MOOSE JAW -- Several major Moose Jaw buildings could see solar power upgrades in the future.

During a special city council meeting on Thursday, Moose Jaw city councillors voted in favour of putting forward an application to use the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) grant for solar initiatives on five buildings.

The federal government recently expanded the $33-billion dollar program to help communities dealing with challenges caused by COVID-19. It now includes a new stream to deliver more infrastructure projects during the pandemic.

Moose Jaw’s city manager and Department of Parks and Recreation put forward the proposal to use Moose Jaw’s ICIP grant allocation towards solar power upgrades for the Yara Centre, Mosaic Place, Kinsmen Sportsplex, City Complex and City Hall.

The proposal states $830,240 would come from the ICIP grant, and $207,560 would come from the city.

The ICIP application deadline is October 30, 2020. Eligible costs must be under $10-million, with construction started no later than September 30, 2021 and completed by the end of 2021.

Councillor Brian Swanson was the only councillor to vote against the application. He said he would have liked to see more infrastructure project options put forward by administration.

“I can assure you in the city of Moose Jaw, with respect to our tangible capital assets, there’s no shortage of things that need a million dollars worth of work,” Swanson said. “I would have appreciated having some options to consider, because spending three-quarters of this project on recreational facilities is not something that I’m exited about.”

City administration said they reviewed ‘a lot of different options,’ but the project parameters made this the best option.

“It’s got to be related to a building, or to an asset housing within a building,” said city administration in the virtual meeting. “I guess the big one in this too, is it’s got to be shovel ready. Because of the quick turnaround, the (federal government) is looking to approve these applications in the next few weeks here, because they want to get these projects all started by early next year.”

City Manager Jim Puffalt said if the city could have put it to a waste water plant, it would have, but there were many limitations.

“We found five facilities where we could put (the panels) on the roofs, so that was our limitation, and that’s the limitation of the project,” Puffalt said.

Mayor Fraser Tolmie said the solar initiative has been a community priority, and it will help with the city’s energy consumption costs.

“I know they are going to be going on recreational facilities, but we still own those recreational facilities, and we still have to pay the power bills for those,” Tolmie said.

Councillor Crystal Froese also spoke to the potential benefit the project would have on costs.

“Thinking of Mosaic Place, the amount of money that is spent over there in just power bills is pretty crazy,” Froese said.

The Government of Saskatchewan will select which projects will be submitted to the Government of Canada for review, with the federal government deciding which of those projects will be approved for funding.