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REPORTING · 26th February 2010
Walter McFarlane
The Kitimat City Council met on Thursday, February 25th for their first of potentially three budget meetings. The following is an abridged account of the meeting and the topics presented within. Mayor Joanne Monaghan called the meeting to order at 9:01 am. Not present was Councillor Gerd Gottschling

Fire Chief John Klie stepped up first to talk about what the fire department did last year and the plans for 2010. Ambulance calls have doubled up to 732. Klie said there were more major fires in 2009 and a high fire loss. He said 2009 was an anomaly and a bad year for house fires, however they were still able to meet their goals in 2009.

The status quo budget for the fire department is an increase of 2.8% to cover the raise achieved by the union. If the budget is cut Klie presented scenarios‘; at 3%, they lose one firefighter, their summer students, training, the public safety building maintenance as well as other cuts. At a 5.52% reduction, they reduce administration, they reduce backfill by not backfilling fire fighters and other cuts they could make without affecting service. The final savings was at 8.02%. Here, they cut back by not backfilling the ambulance service. Monaghan pointed out these are not big savings

Councillor Feldhoff liked the reduction of 5.52%. The problem with this scenario is they only backfill one ambulance when they go out. Monaghan did not like this scenario because it increased the response time to a fire and a kitchen fire might escalate with this delay. Klie also stated if they cut to the point the ambulance goes back to the province, it would reduce response time.

The motion was called and carried, Mayor Monaghan voted against it because she did not want to see the ambulance or fire service change. The Fire Department was dropped to 5.52%. This might delay a second call in fire responses to fire. Council discussed alternate scenarios where firefighters could head directly to the scene. A motion stating ‘if the fire station drops men to 16 due to attrition, they do not re-hire to bring the numbers up’ also passed. Again, Monaghan was opposed.

Councillor Feldhoff then suggested they address the miscellaneous capital and the communications equipment which were used with 911. He moved they approve the capital budget. Both were called and carried. Feldhoff moved support for the JEPP (Joint Emergency Preparedness Program) grant. It was carried as well.

The Clerk's department was up next. Walter McLellen said this was serious. He stated that they were expecting some attrition and things to remain the same save for the animal control contract. He recommended rolling over the contract. They discussed the humane society vs. the SPCA. Halyk suggested tendering it to present an opportunity to the public. Corless stated he did not think anyone would want the job that Maryanne Baumbach does. Monaghan stated she was hired as a warden and does a good job. The rest of this discussion went In Camera (closed door).

Feldhoff made a motion to pass everything other than the transit, suggesting budgeting for it today to get it done. The motion was carried. They went over potential cuts. Feldhoff next introduced a motion to cut the industrial bus service. McLellen stated any changes they make would take affect in the summer when they might have a chance to talk to the BC Government. The motion was called and carried.

Councillor Feldhoff made a motion to increase transit fees. Halyk was opposed to a Handydart increase. “it is a system that helps not just the elderly but the handicapped as well,” said Halyk. The recommendation did not include the Handydart. The motion was called and carried. Halyk did not want to reduce the Handydart time frames. “I suggest we don’t mess with the Handydart,” said Halyk.

Feldhoff motioned to increase the fees for the handydart by $0.25 a ride. Mayor Monaghan did not want to reduce the Handydart service because there is an aging population. This would raise $1000 a year. Halyk also raised opposition to this. Feldhoff’s motion failed. Several motions were made and carried to reduce operating budgets and leave others the same. One motion to reduce the district recreation card to a 20% discount, passed.

Tim Gleig of engineering returned to the table and spoke to the community's 5 year plan and budget for maintenance around the community. Feldhoff asked how engineering determines the bid costs on construction of streets referring to last year projects coming in under the estimate. Gleig stated they use historic costs and Wayne Sussbauer claimed they averaged with last years prices.

On the topic of the walkways, Gleig spoke on removing some. The Kitimat Heritage Society has requested the community keep as many walkways as possible but some have become tripping hazards. Walkways which have been suggested for removal are between Ketchika Street, Gannet and Gander Crescent and Osprey and Oriole.

