The question is not if voters want an underpass, but when they will approve the financial and design plans for it.
“I think our plan here, and certainly my plan,” said Coun. Alan Harrison, “has always been to ask the people of Salmon Arm when they think… is the right time (for the underpass). We will ask in fall of 2018.”
He was referring to the 2018 election ballot.
Salmon Arm council members discussed plans for the proposed Ross Street underpass at their Dec. 12 meeting, in response to a letter from resident Jim Kimmerly.
In his letter, Kimmerly states he thinks it is risky to spend the $500,000 allotted for underpass design in the city’s 2017 budget, prior to holding a referendum.
“This looks to be a high-risk decision with the possibility of getting nothing in return for the investment if the voting result is a no. There has to be a better solution that can be applied versus gambling on a yes vote for the referendum.”
Harrison commented: “Our job here is to inform the public, the costs of the project, the benefits of the project, the cons of the project, and to have people make an informed vote when they decide. We don’t really know if council will approve it in 2018 or not.”
If not, he said, “maybe four or eight years down the road.”
Harrison referred to the city’s budget, pointing out that all money for the design comes from development cost charges (DCCs) paid for by developers on the lake side of the railway tracks.
“It didn’t come from general reserves, but from a special DCC reserve paid into when development is done – it can only be used for that purpose,” he said.
“The underpass piece will always be there. The money spent by developers for that piece will be spent that way. Whether it’s done in the next five or 10 years, (the design) has to be there before we can ask the question.”
He added that a design is required before the city can apply for grants.
Coun. Chad Eliason agreed.
“You can’t be grant ready… pen ready until you’re shovel ready,” he said, noting costs can’t be determined until a design has been determined.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond said the actual question for citizens would be, ‘do you approve of long-term borrowing for an underpass?’
“We can’t have plans on the back of a napkin…”
She said while businesses can take risks, local governments can’t.
Coun. Tim Lavery said the letter has created a good opportunity to clarify that the referendum will “not be a thumbs up or a thumbs down, it will have a specific number to it, what the costs are…”
He said it will provide the implications of a yes and a no.
Coun. Kevin Flynn said other councillors had voiced most of his points.
Referring to Kimmerley’s comment about gambling on a yes vote, he said he doesn’t think the city does a good enough job communicating its budget to the public.
He said perhaps a budget news release, a document on the website and a meeting where people can ask questions would be preferable.
“I’ve had more questions this year than ever before, even though I thought it was a really good-news budget.”
After the meeting, Kimmerly said he appreciated council members taking the time to respond to his letter, but he thinks their view is a bit naive.
“It would be a long time before any other council would look at it if it’s defeated,” he said.
Kimmerly added that while he knows a large contingent of residents support an underpass, there’s also a large group that would prefer an overpass and another that doesn’t want one at all.