Continued construction of the new RCMP detachment, the 100 Street rebuild, and the start of upgrades to Kin and Surerus Parks are among the highlights of Fort St. John's proposed $71.1-million capital budget for 2021.
“2021 does represent our most aggressive capital program,” Chief Financial Officer David Joy told city council on Monday.
The city largely relies on provincial funding under the Peace River Agreement for its capital spending, which compensates the city for industrial development in the region. The rest is funded by grants, development charges, reserves, federal gas tax funds, and borrowing for local area service projects, which are recouped through property taxes.
“It’s something we should never take for granted and always appreciate,” said Joy. “If we did not have Peace River Agreement money, our road program would be significantly curtailed, we’d have to defer a lot of projects, not just for roads, but equipment and other things. We’re very privileged.”
Half the budget, roughly $36 million, is being carried forward from last year.
Here's a look at the spending proposed for 2021:
The budget proposes to spend $17.9 million on roads and related infrastructure, with the 100 Street rebuild through downtown the continued focus.
The city upgraded the intersection at 100 Street and 96 Avenue last summer as part of the first phase to replace underground water and sewer lines installed in the 1940s and 1950s. Joy noted the city will spend a "significant amount of money" on the rebuild over the next three years.
The city has additional projects planned for 112 Avenue from 103 Street to 106 Street; 96 Street from 114A Avenue to north of 199 Avenue; and 81 Street from 100 Avenue to 101 Avenue.
Sidewalks and streetlights are planned for 107 Avenue from 90 Street to 92 Street.
Two local area service projects are planned for 106 Street from 95 Avenue to 97 Avenue, and on 96 Avenue from 104 Street to 106 Street.
The draft budget calls for $37.4 million in spending on facilities and buildings, including the continued construction of the new RCMP detachment.
“As you can see over the last week, things are starting to take shape in major ways. It'll be good to see the second and third floors enclosed,” Joy said. “They're working as hard and fast as they can. The mild weather is helping, and let's hope it continues for another two months."
The city also plans to start work on the redevelopment of Kin and Surerus parks, estimated at $20 million over the next four years.
Other projects include remediation works for the kids arena, curling rink, and cultural centre, and upgrades at the North Peace Arena, and Pomeroy Sport Centre.
The city has earmarked $5.6 million for various planning projects and studies.
New to the project list this year are plans to replace the existing council chambers, a “Great Plains” assessment, a community wildfire protection plan, along with seed money for a new community foundation, and continued funding for the UNBC’s Community Development Institute in the city.
Water and sewer
The city plans to spend $4.1-million on water and sewer projects, funded through reserves, and which include sewage lift station upgrades, new fire hydrants, well rehabilitation, and anchor pilings for the Charlie Lake dam.
The city has budgeted $5.88 million for new equipment and machinery, including monies for new IT infrastructure, and vehicles for the fire department and public works.
Joy's presentation to council looks quite a bit different this year.
While it gives a broad overview of projects, financing, and estimated spending, the finer details and numbers of individual project budgets have been withheld, and replaced with an 'X'.
Joy said this is to prevent contractors from seeing what the actual budget is for each project.
"In the past contractors may have looked at our budget first and then just bid just under the budget or a little bit above it," Joy said. "So, going forward, we are hopeful that the contractors will provide lower bids than they might otherwise have submitted if they knew how much we have budgeted for each project."
The city has laid out $189.5 million in capital projects from 2021 to 2025, which also includes cemetery upgrades in 2021 and 2022, converting streetlights to LED in 2022, visitor centre construction in 2022, business resilience audit and planning in 2021 and 2022, and air photo and LIDAR contracting through to 2025.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.