Feldhoff inquired about the walkways suggested on which his opinion would depend. Halyk suggested taking out some of the walkways and replace them with gravel because he sees people using them all the time. Monaghan reminded him to remember the aging population and stated scooters do not work well on gravel. Corless took that opportunity to roast the Mayors age.

Goffinet stated Kitimat’s walkways are unique to Kitimat and suggested if they redesigned the walkways, some might not be missed. He did not have any complaints. Halyk suggested connecting the walkway to the Cablecar Subdivision.

Council returned from lunch and Gleig completed his presentation. Further capital items included refurbishing the museum, the library walkway canopy, blasting and painting, the Haisla bridge painting, the traffic signal upgrade program and the Christmas decorations. All of these were returning budget items. He suggested putting money into the reserves. Newer items included clearing the Wakashan storm sewer, repairs to the Kuldo Water Supply Tank and steel Water Reservoir Tanks.

Clearing the storm sewer raised quite a conversation about what could be done about the deep water. A part of the problem is that watercress took root and thrived in the storm sewer. Council talked about who would pay for it. Feldhoff suggested preliminary decisions.

His first motion was to bring back money to paint Haisla Bridge. He wanted to continue to set the money aside and an additional $200,000 in case they have to paint the bridge in 2012. Corless spoke against the motion because they are hoping the Federal government will take it over. Hall reminded the Council that if the bridge wasn’t taken over, the Council will have to pay for it. He doubted that the grants from last year will be repeated. Halyk suggested passing the bridge on to some of the graffiti artists for painting. Feldhoff stated this was a necessary project. The bridge was last painted in 1987. The motion was called and failed.

The next motion was to upgrade the traffic controller by giving it $20,000 beyond what they had already raised. He reminded council that the controllers were in rough shape so they may wish to bite the bullet and do both at the same time. Gleig suggested there might be some savings from doing both at the same time. This vote was called and it was approved.

Feldhoff was on a roll but his motion on $10,000 for Christmas decorations was not seconded. After other discussions Monaghan went back to the Christmas decorations and suggested another option to light up the town. The Christmas decorations were brought up a third time and Halyk suggested $5,000 for it “We wish you a Merry Christmas,” quipped Monaghan. The vote again was negative.

Feldhoff reaffirmed commitment to the scada system which did not need tax generation. It was carried. He then moved to provide a power supply to the sewer utility, which was carried. He asked to have the exterior of the museum and the library canopy removed from the list the Council agreed.

Feldhoff moved that a second power supply be granted. The capital was not optional so it was carried. Then he motioned that they repair the water main which was also carried. Feldhoff made a motion on paving roads, which failed. Corless stated he did not want to do any paving until the construction company fired up the paver. Halyk, on the other hand, wanted to know how much it would cost to extend Chinnook around the corner, but the District does not own that land. Goffinet said he wanted to see the numbers before revisiting this on Friday.

After arguing about the agenda, Council moved on to the next phase, start at the beginning of the sheet and work to the end.

After a quick break, Council started talking about the budget changes. Starting with the adaptive lighting along walkways and the Kuldo extension, Corless said this was more trouble than it was worth. Councillor Feldhoff agreed because places were already too dark in the winter. The motion was carried. Next came a motion to reduce vehicle rates, which was passed.

Feldhoff motioned to change the curb cuts and it was carried. The next item was a large block of text about changing snow removal, which changes the amount of snow when they start clearing from 3 inches to 5 inches. Feldhoff agreed with the changes with the exception of re-instituting towing operators to tow vehicles that were parked illegally. Gleig stated having cars in the way does slow things down and told the councillors cars were towed this past year. At the moment, they do try and make every effort to contact the vehicle owner. Feldhoff reiterated that if they make these changes, they will capture most of the savings. This was carried.

The next motion was to contract out crack sealing and asphalt patching. Goffinet wanted to know if this would result in the lay off of any employees. The answer was yes, but only summer students. It was carried. The contracting out to sweep the gravel chips blown onto the grass from the road after winter came next. Halyk made a motion to approve this and it was carried. Feldhoff motioned to tender turf maintenance. This was carried.

Mclaren motioned that people who’s streets are being paved pay for a portion of the paving. Feldhoff was opposed to this as he felt that this would require a bigger process than a budgetary change.

