The Skeena-Queen Charlotte regional district is planning to buy its own building in Prince Rupert, a move which will eventually save money, says chair Barry Pages.
“It’s definitely going to be a great move for the taxpayers in the long term,” said Mr. Pages, who is also the mayor of Masset. “We’re the only regional district in the province that doesn’t own a building.”
Currently, the regional district rents an office building from the city of Prince Rupert at a cost of $43,900 a year. This is offset by rent received from Prince Rupert Archives, which shares the building and contributes $10,950 a year, said regional district administrator Janet Beil.
Directors started looking around for a building to purchase about six months ago, Mr. Pages said, after Prince Rupert mayor Herb Pond made comments about the city possibly having other uses for the office. The current building is Rupert’s former tourist info centre, and about a dozen visitors come in the doors every day and have to be re-directed, he said.
The regional district is planning to buy the former CBC building near Rupert Square Mall. Ms Beil said the depressed condition of Rupert’s real estate market means right now is a good time to buy. The regional district has a tentative deal in place to buy the building for $295,000 (it is currently assessed at $350,000, she said). Planned improvements will cost a further $250,000, bringing the total amount the regional district must borrow to $545,000.
The debt would be paid back within 16 years, Ms Beil said, at an annual cost of $53,829. Prince Rupert Archives would also move into the new building and would continue to pay the regional district rent of $10,950 per year.
Overall, the purchase scenario will cost taxpayers about $9,000 more per year for the next 16 years, she said. After that, no more payments would be required.
“It’s a real win situation for the taxpayer,” Ms Beil said, adding that she may be able to get grants to help cover the cost of renovations, which would lower the amount the regional district must borrow.
But before it can borrow the money, the regional district needs the approval of the voters. The board has decided to undertake an “alternate approval process”, Ms Beil said, which means it will go ahead with the purchase unless at least 10 percent of eligible electors – or 1,160 people – sign response forms opposing the plan.
According to the notice placed in the Observer, the response forms are only available at the Rupert office, but Ms Beil said she will bring some over to the islands this week and leave them at the Queen Charlotte management committee office. She will also fax or e-mail forms to anyone who requests them.
So far, she said, she has received only positive comments about the plan.
Voters who are opposed to the plan must submit their response forms to the regional district by Oct. 4. If less than 1,160 are received, the regional district will move ahead. If all goes as planned, Ms Beil said, the deal will close on Nov. 15 and renovations could be done in about eight weeks.
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