding for municipalities become a regular, predictable thing because it would really improve our ability to plan and prioritize projects in the short, medium and long term,” he told the Valley Voice. “The competitive grant process that municipalities normally have to go through to access funding for large projects is really inefficient because the programs get over-subscribed and it can take over a year to get a decision.”

The provincial infrastructure money will be distributed in the region as follows: Regional District of Central Kootenay: $4,025,000; Village of Slocan: $624,000; Village of Silverton: $585,000; Village of New Denver: $704,000; Village of Kaslo: $919,000; Village of Nakusp: $1,161,000; City of Nelson: $4.151,000; City of Castlegar: $3,094,000.

The fund is meant to allow municipal governments to “prioritize local infrastructure and amenities projects, including supporting affordable housing, upgrading water management facilities and building recreation centres.”

Local governments are responsible for determining how the grants will be allocated based on the unique needs of their communities.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice