Life for Nanaimo taxpayers is about to get a whole lot more expensive.
Between the new South Fork water treatment facility, for which taxpayers will pay about $48 million ($22.5 million borrowed if it survives a referendum) of the $65-million cost, a new $16-million city annex, and the potential for $19 million to hook up a few hundred houses to sanitary sewers (at least $3 million was committed to hook up Green Lake), big ticket items are popping up almost daily.
Add an ongoing $5-million underfunding annually for water, sewer and road infrastructure, several buildings like the public works facility identified as needing serious upgrades or replacement, a projected 20-per cent increase over the next few years in tax rates, five per cent annually in water use rates, and a collective deep breath may be required.
What is also required is a step back by city council and staff. Instead of making decisions in isolation, as was done with the city annex, a ‘big picture’ map of efficiencies must be drawn up now to ensure the decisions will make sense in the future.
Can we combine the annex and public works building? Are there other ideas worth considering? By not addressing infrastructure needs today, how much more will it cost Nanaimo residents in the future?
These questions need to be seriously considered because as it sits, Nanaimo taxpayers are going to be tested heavily in the coming years.
And while council is paid to mull these questions, it is also an excellent opportunity for taxpayers to get involved, share ideas and visions, and move Nanaimo toward an efficient and affordable future.
Bad planning isn’t the reason for these necessary costs, but the potential for bad planning exists right now.
It will take the entire community to ensure we don’t bankrupt our future.