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REPORTING · 8th April 2013
Walter McFarlane
Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion at the regular meeting of City Council on Monday, April 2nd to earmark $200,000 from reserves for Social Purposes.

“The input that we’re receiving from various social groups in the community including the church groups and the church reps is that people are falling through the cracks. People hear about all this economic activity happening in Kitimat and unfortunately, some of them with insufficient skills show up, very little money in their wallet and they are surprised that they can’t get a job right away. Their putting strains on many of our social organizations and funding for some of these groups is program specific and there are some hard luck stories,” said Feldhoff.

He explained he was aware of the Province and the Federal Government have responsibility for these programs but the people who are on the front line in Kitimat are under strain and are fearful that a tsunami is coming in the warmer summer months.

Feldhoff wanted the motion to earmark funds so they could provide the money later to specific projects for augmentation or funding later. For now, it would show that Council is aware of the problem and they will figure out how the funds will be spent in the later months.

Councillor Rob Goffinet said he was not against getting prepared for some social dislocation but he wanted to make sure Council was prudent and only fund areas where the money was needed without duplicating Provincial and Federal responsibilities.

He said compensating government funded multi-billion ministries was a long and slippery slope. He was in favour of earmarking the money in case of an emergency. Goffinet asked where the money would come from.

Feldhoff expressed he was under the impression that there was several million dollars in reserve.

District Treasurer Steve Christianson said most of the reserves were earmarked, including some substantial capital reserves. It would take a bylaw to take it out and Council would have to use it for capital. They have 1.6 million dollars in accumulated surplus for emergencies such as when a large company appeals their taxes. They have $750,000 in the bridge painting reserve, which is not a capital reserve and the can be spent on anything. Finally, they have $800,000 for the Radley Park erosion and improvements. He asked Council to make a decision.

Councillor Phil Germuth agreed with Goffinet. “We know we do have social problems in this community and haven’t had much help either Provincially or Federally but we have to be careful taking on responsibilities which are Provincial and Federal Governments. I do support the intent of the motion but, as we know, we are going to meet with our MLA within two week and I’m hoping we’ll be able to talk to them and get some advice for direction as to where we should go with this to make sure that we don’t get ourselves into something that we might have to do year after year,” said Germuth.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan stated they ask for a budget before they hand money to a group so they know where it’s going and where it’s going to be spent.

Feldhoff stated he agreed with the comments which were made. He agreed with the caution and agreed they do not want to take the responsibilities of the other levels of Government.

“We’ve got a challenge in our community and for the cost of certain programs… paving… It’s a big number but it’s a small number at the same time. We do have a lot of flexibility in our capital reserves,” said Feldhoff. “We need to get through in one piece as a community until such projects are built and we get into a stable state and there’s going to be a lot of pressure.”

He said the social service sector needed assistance. He just wanted to earmark funds for them and then define where they will go. The motion to earmark funds was called and carried.