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Prince Rupert & Port Edward receive almost $5M in Community Growth Funding

North Coast communities to benefit from slice of $1 billion pie
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice meets with Port Edward Mayor Knut Bjorndal on March 3 after the $1 billion Community Growth Funding announcement made by the provincial government allocating money to all 188 municipalities and districts in B.C. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Several North Coast communities will benefit with millions of dollars issued from the Growing Communities fund, the provincial government announced on March 3.

Prince Rupert will receive a $4,068,000 slice of the $1 billion pie, Port Edward will receive $669,000 portion with North Coast District taking a $1.16 million bite. Daajing Giids will receive $863,000, Masset $764,000 and Port Clements an even $600 K.

The one-time funding was previously announced on Feb. 10, with all 188 B.C. municipalities and districts learning today the amounts which they will receive by the end of March.

The distribution formula included an initial $500,000 per community with further adjustments for population size and per-capita growth between 2016 to 2021 based on B.C. stats data. This method considers the impacts of service and amenity demands on smaller and rural communities and the additional pressures experienced by faster-growing communities, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs stated in a press release.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, Princ Rupert Mayor Herb Pond and Port Edward Mayor Knut Bjorndal all weighed in on the funding announcement with enthusiasm.

“I’m really pleased to be able to provide funding for the local governments within the North Coast riding. The money is not grant money, so basically, has no strings attached. [This] is something I know, particularly with the small communities that I represent, they struggle with fitting their project plan into the parameters of grant funding,” Rice told The Northern View.

Often grant applications require starting capital to be approved. Rice said this new boost can be used as leveraging for that purpose to secure more funding through various streams and that is something that will benefit Prince Rupert with its current aging infrastructure deterioration.

“The setback that we had this winter with the frozen, broken and burst pipes has really taken a toll on this year’s budget,” the MLA said. “I know, after speaking with Mayor Pond, that the money we provided for Prince Rupert, which is over $4 million, will be able to actually address some of the crisis that we faced this winter. So I think residents and community members will be really pleased that we’ll be able to address that.”

Pond said he is extremely grateful for the funding, which city council will need to decide on its allocation. However, several areas have already been noted.

“The good news is this grant allows the municipality to spend it where ever we think it makes the most sense for the people of Prince Rupert. It is completely unrestricted, which is unusual in government grants. So we’re thankful for that …”

“There’s no shortage of places for us to put that money to work,” the Prince Rupert mayor said, adding council and staff will look for the most strategic places for the money to be used, such as capital projects and financial leveraging.

Pond said that while $4 million is a lot of money compared to the estimated $600 million needed to replace all of the infrastructure, he suspects the funding will not affect the upcoming budget overall. He explained there are two streams of money for the city, the operating budget and the capital budget. He would like to see the money used for projects that will have a longer-term impact on the community and hopes city councillors will consider putting some toward capital.

“… Certainly, I’ll be pushing to say that this should be applied to some capital project — something that we might not have been able to do had we not got this money, or at least not been able to get to this year,” he said.

“You know, it really still is the classic ‘how do you climb a mountain’ — you do it one step at a time. And $4 million is four million steps towards the destination.”

Bjorndal said the funding came just at the right time for the Port Edward District and the money will likely be used for infrastructure such as building new roads, sewer or water.

“We’re fairly fortunate. We don’t have a lot of old water and sewer pipes … But we do have some roads that need some major upgrading. We’ve got a few roads that are in fairly bad shape and this will go a long way to having us made whole again,” the Port Edward mayor said.

“I just like to thank the province and our MLA that this came pretty quickly. So we’re gonna get on with the work we have to do.”

All local governments are required to report on the use of funds in their annual audited financial statements. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs will provide further guidance to municipalities and regional districts on the use of their funds in the coming weeks, the media statement reads.