Tag Archives: City of Grand Forks

City continues to benefit from slag fund

With a mining history, the City of Grand Forks is still able to make a profit, and in turn benefit from its Slag Sales Reserve Fund.

The slag pile fund is a reserve fund that collects royalties from the sale of slag by Pacific Abrasives, the company that now operates the site.

Slag is the remnants of copper that was mined at the Granby Mining site by the Granby Mining Company Ltd. since the early 1900s.

When the copper was removed from the mines, it was then refined and made into a product that could be utilized in various industrial operations.

During the smelting process, a byproduct that is produced is a black slag, caused because it has a strong iron component.

“There’s all kinds of mining slag around the world and this is one of the few slags that we would call inert,” explained Lynne Burch, Chief Administrative Officer. “There is no arsenic in it and therefore it can go right into the water, which is why the U.S. Navy likes to use it to clean their ships.”

The slate is crushed into a granular state and shipped by rail from Grand Forks to the U.S. Navy in San Diego, Calif.

There are two types of slag created by Pacific Abrasives.

“There’s the granulated slag, which are the smaller bits, seen in the large piles off Granby Road, and the blocks underneath called the ladle slag,” Burch described.
“The ladle slag, when the smelting process of the copper was underway near the bank of the water, becomes hard rock when it touches the cold water.”

The slag becomes diamond hard and has a thermal quality to it that makes it a good product for insulation, she stated.

“The city bought the rights to the slag pile in the 1960s and we have an exclusive agreement with Pacific Abrasives that allows them to utilize the slag and sell it,” stated Burch. “In return, the city gets a royalty, which is a payment per ton. Right now its $2.50 per ton.”

Depending on the market, some years are better than others, but Burch believes there is around 20 years left of slag material to be crushed and sold. “We make money off of that and all the money that we make goes into what we call a reserve fund, like a savings account. We’ve been spending money out of the slag fund for the city since 1977.”

The fund has been used to update buildings and facilities like roads, the aquatic centre, City Park irrigation line and campground, and James Donaldson Park, as well as upgrades and renovations to equipment and furniture such as the fire hall completion, and airport upgrades.

City Chief Financial Officer Cecile Arnott stated, “We’ve spent more than $12 million from January 1977 for projects in the city.”

As of December 2010, the Slag Sales Reserve Fund has a balance of just over $1 million. Figures for 2011 will be released sometime next month.

“Council decides when to use the slag fund, and different councils have different priorities for the slag fund,” explained Burch. “The last five to seven years, council has been reluctant to use the slag fund because it’s going down. It’s not a written policy, but they have determined that they want to use it for things that they consider to be determined a legacy.”

Burch explained that in other words, ‘legacy’ is things that will be a lasting benefit for the community.

Mayor Brian Taylor noted the Slag Fund is used for important matters, which is fairly open to council interpretation on how it’s used.

“Recently, projects are more regional and have a lasting legacy to it, like the trail system,” Taylor said. “It’s been instrumental in a lot of projects including the library, the arena and swimming pool. The Slag Fund has gone into a lot of major projects over the years.”

Burch added, “The city is very lucky and unique to have to slag fund.”

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Electricity rates in city set to rise

Grand Forks residents will see an rate increase of four per cent in the price of electricity effective Jan. 1.

Last April, policy 1205 was adopted by city council addressing the issue of electrical rate increases.

The policy states that because the city buys electricity from FortisBC at a wholesale rate, staff are directed to bring forward a bylaw that would amend the Electrical Utility Regulatory Bylaw.

As outlined in the amendment bylaw, the rates to be a minimum of 98 per cent of the rates charged by FortisBC for residential homes and that commercial rates are adjusted to maintain competitive rates compared to FortisBC.

“It’s been increased with accordance to council policy,” said Lynne Burch, chief administrative officer for the city. “Council policy says that any time that there’s a rate increase given to the city by Fortis, that we automatically bring a bylaw increasing the rate to 98 per cent of the Fortis rate for residential.”

Alex Love, the city’s electric utility consultant, noted through email that the FortisBC rate would be finalized through a hearing process starting in March.

“This means the final rate will probably not be set ‘till mid-summer,” he added. “I think if there is any change between the interim and final rate it will probably be a small amount.”

In terms of electrical utility rates and connection charges, residential services will be charged a basic minimum of $14.95 per month with an additional $0.09394 per kWh (kilowatt per hour) based on actual consumption.

For commercial, industrial or institutional services, the basic minimum will be $16.50 per month with $0.10255 per kWh for the first 200,000 kWh or less consumed in a two-month billing period.
Should the usage be above 200,000 kWh, it will cost an additional $0.0761.

