North Island Gazette file photo of Port McNeill council

North Island Gazette file photo of Port McNeill council

Port McNeill council unsure about helping fund backup battery system for regional arena

Cost for the project is budgeted at a maximum of $48,000.


A letter from the Regional District of Mount Waddington requesting a $16,000 contribution towards a backup battery system for the Chilton Regional Arena received an ‘icy’ reception by some councillors at Tuesday’s (Jan. 26) Port McNeill council meeting.

The proposal, put forward by the Regional District of Mount Waddington (RDMW), is for an 11 kw system that would also connect to the existing 8.5 kw solar array. The combination would ensure there is enough backup power in the arena to run the office computer, lighting, kitchen, emergency lighting and fire alarms.

Writing on behalf of the RDMW, chief administrator officer Greg Fletcher explained how the installation of a backup battery system would allow the Chilton Regional Arena to safely respond to power outages and, should the need arise, be available as a regional emergency centre.

Cost for the project is budgeted at a maximum of $48,000 with $32,000 of that being paid through the RDMW’s gas tax revenues with the remaining $16,000 to be picked up by Port McNeill.

It would be an expense that Coun. Shelley Downey pointed out did not have to come from property taxes but could instead (if approved by council) be paid for out of the new federal/provincial COVID-19 restart funding program that is available.

Coun. Derek Koel was supportive of the project but felt the discussion would be more appropriate for budget deliberations.

However, in order to get a better understanding of the request, he explained that he had taken the time to meet earlier with Fletcher, and after that conversation, felt the emergency centre idea was good and something the town could take advantage of.

Coun. Ryan Mitchell disagreed, saying: “There was no business case for it.” Adding, “They’re just looking for us to share in the funding of something I don’t personally happen to agree with because I don’t like technology.”

Mitchell went on to say: “I don’t see how it benefits the town of Port McNeill. This is just an ongoing cost like the windmill we had that the previous council bought. The arena has been around for a long time without backup power at this level and I don’t see why they need it now.”

Coun. Ann-Marie Baron was also uncertain with the proposal explaining: “I’m not understanding it. What the expanded regional emergency part of it would mean?”

Given her uncertainty, she explained she’d rather table the request and, “…get a little bit of clarification before I said no. Because on the face of it, I wouldn’t support it.”

A motion by Baron to table the request until the detailed proposal was brought before council was passed.

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