Kelowna gets $1.25 million from feds for energy-efficient upgrades

Kelowna's mayor says nobody likes paying tax. But his city sure likes receiving money that has been collected by other governments in tax.

That was the case Wednesday, when Kelowna officially received $1.25 million from the federal gas tax fund to pay for energy-saving measures at the Kelowna airport, the Rutland Arena and the city's wastewater treatment facility.

"Everyone hates taxes but the City of Kelowna really likes the gas tax fund," said a smiling Gray during the announcement at the airport with federal MP Ron Cannan and Rona Martin, president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

The city actually scooped Cannan on announcing the federal grant 24 hours earlier as it was included in Kelowna council's budget deliberations which took place Tuesday.

The money, $900,000 of which will go to energy-saving installations, such as radiant heating, mechanical upgrades and more energy-efficient lighting and glazing at the airport's existing facilities, and the multi-million dollar expansion that is planned over the next several years.

Airport director Sam Samaddar said the retrofits are expected to help the airport reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent, despite a doubling in the overall size of the airport  terminal over the next five years.

"Thanks to the gas tax fund money, we can move ahead with our expansion," he said.

Gray, who served with Cannan when the pair were on city council in the late 1990s, paid tribute to the local MP for his work in helping get the federal government to enshrine into law the return of gas tax money to municipalities from Ottawa. The federal government now must return a portion of the taxes it collects on gasoline sales across the country to fund municipal infrastructure programs. Last year $2 billion was returned.

During his days as a councillor here, Cannan, who was also president of the Okanagan Mainline Municipal Association (now the Southern Interior Local Government Association) pushed hard with UBCM to get the gas tax money returned to municipalities.

He said new money for the city will help keep Kelowna green.

But Cannan said the grants not only help the environment, they also helps renew Canada's aging municipal infrastructure.

Martin said a recent study by McGill University estimated that 80 per cent of municipal infrastructure across the country has now reached the end of useful lifetime.

In addition to the money for the airport, $300,000 will be spent at Rutland arena on energy-efficient upgrades and $58,000 will be spent to reduce carbon emissions at the city's waste water treatment plans.



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