Sylvan Lake weighing its options after grant applications rejected

Town of Sylvan Lake will have to do some number crunching after $7.2 million worth of grants were turned down.

Town of Sylvan Lake will have to do some number crunching after $7.2 million worth of grants were turned down.

The town was hoping to get $5.8 million to go towards a new $6.5-million water reservoir through the federal and provincial governments’ Small Communities Fund. A second $1.4-million grant was sought to help pay for the ongoing redevelopment of Lakeshore Drive.

Last month, council got the bad news that the grants were not coming.

Dave Brand, Sylvan Lake director of public works, said it’s always disappointing not to get hoped-for money but it was a program that was in high demand provincewide.

“Certainly, I’m sure the projects the funding is going towards are very worthwhile and have their merits.”

The town’s 10-year capital plan does not assume grant applications will succeed, he said.

“We do make accommodations to finance them accordingly without having to rely upon grant dollars. In that instance, while grant dollars would have been extremely helpful for us, it leaves us with our other options.”

Those include borrowing, dipping into reserves, and tapping other funding sources, such as provincial Municipal Sustainability Initiative or Federal Gas Tax grants.

Council has some time to do some number juggling. A decision was made earlier this summer to delay the fifth and sixth phases of the long-running redevelopment project because of a lack of tender interest.

Only a single bid came in on both projects and council opted to re-tender both projects together next year in hopes of getting more competitive pricing.

Phase 5 would finish sidewalks and roadwork from 33rd Street east to the Hwy 20 roundabout. Phase 6 does similar work from 52nd Street to Marina Bay.

The bid was $2.1 million, which was $600,000 more than the town had budgeted. While the bid on Phase 6 was $1.6 million — far below the $2.6 million the town had budgeted — there was no guarantee the work could be done this year or that the price was competitive.

On the reservoir front, there is time to pull together the necessary funding because the reservoir was slated as a 2018 project. This fall, preliminary design and site selection work will be tendered.

Like most municipalities, Sylvan Lake’s water system is designed to pay for itself through rates charged to residents and other users. Rates were already projected to go up and the town will spread the project over a number of years to avoid big increases to the flat rate, which is used to pay for infrastructure.

Tapping other grants or reserves and borrowing are other options to be reviewed.

The total cost of the reservoir will be in the $10-million range as other phases are built well into the 2020s.

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