The Town of Princeton is proposing a $7 million solution to its urgent infrastructure woes.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, April 9, council put in motion a process to borrow the funds to repair and expand its water and sewer systems.
If eventually approved, the loan would result in up to a $197 annual parcel tax on each property to service and pay down the debt, for the next 30 years.
“It’s something we desperately need to address,” said Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne.
Engineers recently have assessed Princeton’s infrastructure and made numerous recommendations, finding water and sewer services lacking and in some cases dangerous.
“It’s a big number,” said Lyle Thomas, Princeton CAO. “We are getting to the point that we can’t let it slide any longer. What we are proposing is we borrow to get these projects done.”
The mayor noted reports dating back at least ten years identified some of the same issues but stated that information was lost or miscommunicated.
According to engineers, six projects need to be undertaken.
The most costly is a full replacement of the sewer trunk main from Tulameen Avenue and Allin Street, through to Fenchurch Avenue and Lime Street. The estimated cost is $4.28 million. This will address deficiencies in the line and include a new river crossing at Angela Avenue. It will secure service and allow for new development, states the report.
Upgrades to the Fenchurch Lift Station are recommended as the first job to be undertaken. Thomas told council that in the past, during freshnet, that station has needed to be supported by trucks removing effluent and driving it straight to sewer lagoons.
“It’s right by the river. It would spill out,” said Thomas.
Princeton is presently one of only a dozen of communities in the province that carries no debt and paid its last loan in the mid-1970s.
“Taking on debt is a big decision to make,” said Coyne, in an interview following the meeting. “At some point, we have to stop talking about things and we have to start doing them. It’s time to stop talking. It’s time for action and it’s time we were responsible and see that things get done.”
The municipality is presently waiting on approval of an $880,000 provincial infrastructure grant and will continue to apply for assistance.
If approved, funds would be borrowed over time, as needed, to complete the planned projects which also include digging the fourth well for consumer water consumption and fire protection, replacing the Billiter Warren Booster Station and replacing a 4” sewer pipe in North Princeton.
“The booster station has fallen into disrepair. It’s actually become a safety hazard to work in and we know it’s not working as it should,” stated Thomas.
According to Coyne, if the loan goes ahead, it will also allow Princeton to position itself for development.
An engineer’s report indicates, for example, that Princeton’s water system can only support an estimated further 118 residential units.
Communities borrow money from the Municipal Finance Authority, where the interest rate is currently 2.29%. On a $7 million loan, the annual debt servicing payment would amount to $336,910 annually.
The borrowing process is expected to take at least a year. Permission must be granted by the Inspector of Municipalities, and the matter would then be put to the electorate through the Alternative Approval Process. The Regional District must also give its approval.
To underline the importance of infrastructure repairs Coyne recalled an incident in 1996 when a sewer pipe broke and compromised a well.
“That’s the scariest thing I ever lived through,” he said. “People were sick with e-coli and (other) bacteria. It was horrible.”
The proposal appears to have the full support of council members.
During the meeting Councillor Randy McLean, who has served four terms as mayor, said he’s convinced town services are at capacity.
“I was mayor in the past when we bypassed opportunities because we didn’t want to go into debt. I have always been proud of the fact that we had no loans, but I’m at the point that I am restructuring that thinking.”
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