The old forestry building now belonging to the Village of McBride for their public works dept.
The old forestry building now belonging to the Village of McBride for their public works dept.

By: Korie Marshall

The Village of McBride has purchased a 10-acre property to use as its new Public Works yard and to provide economic development opportunities for the town. The purchase is funded by a $250,000 grant from Northern Development Initiative Trust, with the remainder coming from Village reserves, said Incumbent Mayor Mike Fraser at the recent All Candidates Forum in McBride.

A news release from the Village says it has reached an agreement to purchase the former Ministry of Forests site at 600 NW Frontage Road for $495,000. The 10.04-acre property is adjacent to Highway 16 and next to property currently owned by the municipality. Public Works has been operating from the site since mid-September, since having to relocate from their previous site.

The Village estimates the cost to replace the Public Works facilities would have been approximately $600,000. The release says the Village spent the past year looking for the most economically viable property within the community to relocate their Public Works Yard.

“The purchase of 600 NW Frontage Road was the most cost-effective opportunity for the taxpayers, especially with the $250,000 grant from Northern Development Initiative Trust,” said Frazier in the release. “Additionally, purchasing this site gives the people of McBride the ability to repurpose a vacant site that is a significant land mark in our community.”

The commercial property includes a 14,000 square foot building, the Public Works shop, office space and a large, easily customizable open indoor space. The Village plans to review potential options to use this site as a foundation to create economic opportunities, says the release.

During the All Candidates Forum on Oct. 29th, Frazier said the village got the building for “pretty cheap.”

“The reason we jumped on that was that Steve Thompson, the guy that owns the property, had taken out a demolition permit to take the building down, and we would have lost about six or seven thousand dollars in taxation,” said Frazier in response to a written question about how the Village can afford to lose taxes for that property, but not from moving the library. “We took a shot, a calculated risk that promoting the rest of the land as an economic development opportunity would far offset the loss.” He says not only did the Village get a home for Public Works and but also the opportunity for economic development and a lot more taxation if the property is divided up. He said moving the library to 521 Main Street, whether the property is zoned commercial or public development, wouldn’t change the taxation.

“They have to come to the municipality and ask for permissive exemption. It will be up to whoever is in council to consider a permissive exemption on the taxes on 521 Main Street should the library go in there.”

Ralph Bezanson, candidate for Councillor, asked Frazier where the rest of the money to buy the property will come from. Frazier responded that there is about $1 million in surplus, and it will come from that. “We are in good shape,” said Frazier about the Village’s finances.

In a news release from NDIT on the funding, Frazier said the property “will be used create a unique opportunity for small businesses who are looking to operate on the highway, and will encourage economic growth in our community.”

The news release from NDIT says the proposed renovations to the commercial site have the potential to increase its value by almost $300,000, and there is potential for McBride to generate more than $730,000 in new revenue over the next five years through office rentals and commercial land leases. It also says the operating expenses for Public Works will be reduced.

The project was approved through NDIT’s Economic Diversification Infrastructure program, which has already approved 20 projects with a total funding commitment of over $4 million.

The release from NDIT says the office space will house the new Grow Robson Valley – Business Support Centre, which will act as a hub where local entrepreneurs can gain assistance through professional services.

Geoffrey Roy, Economic Development Officer, says the Village is in the initial stages of developing a strategy to use the remainder of the site. “At this time we are not certain what shape that will take, or whether it will include subdividing or not.”