City council’s recent decision to forgive a loan taken out by Brandon Riverbank Inc. will free up funds to focus on stabilizing the river corridor.
Riverbank had been stashing away money each year to repay the 20-year-old loan, for which $200,000 was owed. Now, those funds will be used to boost remediation work between an interpretive pond and the riverbank 100 feet away — an effort which has been financially deprived since the 2011 flood.
"Certainly, we’ll need all those funds and more probably to get some of that work done," said Brandon Riverbank Inc. manager Lois McDonald.
While the damage continues to affect interpretive and educational areas, McDonald said it’s also "quite dangerous" near the slumped riverbank, where a lot of erosion has taken place.
The additional cash in the coffers means the corporation can seek more matching grants from the provincial and federal governments, McDonald said.
"Something has to be done there and these funds will hopefully allow us to go out and find other grants and perhaps matching funds through the province or the federal government to take care of the area and make sure — in the long term — the discovery centre and its surrounding grounds are protected."
During budget deliberations last weekend, council unanimously agreed to forgive the $200,000 loan over the next four years.
The Riverbank Discovery Centre was constructed in 1997 with a 20-year, interest-free loan from Western Diversification with an arrangement that the loan from the city was to be paid off in full in 2017.
With the freed-up funds, though, it’s not known how much the river reclamation is going to cost.
The organization won’t know until the city firms up its multimillion-dollar permanent diking plan in the area — a plan made in partnership with the province. At that point, the city and the contractor will recommend what to do with the ravaged riverbank land to avoid adverse effects up or downstream.
"We’re still waiting on that final information," McDonald said.
McDonald said she was expecting a report from the city before Christmas, but now hopes directives will come before spring. While it waits for an estimated cost of reclamation, McDonald said the corporation is bracing for the work to be "quite extensive."
"It won’t solve everything, but $200,000 goes a long way and it’s a great start," McDonald said.
Meanwhile, work on Eleanor Kidd Gardens is well underway. Ideally, McDonald said it would be operational sometime in 2014, "if not then definitely 2015," but the recent loan forgiveness won’t have an impact on its timeline.
"In my opinion, we’d probably be using this loan forgiveness reserve to start working on issues on the Discovery Centre side of the river," McDonald said.
"Anything and everything is helpful, and we’re very thankful to the city and we appreciate that they could see that by forgiving that loan it would allow us to get started on this project."