Mayor Mike Morden is concerned about costs incurred from tent city on 223rd Street. THE NEWS/files

Homeless camp costs total $2.8 million

Maple Ridge mayor concerned about tax increase.

Maple Ridge is facing a $2.8-million bill for costs related to the Anita Place Tent City, which could translate into a four-per-cent hike in property taxes, Mayor Michael Morden said at council last week.

“We’ve got $1.4 million in hard costs on the camp that we still have not reconciled. We’ve got another further $1.4 million in managing the day-to-day activities of an extremely dangerous camp,” he said.

Those costs included legal bills, bylaws and parks staff time, along with police and fire costs.

It’s not certain during what time period the costs were incurred.

“Those two camp costs alone could amount to a four-per-cent tax increase, just for those two pieces,” Morden said at council’s Nov. 12 meeting.

He added that every one per cent property tax increase produces $800,000 in revenue for the city.

“This adds up pretty quick. I’m sure this council will be going through the business-planning process, very mindful of the fact that there’s taxpayer fatigue and what it is we can do,” Morden said in delivering his year-end report.

He added that getting the camp closed within 10 months, following court orders, was a “significant achievement.”

He said Wednesday that the city has asked the provincial government for help with the expenses, as it has paid some of the bills in the past.

“And we’ll have to continue on to see if we can get that resolved.”

He said that, currently, he doesn’t know how the city will pay the total amount or if that money can come from other city accounts.

The city previously announced that it was costing $5,000 a day in cleanup and staffing costs.

“You’ve got, definitely, a solid $1.4 [million] that’s coming right now to local taxpayers to deal with,” Morden said.

That is money that can’t be spent on other projects, he added.

“It’s a bill and it’s been paid … that’s essentially a local taxpayers’s bill that will be reflective in all the costs. This money doesn’t come out of nowhere, right?”

Council, this past week, spent three days in business planning as it tried to hammer out a 2020 financial plan or budget by the end of the year.

Council approved a 4.2-per-cent increase in property taxes in April for 2019.

The tent city first opened in May 2017, but was evacuated on March 1 this year – after a fire safety order. After it closed, only verified residents were allowed to return, a fraction of the previous number of camp residents.

The camp finally closed for good in September, after the Garibaldi Ridge supportive housing complex opened on Burnett Street. The city is now going to build a park on the 223rd Street site. It is set to open by next May.

Staff told council in October that the remediation bill for physically cleaning up the site after campers vacated it – and before park development can even begin – would be about $366,000.



pmelnychuk@mapleridgenews.com

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