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Miramichi region construction totalled almost $40-M last year

Miramichi Leader KRIS MCDAVID

Miramichi (05/14/2014)  The Miramichi region is coming off a banner year for new development, with a steady stream of major projects bolstering revenues for a number of communities.

Andrew Smith, a junior planner with the Greater Miramichi Regional Service Commission, said during the commission’s annual general meeting at the Miramichi Salmon Museum in Doaktown Tuesday night that the Miramichi region saw total construction valued at $37.8-million in 2013.

Smith noted the trends are especially promising in the City of Miramichi, where the value of commercial, residential and institutional construction starts have increased steadily over the last five years.

Overall construction value in Miramichi last year, at $25.68-million, was the highest witnessed in the city in a 10-year span, roughly $10-million more than what was realized the previous year.

“There’s been steady increases in commercial and institutional construction,” Smith said. “We’ve seen some significant development and that is being reflected in the total value.”

The mini building boom in the city was brisk and diverse, featuring new development coupled with upgrades to existing buildings.

Highlights from the past year, Smith said, include major projects such as the ongoing expansion of the NBCC Miramichi campus, renovations to the temporary payroll centre offices at the former UPM Kymmene site, renovations to the Atlantic Superstore at the Chatham Shopping Centre, the erection of the new Giant Tiger and Winners locations in Douglastown and the construction of a 23-unit apartment building at Retirement Miramichi.

“It’s exciting to see this kind of fresh, new development,” he said.

Wilson Bell, the executive director of the service commission, said one of the clear benefits to the structure of the commission, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 as a means of overseeing collaborative regional service delivery, is the value communities are getting on the planning side of things.

“For example, Doaktown, for about $15,000 on the planning side gets the services of nine people, so that’s a pretty big return on investment,” Bell said. “For these municipalities to duplicate what they get in services would be significantly higher than that – there’s no way Doaktown or Miramichi or Blackville will be able to duplicate the services they get, so there is definitely a cost-savings benefit to this across-the-board.”

Part of those cost-savings comes with a mechanism that sees any fees collected by the commission for things like building permits ultimately remitted back to the municipalities or local service districts where the construction takes place.

For instance, although Miramichi budgeted $418,000 for planning services last year, because of the amount of development that took place the city got over half of that amount back, receiving $214,000 in return.

The best return on investment for any community that contributes funding to the commission for planning services this past year was easily Blackville. Despite budgeting just over $14,000 for the service, the net cost to the village by the end of the year was a miniscule $665.

Blackville, for a community its size, saw a sizeable amount of new development take place, with permits issued for major projects such as an incoming new fire station on Main Street as well as a new ambulance detachment.

“Any fee that we collect on your behalf is given back, so it certainly helps balance the books in any year,” Bell said. “The cost exists, but the reality is, if you have a good development year, you’ll get the money back.”

The service commission’s coverage area stretches from the Rural Community of Upper Miramichi in the west, all the way through the city of Miramichi and east as far as Escuminac and the Burnt Church area.

Now in its second full year of overseeing the delivery of not only planning services, but also coordinating solid waste collection and programming, the commission has seen taken great strides in terms of its functionality since the province thrust 11 other regions of the province into a new era of service delivery, according to its chairman.

Miramichi Mayor Gerry Cormier said the city, along representatives of the two villages, one rural community and 19 local service districts who make up its membership, have worked together with the interests of the entire Miramichi region at heart.

“This diverse group of people have come together … and have formed an extremely well-functioning commission – mutual respect and working toward common goals is the hallmark of this board,” Cormier said. “With the help of its staff, the (commission) is positioned to be very successful.”

Bell, for his part, noted he was impressed with the engagement of the commission’s board in the process from the outset, pointing to a 100 per cent attendance record at meetings for nine of its 10 members.

The Miramichi commission operates on an annual budget of around $2.5-million. An audit conducted by local accounting firm Allen, Paquet and Arseneau LLP, came back with clean results.

Accountants Alvin Bell and Brett Campbell went over the details with the board.

The commission services a total population of 38,471 residents within a geographic area possessing a tax base of $2.3 billion.

The Greater Miramichi Regional Service Commission is headquartered at 1773 Water St. in Chatham and can be reached by calling 506-778-5359 or by visiting greatermiramichirsc.com