REPORTING · 28th February 2011
Will KIR stay open? What Grant will be given to the Tennis Courts? Will snow removal equipment be repaired or replaced? What capital projects will be approved, what projects will not? The stunning conclusion of Kitimat City Council’s three day budget marathon.
Council sat down to Budget on Saturday February 26th at 9:00. They went straight to work and balanced until 2:30 that afternoon. They began at a 13.30% increase and worked it down to a 2.57% increase. This budget has not been finalized yet.
The first order of the meeting was an enclosure and a back door for the person working behind the front desk. That way if the person needs to get out of there, they can. Monaghan suggested bear spray as a joke. In addition, they want to enclose the engineer’s office so he can have private meetings without having to borrow an enclosed office.
Halyk made a motion to improve the audio in the Council Chambers. Corless said the audio varied from meeting to meeting so he suspected it had to do with the quality of peoples’ television. Feldhoff was opposed because they were approving other big items as well. Gottschling said people should know what is going on in the Chambers. Monaghan wanted a button which she could use to cut off the sound to Councillors who talk too long which was suggested as a part of the system. The motion was carried adding $5000 to the budget.
Bear proof containers are needed along the walkways on Okanagan and at City Centre. The district has bear proof containers around the community. Hall pointed out this came from one complaint. Council discussed the reasons for the containers before tabling them until they receive a report from the District.
Feldhoff motioned to grant the Museum money for a coat of paint. Feldhoff stated the study would not show them caring for the building. He hoped later down the line, they would have the money to build a new museum and a city hall. Hall explained there were problems with the current building, the exterior and the air intake being next to a place where people idle their cars. It was carried 5-2. Scott made a motion to look at this again next year.
The library canopy was moved. Halyk wanted a report on how much they would receive from a pipeline going through the community. Halyk wanted to know how much they would get from KLNG. Monaghan said the Haisla would get between $12 and $14 million a year but Kitimat would get nothing. Feldhoff wanted to make the library wait another year because the community did lose Eurocan. The motion was carried 4-3. Monaghan suggested there were other things going on Council would sooner put their money into but she was cut off as she was out of order.
The senior’s programmer was approved as were the cardio room and the rock climbing room padding and gate in Riverlodge.
Feldhoff was opposed to the refurbishment of the Community Room because although the room was shabby, it could be postponed. Halyk pointed out the room was the Council’s interface with people from other communities. It was carried. Monaghan asked the Council to look at the percentage which had increased .02% since they started.
Repairing the heat trace could be lived with longer so it was removed. Goffinet thought they should keep it on the budget because it was a liability. It is also the ramp next to the Handicapped stall and has about 100 people a day. However, it was deferred in a 4-3 vote.
At the pool they approved the lift in the family change room, the penthouse cooling and ventilation, the play area for children, the landscaping, the roof walkway to the penthouse and the lane rope replacement.
At Tamitik, the roof and the roof access ladder were approved, as was the money for refurbishing. Halyk wanted to refurbish the hallway as well and Gottschling wanted to know if it would be more costly to refurbish the hallway.
The Tamitik sound system was moved. Administration suggested Council keep their books clear and not accept the donation from Jack Oviatt. Feldhoff wanted to defer the Tamitik meeting room floor but Gottschling reminded Council they might not have the money for the floor at a later date. The floor was deferred.
Feldhoff moved to keep KIR open and approve the dehumidifier. Halyk stated, although Tamitik could handle the traffic, he would like to see the rink stay open as there are other communities who want two ice rinks. It could draw people in. Feldhoff said they could afford the service and people appreciate it. They can look at other options in the future.
Goffinet was opposed. They cut the rink and reversed the decision for a good reason. He said there was no one who has told Council to keep it open and people would understand as they have lost 50% of their teams. He said closing KIR would save a quarter of million dollars. However, he wanted to revisit this at the end if they could. Gottschling tabled it to the end.
Monaghan said there were two huge issues Council will get flack on if they do not do it: Snow clearing and KIR. Gottschling reminded Monaghan all these items were important to the community. KIR was a luxury although it was a good thing. The tabling motion failed and keeping KIR open passed.
Goffinet was opposed to the Dehumidifier as it would lock them into keeping the rink open if they ever decided to close it. Feldhoff said if they didn’t replace it, they were putting the building at risk. Halyk said if they open it, they have to approve the budget items so they can keep it open.
Monaghan called a recess. They were down to a 12.86%
Upon returning, Feldhoff moved the money for the compressor and it was carried, the propane and ammonia censor and the doors were approved.
Moving onto the great outdoors, the refurbishment of Centennial Park was moved. The refurbishment is the removal of the wall and the conversion of the pool to a flower bed. Goffinet wanted to know if this included improvements to the walkways. Monaghan pointed out it was a heritage site and there may be money to rebuild it. She stated it was built by a town founder and everything in the town that relates to our heritage is destroyed or got rid of. Hall pointed out they get a lot of complaints about the area and it has been discussed in the past. It was passed with Monaghan opposed.
The removal totem pole in the park, which is an issue because totem poles are supposed to remain in place, was brought up as well. Gould said he is in negotiations with the Haisla on this topic. The totem pole is not a part of this project.
The ball fields passed, improvements on the parks, the Hirsch Creek Shelter Roof was approved after discussion, the completion of Heron Park was approved and the bathroom at Radley Park was passed without discussion. The fall decorations were removed from the budget. Bunting Street Adventure Park was granted $15,000 rather than the full $35,000.
