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Residents say ‘enough already’ to city borrowing

It could be a little crowded at tonight’s city council meeting.

The group Enough Already! City of PG AAP, which is raising concerns about the city borrowing about $40 million for various capital projects this year, is calling residents to jam council chambers and send a message to city council that … well, enough already.

“This is not a protest and we are not there to engage councillors or staff or to disrupt the meeting in any way,” reads a post on the group’s Facebook page. “This is an opportunity to show city council and senior management that we expect and demand more.”

The Facebook group, which sprang up after the city announced it was looking to borrow $32.2 million for 11 capital projects this year. Since then, of course, the bill has come due on the Winnipeg Street sinkhole ($1.7 million) and the Willow Cale bridge repairs ($6.8 million) so the borrowing tab is now getting close to $40 million.

This is over-and-above the $50 million that residents, through referenda, gave the city the greenlight to borrow to replace the Four Seasons Pool and Firehall #1 in 2017.

“This is the start of a process to acquire the required votes to defeat the City of Prince George’s motion to borrow $32.2 million (now $40 million),” the group posted on its page. “It is time to send a message that continuous borrowing coupled with constant tax increases well above the rate of inflation is not sustainable.”

The group, other than sending a message to council tonight, is going to work hard to put the kibosh on that borrowing through the alternative approval process. Under that process, concerned residents have to collect signatures of at least 10 per cent, just over 5,000, of the electorate who are opposed to the borrowing.

The group will be allowed to start collecting signatures April 18 and will have until May 30 to collect the required 10 per cent. It’s a daunting task and, since it was designed by the very folks who don’t like holding referendums to get voter approval, isn’t easy.

An added wrinkle is that there is no omnibus bill here. Each of the 13 projects the city wants to borrow money for require its own alternate approval process. In other words, those collecting signatures will require 13 signatures to stop all 13 of the projects.

The group will likely be better off to pick one or two projects and focus on those.

Tonight city council will be dealing with the bridge and sinkhole repair projects. Council will be told that the projects are completed and already paid for. The borrowing will be to replenish the reserve funds the city used for the work, which begs the question: Why build up a reserve fund if you’re simply going to borrow money to replenish the fund? Isn’t that the idea of a reserve fund … to have money on hand for an emergency so you don’t have to borrow? Just askin.’

City council gets underway at 6 p.m.

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