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REPORTING · 22nd February 2010
Walter McFarlane
The Kitimat City Council met all day on Saturday to hold the first of their long Budget meetings, which started at 9:00 am and ran until 4:30 Pm with a one hour break for lunch.  The meeting began with an overview of the budget process by Municipal Manager Trafford Hall.  Following, the department heads stepped up to present their budgets for 2010.  Below is an abridged report of the meeting.

Hall explained the process so far.  He reminded council they froze expenditures and restricted hiring after the Eurocan announcement.  They decided to try and pass the budget by the end of February, the information might now be complete or perfect.  They did their financial impact and population estimates. 

Each department head had to bring back to Council reports on how their services would change if they lost up to 30% of their operating budget.  They did this over three meetings, but no one brought in their budget. At the Saturday meeting, each department head is brining in their budgets.

“No decision is final until the final Budget is passed,” said Hall.  “The ultimate financial impact will be in 2011.”

He further explained Eurocan will still be taxed the same amount for 2010 because they did not announce their closure until October.  This means they do not shift their class until 2011.  The government did this to allow municipalities a year to adjust.  

Hall explained although the impact happens in 2011, they have one year to adjust services.  They have to adjust quickly because they really need longer than a year to adjust.  In addition, they could build their reserves at this time as well.  The target is 4.6 million dollars and council has to either cut it or raise it.

Zo Mulder stepped up to the table to talk about the revenues and expenses.   The first thing they look at are property taxes and then utility taxes before going into other revenues. When she was done, Martin Gould took over to talk about revenues from recreation. 

They collect fees from arena use, selling ice to hockey teams.  He estimated they  might lose 3-5 hockey teams in 2010 because of the Eurocan closure.  The next big generator of revenue is the swimming pool.  He explained this was because the pool was only open for nine months.

Next comes revenues from Riverlodge, one from facility use and one from the facilities.  They received greater revenues in 2009.  The programming counts for more than half of the revenue generated.  Gould estimated they would be able to cut back 7 summer student positions in 2010.  The final section of recreation revenues come from Radley and Hirsch Creek parks.  There will no longer be any camp revenues from Hirsch Creek park as it has been declared unsafe to camp.

Monaghan asked what would happen if they privatized the park.  Gould stated they would have to reallocate staff.  He suggested for Hirsch Creek, solutions could be either turning it into a wilderness park or giving it back to the government to look after.

Mulder returned.  She went over licenses and building permits as well as rent for buildings owned by the municipality including the library, museum, RCMP, ambulance bays… etc.  She touched on equipment reserves.  She ended with return on investments which she found dismal.  “The market did not perform for us,” said Mulder.  

Hall touched on reserves and grants.  He pointed out one grant was reduced was the traffic fines.  Hall stated this was supposed to be an unconditional grant wound up with several conditions on it.

Once they were done with revenues, they looked at expenses.  The first topic was the amount of money was Councillors receive and talked focused on the cost of travel.  However, council needs training and needs to represent Kitimat. 

Councillor Feldhoff motioned to accept the numbers as is.  He said they could make decisions individually and Council might need flexibility.   Monaghan suggested video conferencing and conference calling to save money.  After discussion, Councillor Feldhoff amended his motion to include a reduction to the travel budget.  The motion was called and carried.

Then came special expenses and administration.  Hall spoke about computer support services.  Mulder recommended this year, they replace the computer system because they are on the 6th year of a 5 year program. Council talked about ways to reduce costs.  Mulder said there were two maintenance items, here, hardware and software.  Monaghan pointed out they were an hour and a half into the meeting and an hour behind.  Feldhoff stated the rest were petty things.  

Halyk wanted clarification.  Were they going point by point or learning about them.  Hall explained they were going to learn about recommended cuts and hear the consequences.  Councillor Feldhoff pointed out: they go through the operating budget every year but this year would be more effective if they focused on the operating departments.  

The head of the planning department stepped up next.  Gwen Sewell went through her report talking about the success of the new webpage.  She expressed uncertainty how 2010 will unfold.  Sewell also suggested revisiting the OCP to address current concerns.

Economic Promotion was up next.  Dianne Hewlette explained business licenses were down.  She expected additional losses in 2010 and 2011.  She presented statistics but was cut short due to time constraints.  Monaghan commented they could have lost tourism because the smelter was no longer giving tours.  

Hewlette stated there have been 10 inquiries for industrial development since January and the Kitimat and Prince Rupert ports are very well known, before moving on to  budget.  She requested $225,000, lower than the request for 2009.  She suggested reducing staff hours as the best way to create savings.

