Busting the myth about proposed Waterfront roundabout funding

At the June 24, 2020 Council meeting, Councillor Scott Harrison stated that “We do have one federal grant looped into the Memorial [upgrades project] at Phase 3; I believe that was $1.3 million roughly.” John Marsh, Town Director of Finance, commented in the same meeting that “Memorial Avenue is dependent on government grants.”

Based on what Council and staff have said, readers can be excused for (incorrectly) concluding that the proposed roundabout at Memorial Avenue and Hwy 19A (aka Waterfront roundabout) would be mostly paid for by grants from the feds and the province, and that the project must proceed because we already received the money.

On August 26, 2020, in a written request, Second Opinion QB asked finance director Marsh to please “explain what ‘looped into’ means. Specifically: Has this $1.3 million in grants been received and, if so, in what year, and where is the money currently accounted for? Which government program or programs granted this money, and for which specific component or components of the Memorial upgrades project? What other grant monies, if any, are intended to offset the planned 2020 spend of $3.8 m on the project?”

We have not yet received the courtesy of a reply from Mr. Marsh.

Drawing of proposed QB Waterfront roundabout at Memorial Avenue and Hwy 19A.

However, unless and until the Town can explain otherwise, here’s what we know. Qualicum Beach was approved in 2017 to receive up to $1,431,750 of an infrastructure grant from the joint federal / provincial Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, specifically for “the Water and Wastewater Portion of the Memorial Upgrade Phase 3” project, with the Town contributing its 17% share of the $1,725,000 cost.

These grant funds were NOT for building roundabouts or any other roadwork.

The Memorial Trunk Sewer Project to “replace a failing sanitary sewer main, including provisions for incorporating a future heat recovery / local energy system” was completed in March 2020, according to Town engineer Bob Weir. Failing, or soon to fail, water and sewer systems are a Canada-wide infrastructure priority. Kudos to our Engineering and Operations Department for keeping our waterworks in shape, and for capitalizing on this $1.4 million dollar grant received in 2017, which was presumably held in reserves and used to pay a big chunk of the cost of the Memorial Trunk Sewer Project.

Related stories: Aroundabout $2,000,000

However, we question why Mr. Weir, in his dogged promotion of the discretionary, non-essential Waterfront roundabout proposed for Memorial Ave / Hwy 19A, includes the following statement related to its funding: “In March 2017, the Town received $1.4 million from Province of British Columbia, [Clean] Water and Wastewater Fund for Phase 3 of the Memorial Avenue Upgrade.”

While Weir’s statement is true, it is completely irrelevant to the proposed Waterfront roundabout — this funding applies only to sanitary sewer and / or storm sewer upgrades. Weir’s statement serves only to mislead the public, as did the comments by Councillor Harrison and John Marsh at the June 24, 2020 Council meeting.