By Eric Elliott
The Village of Radium Hot Springs held its second open house presentation on December 7th to show residents the nearly finalized design for the new community hall. The design of the building wasnt what residents were mostly concerned with, though.
Instead, after the presentation by architect Shelly Craig of Urban Arts Architecture, residents voiced their displeasure with the loan approval process of borrowing $3.2 million for the completion of the hall. The Village of Radium Hot Springs council had passed a motion on October 26th for the alternative approval process to acquire the loan, which, while avoiding a referendum, requires 10 per cent of the eligible electorate to come forward in opposition of the loan for it to be rejected.
The loan will require residents to pay an extra $105 per year in property taxes. Some residents at the presentation were unhappy with the alternate approval process and voiced their displeasure after the design portion had concluded.
I think we should have a referendum, said Patt McHarg, a resident of Radium. The reason were not having a referendum is because were talking about saving $2,500 on the cost of having a referendum $2,500 versus $3.2 million that were borrowing? I just have a real problem with us saying yay or nay to this based on 58 people in this community.
The other concern he had was that people who own a second home in Radium are not being properly addressed to participate in this process.
The other members of the community, the 571 who happen to be snowbirds going for the winter, get no say in this, he said. Theoretically, there were three of us there at the last committee meeting. If that was the interest in the community on whether or not were going to borrow $3.2 million, Im afraid its going to be a white wash and it will be pushed through.
Not everyone in attendance was in favour of a referendum, however. Lawanda Neilsen said that she doesnt support referendums in politics.
I dont think it serves democracy very well, she said. Weve had a place out here since 2003, but I always thought that I had a voice through the surveys and I knew this was coming so my part of democracy is I vote in the council to make good decisions. If there is a referendum, I will certainly go out and vote, but that would not be what I feel is necessary to move this.
Radium mayor Clara Reinhardt, speaking after Mr. McHarg, mentioned that while the $3.2 million loan is substantially higher than the initial reported loan of $2.2 million estimated in September.
Weve had some preliminary work done and were confident that were not going to have to pay that much, but when we ask for permission we have to ask for the worst case scenario so thats why it went up that much, she said.
Chief administrative officer Mark Read said that the $3.2 million also includes a $900,000 contingency fee, which is above the 25 per cent increase in costs that are projected for the project.
Our building contract manager has been having discussion with trades people and contractors and has been evaluating various different cost estimates and were entirely convinced that were going to be able to bring those costs down considerably, he said.
Originally, Mayor Reinhardt said they avoided using the referendum to get approval for the loan because of the costs associated with running a referendum in addition to it taking longer to come to a formal conclusion.
Based on the fact that people have known for arguably eight years that we are on a platform of building a new hall, we felt that with the surveys and the fact that people are on board with a new hall that everyone had an implicit understanding that if youre going to build a hall, youre going to have to pay for it, she said.
That process may be changing however, with three candidates having put their name forward to fill the vacant position on council created by former Councillor Karen Larsens departure, which could force a by-election as early as January 14th. If that is the case, Mayor Reinhardt said they would decide at the December 14th council meeting (which took place after The Pioneers press deadline) if they would attach a referendum to the ballot as it wouldnt cost any more money and would bring about a quicker decision on the loan approval.