Nanaimo abandons plan to borrow funds for Operations Centre

Nanaimo abandons plan to borrow funds for Operations Centre

After making an error at the beginning of the Alternative Approval Process (AAP), rendering the results invalid, Nanaimo has decided to abandon the plan to borrow money to build the Nanaimo Operations Centre and look for other funding means.

The city held an AAP on whether it should borrow $48.5 million to fund the first phase of building the Nanaimo Operations Centre.

AAPs are ways for municipal governments to seek approval from their electorate on a number of items instead of holding a referendum. One of the allowed items in an AAP is long-term borrowing.

However, an AAP has to follow a number of requirements in order to be valid. This includes providing notice of the AAP twice, the second notice must be at least 30 days before the process closes.

The AAP then asks that residents opposed to the item in question submit a form by the deadline set, and if 10 per cent of the total electors submit a form, then it must either be abandoned or go to a referendum.

This is Nanaimo’s second AAP for the Operations Centre. The first was deemed invalid as the city only provided one notice of the impending AAP.

Now, the second AAP has been deemed invalid, as response forms were not made available on the initial day that the notice was posted.

So, the city has decided to abandon the AAP process, and council has directed staff to find alternate means to fund the project.

A rather subdued council saw just one councillor chime in Monday night.

“I support the recommended motion. I’m committed to a fair and transparent open democratic process, and we had some issues with the AAP, and I think we need to get together and sort out options for going forward,” said Ben Geselbracht, a Nanaimo City Councillor.

The AAP required 10 percent of taxpayers to sign a form in order for the plan to be defeated. A group opposed to the plan wanted a referendum on the issue.

“I thought last night was a reconciliation of sorts between the city the council and the mayor and the city of Nanaimo population, and I’m glad to see the result,” said Sandy Bartlett, a Nanaimo resident

Bartlett, who is also a lawyer, notified the city about both mistakes with its AAP processes. He hopes the city will now right-size the project so it’s more acceptable for taxpayers.

“I think they should have some frank and open and transparent discussions with the stakeholders which is the people of Nanaimo,” said Bartlett. “Perhaps they could have a select committee.”

The City says it will review engagement and communication from these last two AAPs and integrate changes to any future AAP processes.

There was no timeline for when staff would return with new options for the project.

RELATED: Nanaimo group says now is not the time for new $48.5M operations centre loan

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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