The Town of High River will fully pay off its financial contribution to the Highway 2 interchange project this year, after council gave the go-ahead last Monday to direct roughly $2.2 million to clear the debt.
The funds will come from the town’s infrastructure reserve fund and will be accounted for in the 2013 operating budget, according to chief financial officer Tom Maier.
He said accounting regulations in the Municipal Government Act necessitated the move, which prevents the town from pushing outstanding debt on the interchange into the capital budget.
The town is prevented from doing so because the province owns the $22.8 million interchange.
As a result, the town would be required to pay off the debt through successive operating budgets, while steadily accruing interest charges.
Maier said paying off the rest of the project this year will save the town around $1.2 million in borrowing costs.
These savings –which would accrue over 25 years -will afford the town greater financial flexibility for future projects, according to Mayor Emile Blokland.
“By approving the allocation of reserve funds, it will close the book on this project so council can focus on establishing future financial goals and begin replenishing our reserve savings,” he said.
The town, the province and the MD of Foothills jointly financed the interchange, which provides the sole direct link from Highway 2 to the bustling industrial corridor alongside Highway 2A.
Opened last November, the interchange has been touted by some councilors as a way to reduce the heavy truck traffic flowing through High River.
The interchange has also cut into response times for local emergency services crews heading towards that strip of town, said fire chief Len Zebedee.
“Our response times for calls to that area of town have decreased substantially,“ he said.
“The interchange has made it possible for us to arrive on the scene much sooner. The quicker we’re on scene, the better able we are to minimize the situation and provide a better service to residents.”