Cyclists peddalling along a road on Quadra Island

High speed internet: Are Read, West Thurlow and part of Quadra Island being left out?

How our local government worksPart 4 of 5 from the Feb 9 SRD Board Meeting

As the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) prepares to amend its indebtedness agreement with CityWest, to pay for the installation of high speed internet, Regional Director Jim Abram is concerned that parts of area C are being left out.  

He initially asked about Surge Narrows and three areas in the southern tip of Quadra Island: the Cape Mudge light house, Cape Mudge or Tsa Kwa Luten Lodge. Later in the meeting, he also mentioned Blind Channel.

The maps that SRD staff sent to the directors on April 19th last year do not show the Cape Mudge light house, Cape Mudge or Tsa Kwa Luten Lodge, on the southern tip of Quadra Island, within the service area. Nor did they include Surge Narrows, on Read Island, or Blind Channel, on West Thurlow Island.   

 Cortes Currents posted the complete set of maps on May 4, 2021.

Three areas not included in the last mile agreement: Blind Channel on West Thurlow Island, Surge Narrows on Read Island and the southern tip of Quadra Island – adapted from Google maps by Roy L Hales

At that point it was clear that only Cortes Island, the village of Zeballos and communities of Bold Point, Granite Bay and Open Bay on Northern Quadra Island would receive the 90% funding available through the Connected Coast Program. (The SRD is providing the remaining 10%.)

The SRD agreed to borrow up to $12,540,255 so that CityWest could also install high-speed broadband infrastructure in Gold River, Sayward, Tahsis and most of Southern Quadra Island.

Now CityWest has agreed to amend the agreement, so that Regional District will receive 20% return of profits from Quadra Island, Gold River, Sayward Valley and Tahsis for a term of 20 years. In exchange, each community is to make a 5% capital contribution to its last mile construction project. The agreement will stipulate that the capital contributions on behalf of each community will not exceed the construction estimates that are outlined in the agreement. 

When this document was discussed at the Wednesday, February 9th SRD Board meeting, Regional Director Abram expressed concerns about the southern tip of Quadra and the principal settlement on Read Island being left out. 

“They should be in this written report, so that it carries them forward for future reports. So that we don’t lose out,” he said. 

Bold Point is one of the three north Quadra Island communities served – courtesy April 19, 2021, SRD staff report
The third north Quadra Island community: Open Bay – courtesy 2021 SRD staff

Chief Administrative Officer David Leitch explained that the Board had already approved the two funding agreements.

“Okay, but the Surge Narrows build should be in this agreement,” said Abram.

“These are the last mile agreements, these don’t have anything to do with the landings.” replied Leitch.

“How will it be paid, if it’s not written up somewhere in this agreement?” demanded Abram.  

Leitch explained, “The maps in that agreement identify the homes to be served.”

“I don’t have that in front of me because it doesn’t come up on my iPad,” said Abram. “Can you assure me, though, that last mile agreements exist somewhere for Blind Channel, Surge Narrows and the [Cape Mudge] Lighthouse?”

Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams asked for a vote on receipt of the staff report.

Chair Brad Unger called for the vote on receipt of the report.

“Excuse me Mr Chair, I’m waiting for an answer from our CAO!” objected Abram.

Leitch replied, “Look at the bylaw maps. They will identify the areas to be served in the two agreements. This is not changing that. If you did not support this, then you wouldn’t make a contribution, get a dividend. That agreement has already been signed. Those areas have already been identified as part of the bylaw and as part of the agreement, this is not changing that.”

“Of course, I am going to support it!” Abram shot back. “I just want to make sure that there have not been a couple of places that have been dropped off for some reason.” 

Leitch responded, “Again, the areas to be served are identified in the bylaw.”

Chair Unger called the vote again. 

“You don’t seem to understand that this is our …” began Abram.

To which Unger replied, “I understand, I understand, and the CEO’s answered you four, or five, six times now. So we’re going to move on. Question has been called on receipt. Anyone opposed?” 

“Well, boy, excuse me. Yes. I’m opposed. I’m opposed to being cut off. That is so essential …” said Abram.

“Thank you, anyone else opposed?” said Unger.

“Cutting me off,” repeated Abram.

Abram cast the only vote opposing receipt of the SRD staff report for this project.

The SRD staff report states that the councils of Gold River and Tahsis have both passed resolutions to make the 5% capital contributions from one or more eligible funding sources. Adequate Community Works Funds are available for Electoral Areas A (Whalley) and C (Abram), whose directors support the partnership principle. 

Director Abram joined the rest of the board to unanimously approve the motion, “that a bylaw to amend the funding agreement with City West Cable and Telephone Corp. for construction of last mile broadband infrastructure in accordance with the February 2, 2022 report from the Chief Administrative Officer be prepared for further consideration by the Board.” 

Cortes Currents contacted the SRD for additional comment and hopes to post an update.

This article was originally published on Feb 17 and rebroadcast as part of the Saturday Round-up on Feb 19, 2022.

Top image credit: Cycling on Quadra Island by Fil.AI via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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