Council went In Camera and broke for lunch.  When they returned, Hewlette continued her presentation by talking about the advertising they use to present Kitimat through magazines.  They are reaching over a million people with these ads.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated it was difficult to budget for economic promotion because they have a tabled item has a direct bearing on this topic.  Feldhoff moved that the position where a worker retired from Economic promotion not be rehired. Hewlette stated she would have to look at the plans for 2010 as she might need the position in 2010.

Monaghan was opposed to layoffs because the Economic Promotion Department could draw new industries for Kitimat.  Hewlette suggested postponing this decision until Council can talk to some of the people her department deals with.  Hall suggested restructuring the department but also suggested putting this off until the councils' retreat.

He also suggested cutting the promotional budget.  Hewlette said they will have to look at the publications they have already committed too.  She stated losing the advertisements as losing the publicity Kitimat has in BC magazines.  She added this would diminish the community's profile and she believes these ads do have an impact.  Hall asked her where she could take $30,000 out of her budget.

Council re-established they were just listening today and moved on to recreation, Martin Gould stepped up to the table.  Gould started his presentation by going through expenses, including grants and money the Council gives to community organizations.  This includes the Soccer Club, the Snowflake Community Fair Grounds, the Youth Centre and Festivals Kitimat

He suggested if they could reduce Kitimat’s Canada Day Celebration to a half day event to save money.  Gardening is about to begin and it is time to start throwing some money into large equipment reserves for new ice machines when they break down in a few years.  Hall explained when the machines fail, they take the money out of the fund to replace them and then build up the funds over the next few years.

He talked to council about the centres: Riverlodge, the Swimming pool, Tamitik and Kitimat Ice Rink.  The final two expenses are the parks and playgrounds and the outdoor areas.

Gould once again suggested closing the Kitimat Ice Rink as they could accommodate everyone  at Tamitik.  Councillor Feldhoff asked what the facility is could be used for other then a hockey rink.  Gould stated the cement in the arena cracked and the rink was patched.  No one from administration knew what the concrete floor, buried under sand and metal bars would look like.  Gould suggested Council revisit his list to see where they could save money.    Gould added gardening reduction would have to wait for 2011.

On behalf of Joe, he wanted to thank Council for the items Council had granted the recreation facilities in the past to make the facility second to none.

Some of the capital expenses have been on the list for the last couple of years. These items for Riverlodge include the cardio & Weight room Camera System, the replacement of the fire alarm panel, A theater system for the cardio room, Fire Separation wall shutter, Rock Climbing Padding and Grate, refurbishing the community room and the Riverlodge heat ramp trace.  The italicized requests were budgeted for, but were canceled at the November meeting.  New requests include floor repairs to the community room and to the cardio room.  Gould recommended doing the floor before doing the walls.

There were two items for the Sam Lindsay Aquatic Center.  Landscaping of the exterior of the building and a wall mounted Lift for the disabled in the family change rooms.    Both of these are returning requests.

Returning requests for Tamitik included replacing the glass at the Tamitik, adding a ladder to the dehumidifier, repairing the sidewalk above a storage room so water does not leak into a storage room.  Replacing the Tamitik condenser tower is a new request as it is leaking ammonia.  A temporary fix is for a refrigerator mechanic to come from Terrace to add ammonia.  One ongoing program is to convert doors to allow access to the disabled.  Two other new requests are to replace the floor in the Tamitik meeting room  which was damaged during the pool refurbishment, and floor replacement in Tamitik dressing rooms 1, 3 & 4

There were four items for the Kitimat Ice Rink.  Gould reminded everyone if they closed the ice rink, most of these expenditures would not exist.  Returning requests were to replace the outside doors, and replace the compressor.  New requests were Kitimat Ice Rink Dehumidifier Replacement and Floor replacements in Dressing Rooms 2, 3 & 4.  The compressor was budgeted for in 2009 but was put on hold at the November meeting.

The first returning capital requests relating to the outdoors began with a Centennial Park rejuvenation project: Gould suggested Council remove the fountain all together.  Another problem with the park relates to the totem pole, which is deteriorating.  The money would go towards a feast between Kitimat and Kitamaat Village to apologize because the pole was commissioned from a different nation.  Gould suggested getting a new Totem Pole or not.

An annual request was made to improve Radley Park.  Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to know if there was anything they could do about the project.  Hall pointed out the money has been given to the animal shelter project but the river erosion has slowed down.  They also came to a stalemate with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The non chemical weed control came next and it was followed by a plan to build a walkway along Haisla boulevard from the overpass to Haisla Boulevard.  Fire Hall Landscape Renovation, flower baskets, the Downtown beautification program, replacing the Riverlodge play structure and repairing the Hirsch Creek Roof Covered area were other items returned from last year.

