Town administration is belatedly working to put together a borrowing bylaw needed to ensure the North Bridge renovation project can go ahead as it was planned.
In order to move forward with large capital projects that would see a municipality having to debenture, or borrow money,— in this case the North Bridge and road realignment project valued at more than $5 million — a borrowing bylaw is needed prior to the start of that project.
It was Coun. Teri Underhill who asked administration during Tuesday, Oct. 13 regular council meeting about the issue. “My understanding from Municipal Affairs is that yes, it has to be done before the start…the public has the opportunity to object to it,” said Underhill.
In the event of a contentious issue, the borrowing bylaw process, which provides for three readings, would allow council time to hear from residents.
As CAO Rachel Kunz was not at the meeting, Underhill asked about the bylaw to Betty Quinlan, director of corporate services for the Town of Ponoka, in her capacity as acting CAO. Quinlan said she realized the error and is working on a bylaw for council’s consideration in November. “I’m wrong, I apologize,” she admitted.
“You could have called me,” stated Quinlan.
Coun. Tim Falkiner agreed, suggesting a phone call to Town Hall would have been better.
Town administration declined to comment on the issue when asked about the reason behind the error.
Provisions for a borrowing bylaw
One of the purposes behind a borrowing bylaw is to ensure residents have a say in decisions when a municipality commits to borrowing money, explained Sonia Sinha, public affairs officer with Alberta Municipal Affairs.
The provision is outlined in the Municipal Government Act (MGA), which states the bylaw should be advertised for two consecutive weeks, at least one of them before the second reading. The bylaw has to include four key points:
The amount to be borrowed;
Purpose for which the money is borrowed;
Maximum rate of interest, the term and terms of repayment;
Source of money to be used to repay the borrowing.
Those details regarding the North Bridge project debeture have yet to be outlined by administration.
“Borrowing bylaws must be passed prior to the start — acquire, remove, construct, improve — of a capital project that is to be financed in whole or in part by borrowing,” said Sinha in an email.
Who is responsible to ensure the bylaw is addressed?
Ensuring the bylaw requirements are met before a large project begins is something both town council and administration need to consider.
It’s up to administration to ensure the bylaw and its details are ready before a project begins and council’s responsibility is to make the ultimate decision to borrow.
“…administration assists council by creating draft bylaws and ensuring that the bylaw meets the legislative requirements as well as any additional requirements by the lending institution,” explained Sinha.
She added that administration is also responsible for informing council of the cost and implications to the budget.
The project itself is running smoothly with crews having prepared the roadway for bridge construction, says Donna Brinkworth, communications officer for the Town of Ponoka.
In-Line Contracting has completed the clay road fill for the year and are now in the process of preparing for the winter break. Road access has been created for Volker Stevin, the company awarded the bridge construction portion of the project, to start their work said Brinkworth.
The bridge itself will have a 2.5 metre sidewalk to allow room for pedestrians to walk. The trail head parking lot will remain in its same location, said Brinkworth.
She added that the current roadway on the east side of the river will become a one-lane service road for utility crews while the new road will be used for motorists.
“The bridge contract goes from Sept. 30 to May 31, 2016 and so the road contractor won’t have any access at that time,” said Brinkworth.
Most residents will have noticed that the new roadway is elevated. Brinkworth said that will ensure the roadway, and bridge, don’t get flooded. The existing road west of the old bridge will be removed allowing for a straight lane to the new bridge.