Divestiture of public docks was on the agenda at the SCRD’s infrastructure services committee Jan. 18 meeting, despite an agreement by SCRD directors in 2011 that they would not revisit divestiture for 10 years.
The SCRD held extensive public consultations in 2011, which ended in the retention of all the public docks. The SCRD owns and manages nine ports which were turned over by the federal government in 2000. Seven are in Area F (Hopkins Landing, plus six docks on Keats and Gambier Islands), and two are in Area B, (Halfmoon Bay, and Vaucroft on Thormanby Island).
The issue has arisen again because staff were asked to produce a management plan for ports and estimate the cost of maintenance and repairs over the next 20 years.
A delegation from the North Thormanby Island Community Association appeared at the Jan. 18 meeting to urge the SCRD to repair the wharf at Vaucroft, which they described as being in “poor condition.”
In a written submission to the committee, they stated that “the residents/owners on the Island are very concerned about the future of the wharf,” which is the only dock on the island and essential for transportation and emergency services.
The letter states: “Thormanby Island has been a ‘cash cow’ for the SCRD. The owners pay significant taxes without the benefit of water, sewers, fire protection, etcetera. The only tangible benefits are the wharf and the once per year garbage barge.”
The SCRD staff report calculated the “substantial accumulated deferred maintenance” required by all nine ports at approximately $1.2 million, while the ports capital reserve sits at $190,000. Staff have reviewed four ports in detail, and are working on the other five, so estimates are preliminary. The total annual cost of maintaining the ports was estimated at $370,000 per year.
The report concludes that, notwithstanding the 2011 agreement about divestiture, new financial information “could prompt communities to consider divestment in a new light.”
Area F Director, Ian Winn, commented: “I guess my worst case expectation of the future financial burden of this function to the SCRD taxpayers is being realized.”
While acknowledging that ports are critical to the islands, he left the door open to divestiture.
“In 2000 the federal government and the SCRD struck a deal with allowed the SCRD to get nine ports for free plus $1.2 million. Eighteen years later, and considering the divestment in a new light, we would be hard pressed to find anybody who would want to take on these assets and the enormous escalating costs to maintain them for even 10 cents on the dollar,” said Winn.
“It may be more prudent to consider, just like the feds did 18 years ago, to pay someone to take them off our hands. In retrospect that deal of 2000 probably was one of the worst deals we ever got into at the SCRD.”
No decisions were made at the Jan. 18 meeting. Port expenditures will be discussed by the board as part of the 2018 budget process. At present 50 per cent of ports costs are paid by Area F, 21 per cent by Area B, 17 per cent by Area D and 12 per cebt by Area E.