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Power won’t go underground on Main St. Sicamous, yet

Council removed requirement for develpment due to prohibitive costs
Sicamous council agrees to remove the requirement of putting in underground power at the 425 Main Street development at this time due to the associated costs for both the developer and district. (Black Press file photo)

Sicamous council is pulling the plug on underground power lines for a stretch of Main Street as part of frontage improvements first proposed in 2021.

At the May 8 Committee of the Whole meeting, operations manager Darrell Symbaluk provided a report to council outlining the scope of the project for the stretch of Main from Shuswap Avenue to Paradise Avenue. In addition to the underground power, improvements also being considered is the installation of a sidewalk, curb and gutters as part of the development at 425 Main Street. The district would also time its project up-sizing the waterline there to coincide with that work.

“We knew 425 [Main] would kind of be the impetus for that project to get rolling. We didn’t know what was coming, what would be needed, but we did go out and we got some prices,” Symbaluk said, adding that in 2021 the estimate came in at $2.2 million, but probably close to $2.5 milliom now. “A big component of that is the underground power, it was coming in around $700,000 to $900,000.”

While the Subdivision Servicing Bylaw requires builders to run underground power to their developments, the 425 Main developer has asked to sidestep that. Symbaluk said that component would also incur additional costs to the district, particularly in regards to existing hook-ups because “it’s not really on them to do it if we put the power in the ground.”

The good news, he added, is that there is a beautification grant available that usually pays for about a third of the underground power, but it only applies to the BC Hydro component, not Telus, fibre optics or anything else.

“We need to kind of make a decision, are we OK to follow with what the developer’s asking in this case, for a variance to go with overhead power at the location,” Symbaluk explained. “Or do we go by the letter of the law in the bylaw and make them their own, and if so, are we paying for it or are they paying for it?”

Coun. Malcolm Makayev was not only in support of doing the underground power, but also suggested installing it along the rest of Main as well, from Shuswap to Riverside Avenue “and clean that up too” if they’re already going to “mobilize” for this stretch.

“I support underground power and it would probably double that estimate to probably over a million because it’s another block but… it’s never cheaper than it is now,” he pointed out. “The longer you wait, the more expensive it is.”

Coun. Ian Baillie agreed he could see Makayev’s point, but didn’t think underground power is necessary at this time and would rather have a look at more pressing projects and their costs rather than spending extra money on this.

“This is kind of a nice-to-have, not a must-have, and we have some must-haves coming,” he said, referencing the water treatment upgrades and some other large projects that council knows have to be done.

He added that doing the whole length of Main at once would be “incredibly disruptive,” and the timing would also have to be considered as it wouldn’t be ideal to do during the peak summer months.

Chief financial officer Kelly Bennett also pointed out that if they ask this developer to invest in the underground power, then the district needs to do the same. They have, however, already removed the requirement for a development on Riverside, and taken it out of DCCs on Main Street.

“If we decide we want to put it back in, then we have to put it back in on everything,” she said of the good for the goose, good for the gander situation. “We need to be consistent.”

Council agreed to remove the underground requirement for the Main Street development at this time.

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About the Author: Heather Black

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