“If this were in place, [the District] wouldn’t be paying for roads anymore,” said Halyk. Councillor Feldhoff was against the motion for fear it would become a ‘hodge podge‘. Goffinet was opposed as well because the system that they were using worked. He did not want to see a war on the street because there was a system already in place. He also stated that people who had their street done recently would benefit. McLaren was glad to have this debate. The motion failed.

Motions were made to redeploy the building inspector, which passed, and to return at a later date to contract out litter control. The motion was also carried.

Recreation came to the table. The first option was to not open the Kitimat Ice Rink. The motion was moved by Feldhoff. Corless supported the motion as it was a way to cope. Feldhoff stated this would save them money on the capital list as well. Gould added this was not to be closed forever. The motion was carried.

The next motion was to leave Riverlodge hours alone instead of restricting hours to four hours or closing on Sundays. The best time to be open would have to be discussed by staff. The motion failed. Coreless moved to go with the restricted hours to four hours on Sunday. This motion was carried.

The next recommendation was to close the pool for September. Feldhoff motioned to close for half that month. Halyk made sure that September was a month where the pool was not used that often. The motion was carried. This was followed by a motion to reduce pool hours from 2-3 hours on weekends. Feldhoff did not want to disrupt the community with these plans. Halyk decided that these hours were not being used anyway. Gould suggested a split shift as an option. The motion was carried. Then there was a motion to close the pool on the Easter Weekend. This was passed too.

The next motion was to close the pool Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 pm to 4 pm. Feldhoff made an amendment to exclude these closures during the summer months. The motion was amended and carried. This was followed by a motion to have the recreation department find general deficiencies.

The next phase of the budget was gardening. One recommendation was to eliminate the tree program. Halyk moved the motion. Monaghan reminded them that Kitimat is the Garden City, not the Tree City. Feldhoff was opposed. He did not think that this was in their long term best interest. The motion was called and carried.

Converting the cemetery garden to grass was motioned against. Goffient wanted to know if it could be done for less. Monaghan pointed out that there were volunteers willing to work on these. The motion was called and the motion was carried.

Converting a second garden in down town Kitimat to grass was motioned. Monaghan again reminded Council that the community was a garden city concept and if they did not have any gardens… the motion was negated, however a recommendation to convert the gardens in the Nechako Centre to grass was carried. Feldhoff made a motion to not remove the flowers along the Upper City Centre Mall parking lot walkway and replace them with shrubs, which was carried. Riverlodge gardens to shrubs had no change. Liquor store flowers to shrubs also didn’t change nor did Trigo’s courtyard shrubs. Gould pointed out that they need to do something with the trees because they were becoming too big. Alliance Park, behind Envision will also not be converted to shrubs.

Gardening was over and the outdoors came next. Trail improvements done by the Haisla was motioned to be cut in half and carried after a motion to not cut it at all was negative. The next motion was to close Hirsch Creek Park and make it a wilderness park. The motion was carried, Monahan was opposed. Radley Park however will not be closed.

The school fields are currently maintained by the District yet fields are not scheduled to be closed nor would maintenance be done on them. A motion was made to continue the partnership but with no money in 2010. The motion was carried. The final option was to close the wading pools. Halyk motioned not to close the wading pools and to maintain the pools so the kids could have fun. Gould, however, stated that the usage was down. The motion was negative so a second motion was made to close them which passed.

After batting the Youth Centre into In Camera for later, the Council talked about cutting summer students by 7. Feldhoff wanted to keep summer students at the current level. He stated they have cut summer students in several places already and he did not want to gut the summer student program. The motion was called and carried.

Training accounts in recreation were suggested to be reduced to the mandatory levels and the motion to reduce it was carried. Departmental gift certificates were recommended to be cut back for community prizes. The motion was made by Feldhoff to leave the policy as is. The motion was called and carried.

Motions made to keep the community grant program and Canada Day the same were carried. Next, the large equipment reserve received cuts because they decided to close the Kitimat Ice Rink. That means that they have an extra Zamboni lying around that they can use to extend the fleet; not budget $25,000 into an ice surface reserve. The motion was carried.

By now, it was almost quarter to five so the meeting adjourned until this morning at 9 am.