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Eco-park lands $5.5 million in funding

By Bradley Fehr
Monday June 13, 2005

Hinton Parklander — The Federation of Canadian Municipalities showed Hinton the money last week to the tune of $5.5 million for one of the town’s pet projects.
Those funds are to be doled out from the federation’s Green Municipalities Fund for the proposed Hinton Eco-Industrial Park.
The $5.5 million, which is split between a $3.3 million grant and a $2.2 million low-interest loan, is a big step forward for the town project.
“They gave it final approval. It’s a done deal,” said an elated Lisa Graul, project manager with the town.

The idea behind the eco-industrial park is to develop pristine green space and allow industrial development of the land without spoilage.
The plan includes a 108-acre industrial park to be developed by the town on land bordered by Hwy. 16 to the south, the CN rail line to the north, Switzer Drive to the east and Hardisty Creek to the west.
Graul said the town is still negotiating with the province to purchase the land for $500,000.

The funding windfall was made known during the FCM’s annual general meeting in St. John’s, NL, held June 4-6.
Some details still need to be worked out and the official status report has not yet gone to council.

Graul’s liaison with the FCM board called to inform her of the good news, but she’s already looking towards the next step.
“We have a lot of work to do to recruit tenants,” she said.
Tenancy, however, is a condition attached to the money. The town must sign on at least three tenants before actually starting development.
To that end, town council recently gave approval for a letter of support for Eastern Slopes Generation to try to obtain feasibility study funding for a co-generation plant. The plant would burn garbage at a very high temperature and use the resulting steam to produce electricity.
The company could possibly supply other park tenants with electricity, provincial regulations permitting.

The town endorsed the grant request, also to the Green Municipalities Fund, because the FCM usually doesn’t provide funding to private businesses. In this case, the town would manage the money for the study on behalf of the company.
Graul said the town is now going to have to pressure the provincial government for the remaining $1.5 million dollars needed for the project.
She said the town could absorb that amount over 10 years, but additional funding would ease the burden.

Hinton is currently surveying the land to make a subdivision, as it is a prerequisite of purchase. She said the town is hoping to sell the land for $150,000 per acre, but still needs a few anchor tenants.
Graul said discussions are ongoing with several companies.
The eco-industrial park is a $10 million investment for the town over the next 10 years. However, the town could stand to receive a 14-15 per cent internal return on investment, plus potentially millions of dollars in future tax revenue.

As for aesthetics, 56 per cent of the park will remained treed.
Phase 1 of the project will include 12 parcels of land developed with specific design guidelines and bylaws to ensure green facilities are built.
“What we’re looking at is alternative methods for dealing with waste water and potable water,” Graul said.