The Radley Park Development Plan was moved. This would mean hiring a consultant to provide a plan to build more campsites to replace the ones which have been replaced. Halyk pointed out the other side of the river was being used more than the campsites were. Gould thought about asking the consultant but could not tell how much it could cost. Gould pointed out if they did convert this area to park, they would add some expenses as well. The plan was carried.
The MESS Tennis courts came up next. A motion was made to approve the amount. Feldhoff pointed out it would create an opportunity for outdoor activities in the Nechako Neighbourhood. Halyk pointed out the other areas were underutilized. Hall pointed out this would be a grant to another government authority which has more money then the District. Kitimat does not have the population to support this project. Gould listed the groups which have so far invested in the courts.
Feldhoff suggested they need to support the partnerships as the schools have been bleeding in many different ways. He said this project would benefit the schools and benefit the community. The group which brought this to Council is showing initiative.
Corless pointed out there was no formal agreement between the groups as to who would look after it. Halyk said the school board has not invested in it and the District has good courts and they're underutilized. He accused Council of approving these courts for political reasons. Hall spoke against it, although he could not, because he felt it would be under utilized.
Goffinet made a motion that the District does not get saddled with maintenance. Gottschling pointed out they made a similar deal with the animal shelter. Hall reminded Council the tennis court has already fallen into disrepair once and who would look after it. The amendment failed.
Back to the main motion, Feldhoff said this was not for special interest groups, this was for the youth and their activities were no longer being financed. Halyk reminded they were trying to resolve issues and wondered if they have the money to spend on something they do not need. This is not Kitimat in the 80s. Gottschling decided to vote against it as it was on land they do not own and they had just voted down money on an adventure park on land they do own. The motion failed 4-3.
At this point, it was getting close to lunch and there was an in-camera item which needed to be discussed. The increase had dropped to 12.54%. Council went In-Camera and the morning session ended. Upon returning from lunch, the total was down to 3.51% after decreasing an in-camera land item by $2,000,000.
Web design was approved and adding a green house gas and energy plan to the OCP was carried. Roads and walkways were approved and Feldhoff reminded administration some money was put aside for roads and sidewalks.
He also wished to put in a crosswalk on Columbia Street for $30,000. Corless didn’t see a reason for it as they were advised against it and there was no sidewalk on the other side. Goffinet did not feel putting a lit crosswalk in was necessary, but was in favour of painting one. Halyk asked for some specifics. An amendment was made to paint it and not light it. $1,500 was budgeted for the signs. Halyk wanted to put a crosswalk at a more valuable intersection such as the soccer fields. The motion carried.
On the vehicle replacement program, Feldhoff made an amendment to repair the obsolete equipment. Gottschling argued they need the snow clearing equipment which was down and they needed to act so they could do the job. The main motion was to provide the money for the vehicle replacement.
The painting of the bridge was next, the motion was moved to inspect it and make certain it was safe. They were already a year behind on this inspection. However, it was pointed out if Haisla Boulevard was turned over to the province, the Council was spending money they would not have to. Hall said not to budget based on hope. Monaghan said there were ministers coming up to look at the bridge. The motion to inspect was carried.
The plan for the bridge was to put money into reserves so they could paint it in a later year. Councillor Mario Feldhoff wished to defer putting money into the reserves and instead, pay for the entire thing in a single budget. Gottschling stated it was better to have the funds in place rather then scramble in a future budget. Hall said they will have to do this bridge and if the government does not take over the bridge, the Council will. The motion failed and the money was put away until 2012.
The crosswalk lights for Saint Anthony’s were approved and the Christmas light upgrades were given $5,000 rather than $15,000. Feldhoff also asked about widening the handicapped stalls in the community. Glieg explained the paint in the existing stalls would need to be burned off. He offered to come back to Council with a recommendation.
The Wakishan storm sewer improvements were already funded. Approved was the removal of the walkway on Gannet and misc. improvements at the cemetery.
Feldhoff made a motion to reduce the Engineering Department budget by $200,000 and use the money to set up an account for some retiring members of the District who had saved up hours. The Engineering department came in under budget in 2010. He argued they have not trimmed the operating budget. This motion failed so Feldhoff motioned to reduce the Engineering Department by $200,000.
By now, the budget was at 2.57% or an average cost per household of $26.28. Corless said this amount was reasonable. They have left the District in a good state. Halyk agreed. This would bring up Alcan’s taxes $280,000 and Eurocans $68,000 based on last years apportionments. Feldhoff’s motion would change the increase to 1.67%. Next year, the District would lose another 2 million and if Eurocan wins their assessment case, they lose the 2 million this year. The motion failed.
Gottschling said they had a phenomenal budget, even including KIR. The motion was defeated. Monaghan hoped they could bring the motion down to below 2.0 % but the Council has to run for election as she does.
Gottschling made a motion to accept the budget as it is. Feldhoff wanted to reconsider what he thought to be an error in judgement, the tennis courts. It was carried.
The tennis courts would have to wait for another meeting because of policy. The next thing Council has to do is to consider the apportionment amongst the different class rates. They will come back at a future Council meeting.
“I think that Council did a good job, they looked very diligently at every aspect of the budget, they reduced in every area that they could and I think the home owner will be quite happy with the results because I know many of them thought they would have a 20% again and this time, we only have a 2.5%. People will be ok,” said Monaghan.