The District of Mission is considering an option to borrow about $12.5 million in order to complete the Fraser River sewer crossing project.
Council has given three readings to a bylaw request to begin the process to obtain authorization for a loan.
The overall budget for the new sewer line is $33,763,959. About $10 million has already been spent, consisting of $6.7 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments received in 2017 and just over $3 million in district funds.
This week, the province pledged another $11 million in funding and the district has and additional $300,000 grant that has not yet been claimed. That leaves about $12.5 million that the district will need in order to complete the project.
To cover contingency costs and any unforeseen problems, staff requested permission to borrow up to a maximum of $23.5 million, if the need arises.
“The plan is we are likely to borrow $12.5 million, but it could go up to $23.5 million in a worst case scenario,” explained Doug Stewart, director of finance for the district.
He said the extra availability of funds will cover “some contingencies should the budget prove to be a problem, if there are simply unknown problems, particularly in the river bed itself, it allows us some flexibility without having to go through a loan authorization process again.”
If the costs did go up, Stewart said it would be brought back to council.
According to the staff report, future DCC (development cost charge) levies will fund about 48 per cent of the debt servicing cost of the loan and a 6.48 per cent increase in the sewer levies would be required to fund the remaining cost.
Council voted 5-1 in favour of moving forward with the long-term debt plan with Coun. Ken Herar asking for a deferral of the decision.
Herar told council the cost of the project could rise even more if the tentative deal with the Braich family, which owns the land on the waterfront that the pipe is placed under, is not mutually approved.
He said the cost could change if the district is forced to expropriate the right of way for the pipe needed for the sewer crossing.
“I feel we should defer this to secure the deal with the Braichs before we move forward and approve any borrowing,” said Herar.
The rest of the council did not agree.
Coun. Danny Plecas said he was a bit “unsettled” by the comments.
“I am not in behold to any one individual land owner. My job as councillor is to make sure the process is followed properly and to make sure we protect the best interest of the community.”
He said he was disappointed and was under the understanding that any negotiations to do with any land owner is done through legal council.
“I do not want to be held hostage by anybody,” said Plecas.
Coun. Jag Gill said he “absolutely, 100 per cent agrees” that council should move forward and not delay.
“It’s mind boggling that we are even considering deferring this,” said Gill.
Coun. Mark Davies said the work needed to continue despite the “distasteful” fact that the scope of the project has exceeded $30 million.
“I represent every person and property owner in Mission, not just one, and I am not in any way going to defer a project that benefits 40,000 residents for one. So, I absolutely support this going forward,” said Davies.
Acting Mayor Carol Hamilton asked if anyone wanted to second Herar’s motion for a deferral, but nobody on the council would support the idea.
“There are no seconders, so the motion dies on the floor,” said Hamilton
The new sewer line is needed because the existing pipe is constantly under pressure and about one kilometre of it is buried in the sand under the Fraser River. It was constructed in 1983 and is now 38 years old. It is believed that the pipe will reach its capacity in the coming years.
Mission discharges its wastewater to the Joint Abbotsford Mission Environmental Systems (JAMES) plant through this 60 cm river-crossing pipe for treatment.
The new pipe will offer increased capacity of the sanitary trunk system and would allow for further development within Mission, and also reduce the environmental risk of the existing pipe.
Big cracks or broken pieces on the existing pipe would cause huge volume of raw sewage to discharge into the Fraser River.
The new pipe has already been installed under shores of both Abbotsford and Mission, but the dredging of the riving to complete the 950 metre under-water portion has waited on addition funds.