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Council authorizes borrowing for downtown building purchase

Lloydminster City Council has decided to approve the borrowing of $4,716,000, in order to purchase the Synergy Credit Union building in the downtown core.

The purchase was first approved last month, during the council meeting of June 27, to serve as the first stage of the new Community Hub project. However, as the municipal government did not have the funds needed to make the purchase, funds needed to be borrowed from the Alberta Capital Finance Authority.

The move to borrow the funds did not pass unanimously around the council chamber, with multiple councillors weighing in on the item before it went to a vote.

Councillor Ken Baker was vocal in his disagreement about the borrowing, while councillors Larry Sauer and Jason Whiting both argued in favour of the decision. Lloydminster mayor Rob Saunders also weighed in, speaking about the need to be both financially prudent, while calling the purchase and the Community Hub project  a “bold move”.

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The decision to borrow passed 6-1 in favour of borrowing the money.

Councillor Lachlan Cummine had brought the item to the chamber, and later said that the borrowing of the funds will not interfere with other capital projects, such as the wastewater treatment plant replacement or the twinning of Highway 17.

“We still want to keep those other projects, first and foremost, but the opportunity came to purchase this building and key parking lots in the downtown area, and we thought that as a city we have committed to supporting the downtown, and these are key properties, and we didn’t want to let those go,” said Cummine.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Sauer re-iterated his support of the project, and said it will be beneficial to the downtown.

“I see that as being a very important piece, looking forward,” said Sauer.

“I think we need to be visionary, that’s what we’re here for as well. Certainly there are costs, but as I said, for me, that does not trump the wastewater treatment plant. That’s still a big priority.”

As for whether or not the borrowing of money gave the entire Community Hub project a green light, Sauer said the work will proceed in stages.

“At this point, it’s for the purchase, and then the entire project going forward, we’ll going to have to see,” said Sauer.

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“We’re going to have to phase that in, as we are able to do that.”

Baker also spoke after the meeting, and said his opposition to the borrowing driven out of concern for the multiple capital projects the City is working on.

“I just don’t know how we’re going to pay for all this, because it’s all borrowed money, and it’s going to come right out of the taxpayers’ pockets, and something is going to go short over the next number of years,” said Baker.

“As much as it might be a great project, we just can’t afford it right now.”

According to the supporting documents detailing the stages of the Community Hub project, funding is expected to come from government grants, sponsorships, and a third party investor. A start date for the next phase of the project is not yet known.

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