Quesnel Mayor clarifies the multi-centre status

We received a request from the Observer this week, regarding Mr. Mike Kolody’s letter to the editor of April 21 that dealt with the Multi-Centre. The request, which came from an Observer reader, asked that we clarify the points Mr. Kolody raised.

First, I must preface this with a key point. Unless there are factual inaccuracies in a news story, opinion column or letter to the editor, City Council has a policy of not responding to items like Mr. Kolody’s letter.

While he wrote an excellent letter, he made a number of points that don’t explain the whole picture and could be misinterpreted.

Perhaps the most important aspect to remember regarding the Multi-Centre is that it is the Cariboo Regional District’s and City of Quesnel’s joint project under North Cariboo Recreation and Parks. It belongs to the more than 23,000 people who call the North Cariboo home (including those inside and outside City boundaries). As the City manages that function, you will often see City staff working on the file, giving presentations etc.

The first assertion I must deal with is that there was a “veiled hint” that the project is “dead in the water.” On the contrary, this project is very much alive and we are working very hard to make it a reality.

We know there are passionate supporters of the project – that’s who we’re trying to engage with to lobby senior government for support. That’s why we’re looking for the public to get involved in our fundraising committee and help us come up with fresh, new ideas for fundraising at the senior government, corporate and grassroots level.

The CRD has the Multi Centre as its top capital priority for infrastructure grant applications. It has also been Council’s number three priority (right behind the West Quesnel Land Stability Program and the overall Financial Sustainability of the Corporation) since 2008.

As for some of the other points Mr. Kolody raised (in italics below), I can provide some more information.

March 9, 2009 (a mere three months after the referendum passed) councillor Paull presented a motion to council that the multi-centre project be removed from the council’s priority list.

Yes, Council resolved to remove the Multi-Centre project from a priority list, but it wasn’t our strategic priority list; rather, it was the list of projects for which we would apply to the Building Canada – Communities Component fund. The CRD had already applied to Building Canada, on behalf of North Cariboo recreation and Parks, for the Multi-Centre in 2008, with plans to resubmit in the spring of 2009 (both of which were unsuccessful). Council felt we should apply for our top City priority, WQLS. That application resulted in grant funding of $3.14 million to help the more than 750 homes, elementary school and business community affected by land stability.

At the March 30, 2009 council meeting, this councillor artfully declared that the proposed multi-centre is a regional priority.

Making the project a regional priority was not only artful, it was accurate. It created a broader population base that senior governments consider when determining how much funding to provide.

April 6, 2009 the city manager explained to council that no applications for funding for other projects be made lest they jeopardize funding for land slippage.

Again, Council knew that the CRD had applied for the Multi-Centre already and that we would keep WQLS as our top priority.

April 20, 2009, council passed a motion making flood protection their number two priority.

There is a specific program, designed solely for flood protection projects, that falls under the Building Canada envelope.

October 7, 2009, council was informed by staff that applications for grant monies for a new museum had been processed.The City applied in December 2007 to Western Economic Diversification for a grant to complete design work for a proposed Museum and Visitor Centre.  The City also applied for grants from the same funding program for a number of other projects including for design work and planning for the Multi-Centre.  Applications were also submitted for both projects to the Northern Development Initiative Trust, from which both received funding.  The design work for the museum project was finalized in the spring of 2009 and final reporting was completed in the fall of that year.  The Multi-Centre project received funding from the same programs and the design work was completed in March 2010.  The City has made no financial commitment and has not applied for grant funding to advance the Museum and Visitor Centre project beyond the Design Development stage.  The Multi-Centre project on the other hand is ‘shovel ready.’

At the UBCM in early October 2009, council members met with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Shirley Bond to discuss West Quesnel Land Stability and a Highway 97 North-South Connector.

Mr. Kolody probably wasn’t aware that representatives from the CRD, including myself, have met with several ministers and the premier on several occasions regarding this project. Director Ted Armstrong and I also travelled to Prince George recently to meet with Ministers Pat Bell and Shirley Bond, specifically on this topic. Just last week we spoke with several of the new cabinet ministers and, as was mentioned at the information session, we’ve sent out more than 25 information packages to various provincial and federal representatives, including the Prime Minister, the new Premier and multiple cabinet ministers.

There simply haven’t been many opportunities for government funding; those that have existed, such as the Building Canada Program, we have acted upon.

Unfortunately, these programs are oversubscribed.

As a City Council, we can’t pursue only one project. We’re leading an entire City, with the concerns of all residents and businesses to consider.

I can assure you that we spend considerable time and effort on this project, as does our staff.

As elected officials, we have a mandate, by way of the referendum, to see this project through to construction and I assure you we are doing all we can.

If you’d like to help us contact me, any member of Council, CRD director, or staff person and we’d be more than willing to work with you.

Do you have a question for Mayor Mary Sjostrom? E-mail it to us at newsroom@quesnelobserver.com and we’ll forward it to the Mayor so she can answer it in an upcoming column.






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