For service charges on existing service connection and reconnection, there will be a $30 fee. The fee applies to applications including if the owner wishes to establish a new electrical utility account in their name, having the electrical meter read, turning off or on an existing electrical service and a reconnection of a meter after disconnection for violation of the terms and conditions contained in the bylaw.

The four per cent interim rate includes a 1.5 per cent revenue requirement and a 2.5 per cent rebalancing.

“The general rate increase (1.5 per cent) is the rate change that applies to all the FortisBC customers,” stated Love. “In 2009, FortisBC had a rate design hearing to review the rates of all their customer classes (residential, wholesale, commercial …) as a result of this hearing, it was determined that some customers were not paying their fair share of electrical costs (some were paying too much, others too little). Thus there was a rate rebalancing put in place that will take two to three years to implement starting in 2011.”

Rate rebalancing resulted in a 2.5 per cent increase for FortisBC wholesale and residential rates in 2011 and 2012.

“This rate rebalance is on top of any general rate increase,” said Love. “After all the rate rebalancing is completed, the customer classes should all be paying pretty close to their fair share of electrical costs.”

Love pointed out that 2012 would see the final rate rebalance seen in the wholesale rates to the Grand Forks electrical utility.

These current rates are subject to change should the final FortisBC 2012 rate increase, but it is not expected to occur until the summer of 2012. Final reading for the bylaw occurred last Monday.

The residential electrical rates increased by 9.9 per cent in March 2011 and 3.9 per cent in July 2011. These increases include the rate rebalance component.  Grand Forks and FortisBC residential rates have both risen approximately the same amount over the last several years.

It is currently forecast that the rate increase in 2013 will be about 6.5 per cent.

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City considers upgrades to Dick Bartlett Park

City council has accepted a report from city staff in regards to submitting an application for a government funded recreation program.

The Community Recreation Program was announced by the province at the end of October and provides funding to municipalities and regional districts, with a priority towards smaller communities.

According to the Government of B.C. website, the $30-million Community Recreation Program was created to “address the unique challenges faced by communities in the province with respect to meeting their recreational infrastructure needs. The program will invest in local government capital projects that make communities healthier, more active places in which to live.”

There would be a cost sharing formula, which would see the provincial government contributing 80 per cent to a maximum of $400,000 for recreational infrastructure in support of healthier families.

The aim is to increase physical activity by providing greater access to recreation facilities, including trails, recreation centres, bike paths, walkways and playgrounds.

Should Grand Forks be successful in its application, city staff noted that costs exceeding $400,000 would have to come from city coffers, specifically from the Slag Fund Revenue Reserve Fund.

Of the three options provided by city staff, it was recommended that Dick Bartlett Park see upgrades including a green gym, water park and a walking/bike path route.

The renovations to the walking/bike path route would add to the City’s Bicycle Network Plan.

The added route would go south along 19th Street, west along 68th Avenue, and north on either 27th Street or Spraggett Road (the road going north has yet to be decided), east along Highway 3 and 25th Street, south to 72nd Avenue and continuing east to the park.

City staff recommended the upgrade to Dick Bartlett Park that would include the walking/bike path with an estimated cost of $500,000.

Should the city receive approval for the grant, there would be a maximum of $100,000 city contribution funded from the Slag Sales.

Diane Heinrich, city corporate officer, noted the application for the grant has already been submitted to meet the Dec. 28 deadline.

“It’s going to be up in the air until we hear from the province,” she stated. “Until that time there’s not too much information. They didn’t give a date for when it would be approved by, so we’re in the waiting game like everyone else.”

Located behind Grand Forks Recreation and across from the developing Silver Kettle Village, Mayor Brian Taylor felt the program would be beneficial for everyone.

“It’s clearly going to be a big advantage to them for those who will be living at Silver Kettle,” Taylor said. “But the new upgrades aren’t just for the seniors. There will also be a lot of youth work and family work as well with the water park located by the pool. The outside fitness area will also be visited by a good cross-section of the community.”

Taylor added the length of the project has also yet to be determined until they hear a response from the government.

“We’re waiting to see what the government decides before we can start planning to upgrade the park and the walking/bike path route,” he concluded.

The other options by city staff – that council passed on – took into account upgrades to a facility re-development of the library for the exterior lower floor access and the lower floor interior upgrade.
Another version of improvements to Dick Bartlett Park had a walking/running track rather than a route, and finally, an added lawn bowling facility in City Park.

For more information on the Community Recreation Program, visit cdcd.gov.bc.ca.

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