After passing the Alternative Approval Process (AAP), Prince George has officially passed the 11 bylaws needed to borrow over $32.17 million dollars to finance numerous capital projects.
The 11 bylaws came up for final reading and adoption at council’s regular June 10 meeting.
Hundreds of residents rallied against the capital projects including the Enough Already! Facebook group. The city ended up receiving nearly 3,000 elector response forms in opposition to each of the bylaws.
The elector response forms are a part of the AAP, which local governments must do to approve projects with a borrowing period of longer than five years.
How the process works is if 10 per cent or more of eligible electors sign and submit electoral response forms, local governments such as the city of Prince George cannot proceed with the bylaws, and the matter would have to go to a referendum.
Although each of the bylaws ultimately passed the AAP and final reading and adoption, the situation generated a lot of discussion from Mayor and council.
“I understand the frustrations of the people that signed the forms,” said Coun. Brian Skakun. “We had the pool referendum. We had the fire hall referendum. We had an over four per cent tax increase. I know they are frustrated and I can’t ignore these results.”
Coun. Sampson said while nearly 3,000 response forms is a significant number, none of them beat the 10 per cent threshold needed to defeat the bylaws.
“This stands out to me as a clear answer that the majority of the electorate is okay with moving forward with progress in our city and a small amount are not,” said Coun. Sampson, who also added that, “This is what these people have on their mind and it will stay on my mind as we move forward making decisions.”
However, council’s discussion also moved beyond the 11 bylaws at hand to the general state of ageing infrastructure in the city.
“Some of the frustration that I’ve heard out there is why has this taken so long? In some instances, decades of neglect has landed us where we are now. So here we are,” said Coun. Terri McConnachie. “I have and I will continue to support these projects, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t heard the criticism and the frustration that’s out there.”
Mayor Lyn Hall also focused his comments on the city’s ageing infrastructure.
“It’s been said around the table and I absolutely agree that close to 3,000 people voted to tell us, to send us a message, that they didn’t approve of the 11 bylaw requests and I get that,” said Hall, adding that he’s been talking about the city’s ageing infrastructure projects since 2014.
“I stand firm on the infrastructure needs of this community and I will continue to work for it. You can disagree and I’m fine with that […] But to continue to ignore what’s going on from an infrastructure perspective in this city I just can’t do it.”
He also noted that the city is dealing with an ageing infrastructure problem alongside record development.
“We have hit record numbers of development in the city and it hasn’t been seen like this for a very, very long time and we are all proud of that,” said Hall. “We continue to move in that direction and as we continue to move in that direction it necessitates doing some things with our infrastructure and that is what we are faced with.”
Here are the results for the total number of valid Elector Response Forms the city received for each proposed bylaw:
- Equipment Financing Bylaw No. 9007, 2019 = 2,913
- Mausoleum Expansion Phase 2 Bylaw No. 9008, 2019 = 2,825
- Civic Facility Roofs Replacements 2019 - 2022 Bylaw No. 9009, 2019 = 2,850
- Aquatic Centre Renewal and Upgrade Bylaw No. 9010, 2019 = 2,901
- Masich Stadium Amenities Refurbish Bylaw No. 9011, 2019 = 2,903
- Ron Brent Park Redevelopment Phase 2 & 3 Bylaw No. 9012, 2019 = 2,967
- 14th Avenue Upgrades (Irwin Street to Freeman Street) Bylaw No. 9013, 2019 = 2,897
- Domano and St. Lawrence Signalization Bylaw No. 9014, 2019 = 2,756
- Highway 16 West Frontage – Heyer Road to Henry Road Bylaw No. 9015, 2019 = 2,795
- Goose Country Road Culvert Replacement Bylaw No. 9016, 2019 = 2,850
- Critical Street Light and Traffic Signal Replacement Bylaw No. 9017, 2019 = 2,797