The meeting was running late with three departments left to speak.  Hall suggested listening to one more request and then call the meeting.  The Council discussed which of three they wanted to hear from.  It was Engineering who had set up for the meeting in advance won.

Tim Gleig, District Engineer reviewed last year's project.  Proposed road projects for 2010 are Chinook, Sturgeon, Halibut, Greyling, Kokanee and Char in Cablecar.  The walkway program has been scheduled for the Kildala area.  They need a new traffic light controller for one of the lights.

Overhead pedestrian crosswalk sign replacement is something Engineering want to complete.  Council was unable to receive two grants from 2009, the money for painting Haisla bridge and the Aerator repair.  With the capital items complete, he started running through the budget for 2010.  He suggested Council could save money if street lighting reduced gradually through adaptive lighting as the night wore on.  This is a time sensitive issue due at the end of the month.  Feldhoff moved they refurbish 100 lights rather than the full 200.  The motion called and carried.

Gleig suggested other areas where the Council could save money: reducing street cleanup of winter chips on the boulevards, and grass cutting could also be reduced.  The meeting wrapped up with Gleig explaining his operating expenses for 2010.  The Fire Department and the Clerks department have not presented to Council but will do so during the next full day meeting which is scheduled for Thursday.

Monday Night's Council Meeting will be partner groups and what they ask for.  Thursday and Friday are scheduled budget meetings with Saturday in reserve in case of overtime.
Radley park
Comment by Rena Hummel on 13th March 2010
I have heard nothing discussed in reference to the camping situation on the Kitimat River. The invasion continues year after year. I do not want to see access to the river blocked but I am not happy that we fund Radley park and also free camping on the Kitimat River. Everyone you talk to agrees that it causes problems, with the human and pet feces left on the river below the high water level. There are people who take over areas and seem to feel that now they have the right to cut trees or driftwood to build thier fires, block off "thier" areas of the riverbank and play music as loudly as they wish. There are some who keep thier area clean and leave the River to dump the holding tanks on thier trailers and campers but nevertheless, there is still such a mess left behind at the end of every fishing season. I am at a loss as to why fisheries allows this mini-city to exist on the banks of a river that is our water supply, and on gravel banks that sustain our spawning fish. I realize that there are several entities that have jurisdiction in that area and for the life of me I cannot understand why they cannot get together and post a "no Overnight camping" policy. Cars parked fom the hours of 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 A.M. will be towed. The people who want to come and fish the Kitimat should be paying for camping and not living all summer for free. There are good reasons to restrict the city that goes up there every summer and we should not be talking about cutting back on park services when we have people who take away more than they ever contribute to the community as a whole. We have a trailer park and one section could be put aside for campers and trailers. There should be limits to what extent we allow what at this time boils down to "unlimited" access. I know that it is difficult to decide who will step up and take the hit when you even suggest controlling the influx, but there are people peeing in our pool and it should be stopped. I would be interested in knowing how much is spent on the dumpster that is in place at the entrance to the dyke road by Riverlodge and what it costs to maintain the outhouses that are placed there every year. Do the stakeholders share the costs or are we footing the entire bill as taxpayers?? Does anyone else wish to comment on the fact that there is no trail in that area that does not have a litter of toilet paper and rubbish all summer long?? I think as a community we have to regulate the situation somewhat, and I know that if I wanted to build a house on the river , the fisheries and envireonmental agencies would be all over me. Our local citizens are guilty as well, and I know it is fun to put up your camper at the river and stay down there all summer and go there after work and fish and barbeque and kick back but there is a cost to that and it seems to me that we are all responsible to make sure we preserve the integrity and cleanliness of our River.
Act Responsibly
Comment by Leon Dumstrey -SooS on 22nd February 2010
There seems to be lack of understanding in the BUDGET preperation ,that: "SHOULD,COULD,WOULD" are not REALITY CK. ITEMS ON THE SUBJECT, MATH IS!? Where is the SUBSTANCE??
What I understand -to date- from the Administrative ,proposals SHORTAGE is approximately 22% from previous BUDGET of $22 mill. Realistic CUT (my oppinion) for the COUNCIL is:10% at top,starting with the Council and Admin.
Recreation 6%
New tax 3% to residences! NOT 30%!
(It is important to remember that $200 FLAT TAX that has been on the books for decade UNFAIRLY!.On 3000 homes it is $600.000) KEEP IT(This alone will pay for DEBT!)

Thank you