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Nanaimo council delays decision on $90-million public works yard upgrade

Councillors want closer look at how borrowing might impact the city's other capital projects
An artist’s rendering showing the fleet and maintenance facility planned as part of the Nanaimo Operations Centre project on Labieux Road. (Kasian Architecture, Interior Design and Planning/City of Nanaimo image)

City council wants to take a deeper look at whether to borrow $90 million to build the new Nanaimo Operations Centre.

Council, at a meeting Monday, July 8, voted to defer a decision on plans for a public works yard upgrade. The city's governance and priorities committee had recommended a "one and done" option to borrow and build the project in a single phase, which could potentially save $10 million over a multi-phase option. Once the decision on how to proceed with the project is decided, the city will seek approval from eligible voters to borrow the money through an alternate approval process, likely in the fall.

Coun. Tyler Brown said he wasn't necessarily opposed to borrowing the money and building the project in a single phase, but wanted more information about debt servicing and how that might affect other capital projects in the works.

"I'm really concerned about the conversations with council around opportunity costs of picking one project and ... what impact it might have on not having the comfort level around debt servicing payments to proceed with other projects down the line," Brown said. "I know a lot of work has been done on several projects and some of them are at a level of maturity and have a significant amount of community need, as well, and I would just want to make sure that they aren't jeopardized based on council's comfort level."

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said she also favoured proceeding with the single-phase option, but also wanted more information, while Coun. Ian Thorpe said he preferred a multi-phased approach to building and financing the project, but also preferred to defer the decision until after receiving more information. Coun. Erin Hemmens noted an upcoming governance and priorities committee meeting Monday, July 15, will include discussion about the city's strategic capital projects. 

"I wonder if it would be appropriate to consider this after we've had that conversation where we're looking at the RCMP [detachment], the south end community centre, the Nanaimo waterfront walkway in the context of the public works yard," Hemmens said.

Dale Lindsay, the city's chief administrative officer, said the decision could be deferred and brought back before council July 22, after councillors have a chance to discuss other key capital projects at the governance and priorities committee meeting July 15.

"I think that we are actually pretty close to potentially being able to agree, with a little more conversation, and I think this is a really important path that we walk down together," said Coun. Hilary Eastmure.

The motion to defer passed 8-1 with Mayor Leonard Krog opposed.

Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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