A portion of a major provincial grant received by the District of Houston last year helped finance the ammonia replacement project at the arena. (District of Houston photo)

Local governments receiving provincial grants

Meant for infrastructure projects and planning

The District of Houston is getting just over $2 million from a renewed provincial program allowing northwestern B.C. local governments to undertake capital projects or undergo long range planning.

The $2.074 million is on top of the $4.486 million the District received last year when the Northern Capital and Planning Grant program was first announced.

This year’s total grant for northwestern local governments is $50 million and last year’s grant was $100 million.

What to do with the 2020 was the subject of an agenda item on last night’s District of Houston council meeting, past the deadline for publication in this week’s Houston Today.

But in a statement last week mayor Shane Brienen expressed his appreciation for the money.

”These funds will be essential to carry out necessary replacements of our aging infrastructure that we would otherwise be unable to complete with our limited funding sources,” he said.

Also receiving money is the Village of Burns Lake which is in line for $1.267 million. Last year it received $3.439 million.

The Village of Granisle will receive $358,000 compared to last year’s $2.353 million.

Granisle mayor Linda McGuire said the money will enable it to plan for eventual infrastructure replacement. Speaking last week, municipal affairs minister Selina Robinson said this year’s $50 million is a pre-COVID-19 allocation and not connected to the provincial response to the pandemic.

“It really came from ongoing conversations we’ve had with the mayors about their needs and I want to give them a shout out for that,” she said.

“It’s to prepare local governments for the growth that’s coming, realizing that we are going to get to that,” Robinson added of an eventual post-COVID-19 period.

In addition to the $50 million, the province is also providing $25 million under a separate allocation to the Northern Development Initiative Trust which will then make the money available for projects such as housing, health care and child care.

“What we’re doing is recognizing that different communities have different challenges,” Robinson said.

Distribution amounts are based on the populations of local governments.

Robinson emphasized that grant use is unrestricted, allowing local governments to spend on projects specific to their needs.

She noted that the money can also be used by local governments as their contributions in applying for other grants, something that’s not always possible for smaller municipalities who have a limited tax base.

From last year’s $4.486 million, the District was able to commit $225,373 to help finance the engineering for its comprehensive downtown rehabilitation and beautification program and it added $360,000 to its road rehabilitation program.

Another $150,000 was used to close the financing gap to replace the aging ammonia plant at the arena.

For this year, the District is committing $1.796 million of last year’s grant to replacing downtown utilities, a significant help in the District’s longterm downtown rehabilitation and beautification plan.

A further $421,300 is going toward road rehabilitation elsewhere and $200,000 is to be spent on playground safety upgrades.

And looking ahead as the District contemplates replacing aging assets, $40,000 is being spent on a community hall replacement concept design and $50,000 on a firehall replacement design.

In 2022, the District will have committed all of the 2019 grant by allocating $891,968 toward the new community hall project.

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