A group of people are trying to stop the City of Nanaimo from borrowing $48.5 million dollars to build a new operations centre.
Outside Beban Centre on Sunday afternoon, several people were convincing those attending the Nanaimo home show to sign forms against the borrowing.
The money would be for the first of four phases of a new $163-million operations centre replacing the city’s public works yard. The dollar figure has grown since the first business case was laid out in 2021.
Those opposed say taxpayers can’t afford this now.
“It seems like the city and the people who live here live in two economic realities,” said Fredrik Collin from the group Nanaimo City Council Accountability & Oversight Hub.
“Not to say no forever, but to say no it’s not a fit at this time because we’re still recovering from COVID, we’re dealing with interest rates that have more than doubled and people’s mortgages are coming up. We’ve got food prices escalating beyond anything,” said Noni Bartlett, also from the group.
The city says it needs to replace its Public Works Yard that was built in the 1960s when it served less than half it’s current population.
Instead of a referendum, the city is using an Alternative Approval Process. It means unless 10 percent of taxpayers, or 7,800 people, submit forms saying no, than the borrowing is approved.
Those opposed say the city should have better informed property owners and the project should go to referendum.
“Out of the hundreds and hundreds of people coming out of the home show maybe, 12 people knew about the AAP. That’s just shocking,” said Bartlett. “Out of the people that stopped to talk to me, probably eight out of 10 signed the form.”
The city says the first phase at current interest rates would cost taxpayers about $9 per $100,000 of assessed value for each year of the 20-year-term, or about $76 for an average $800,000 home annually.
“This is like opposing putting a new roof on your house when the roof is leaking, and as much as I’m sympathetic to people who never want to see tax money spent this is absolutely necessary,” said Leonard Krog, Nanaimo’s Mayor.
Krog says a new operations centre is basic infrastructure and in a major earthquake current public works buildings would collapse.
“People working in them would be killed or injured. Equipment that was being worked on would be damaged, and the very equipment that you would want access to during an emergency or crisis wouldn’t be available,” said Krog.
Those opposed are able to submit their forms at city hall until 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon.
A link to the forms can be found here.