Port Clements council could sure use a pot of gold at the end of Rainbow Wharf.
In 2015, engineers found the ageing wharf needs about $330,000 in pilings repairs to bring it back to its full weight-bearing standard, which is only 8,000 kg.
At the moment, the village has put up a sign warning people not to drive loads of 3,500 kg or more onto the wharf, and the main commercial user, O’Brien & Fuerst Logging, has signed a waiver promising not to sue the village and to make repairs should any of its vehicles punch through.
Even if council decides to go ahead with the $330,000 repair, the village will likely face a similar repair bill for the wharf just eight to 10 years later.
While Port Clements does have the money — there is $624,000 remaining in its four-year Gwaii Trust infrastructure grant — spending so much on the wharf would limit what else the village can do.
“Do we want to use all our Gwaii Trust money to maintain that dock?” asked Mayor Urs Thomas when the issue arose at a Sept. 5 council meeting.
“That’s a tough question, and we’re struggling with this,” he said.
“We’ll try to figure out what the public thinks about it.”
The only thing councillors decided on Sept. 5 was to have staff draft a newsletter that explains the Rainbow Wharf situation and the village’s options for dealing with it.
Kim Mushynsky, chief administrative officer for the village, reminded council that Port Clements agreed to lease the wharf from the province.
Once the responsibility of the federal government, it was transferred to the province but leased to the village, which also received over $500,000 in federal grants for repairs done from 2004 and 2009, before the transfer and lease.
“We don’t own it, so we can’t divest of it,” Mushynsky explained.
“We have a contract that says we are responsible for keeping it in an operational state of repair until 2032.”
While the village receives some rent from commercial users, the wharf already costs the village about $3,500 a year in upkeep.
Mushynsky said one option for the village may be to redefine the load limits for the wharf, or even make it open for foot-traffic only.
As Councillor Doug Daugert pointed out, the existing load limits on the wharf were set back in the 1950s, when “heavy” equipment was a small dump truck carrying six yards of material.
“They wouldn’t cover the loads that are being used now,” Daugert said.
“That use would still be prohibited even if we brought it up to the standards given by the engineers.”
Councillor Elizabeth Stewart suggested asking B.C.’s new government if it might help the village with the wharf repairs.
Stewart also echoed Mayor Thomas and other councillors by agreeing the issue is high-stakes enough that all Port Clements residents should have a say.
“I personally think we should take this to the town, give them a voice as to what they want to see happen to this wharf,” she said.
“We’ve had it a long time, and it’s not used just by commercial people.”
Besides a newsletter and a future town-hall meeting on the issue, councillors discussed a recommendation from Mayor Thomas who suggested the issue could go to a referendum held during the next municipal election in October 2018.
“They have to be aware of the tax implications,” Thomas said.