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No new civic facilities promised in budget

Minoru Aquatic Centre is due to be replaced by 2014, but city council has yet to budget for a new building.  - Matthew Hoekstra photo
Minoru Aquatic Centre is due to be replaced by 2014, but city council has yet to budget for a new building.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra photo

Richmond city council gave its early commitment Monday to spend $68.6 million on capital projects next year—but that figure could go skyward.

Few big-ticket items are included in the 2013 capital budget, making it the leanest spending package in at least five years. It offers no promises of new civic facilities, but commits to spending taxpayers’ cash on everything from traffic signals and catch basins to computers and library books.

But more could come. City hall has until May 15, 2013 to finalize its capital budget as part of the city’s five-year financial plan, and two other budgets—operating and utilities—have yet to be tabled.

On Monday Andrew Nazareth, the city’s general manager of finance, said major facilities will be “subject of a future report.” That means council could add to the budget at a later date.

A destination museum, memorial garden, and replacements for No. 1 Fire Hall, Bridgeport Fire Hall, Minoru Place Activity Centre and Minoru Aquatic Centre, are all projects being weighed by city staff.

When pressed for a timeline, Nazareth only said the report will be ready “in the near future.”

Although council has cash in reserve for major projects, finding money for its entire wish-list would be a challenge. But a report earlier this year revealed civic politicians might borrow to get facilities built.

“Given the current low interest rate environment, council members are open to considering financial strategies that include strategic borrowing opportunities to help with the pace of facility development,” said corporate planning director Lani Schultz in her report on council term goals.

For now, just $2.4 million has been set aside for the buildings program. Most of that—$2 million—is for repairs to West Richmond Community Centre.

The bulk of the capital budget’s proposals—$39 million—is for infrastructure improvements, such as roads, sewer mains and a pump station. New road projects include $2.9 million to extend Lansdowne Road from Minoru Boulevard to Alderbridge Way, and the widening of Nelson Road.

Another $10.5 million is being set aside for city equipment. That includes $400,000 for new audio-visual equipment for council chambers and $134,000 for telephones. Larger items include $3.1 million for vehicle replacements and $3.3 million for 42,000 green recycling carts and kitchen bins.

Parks spending is budgeted at $5 million, which includes upgrades to Britannia Heritage Shipyard and $2 million for a paved pathway on the Railway Avenue greenway.

After Monday’s unanimous vote, council is expected to give the budget formal approval Nov. 13.

Capital budget highlights

•$16 million for road infrastructure projects

•$10.5 million for various city equipment

•$9.5 million for water main replacement work

•$7.9 million for drainage projects

•$5 million for park projects

•$5 million for land acquisition

•$4 million for sewer mains and pump stations

•$2.4 million for civic building repair and design

•$1.3 million for final debt payment for No. 2 Road Bridge

•$750,000 to assist Granville Avenue affordable housing project

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