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REPORTING · 12th December 2013
Walter McFarlane
It was Monday, December 9th and the Budget meeting was half over. Traditionally, the two largest presentations go to Engineering and Recreation and they were about to present their budgets.

Tim Gleig from Engineering and transportation was the next to present. He told the construction has also affected the engineering department. He stated there are a lot of proposals coming forward which will create demands on the city. In addition, they do not know how many of these proposals are going ahead. Finally, once the boom is over, there is a big unknown, because there could be an increase in infrastructure which Kitimat is left with.

He explained what is his department does and let Council know many of the services are taken for granted because they are invisible to the general public until something goes wrong.

Gleig said Engineering normally has 41 staff members, but there have been some retirements, transfers and rotation. Feldhoff wanted to know if the hiring challenges were being exasperated by the housing challenges or if there was another reason. He was told the main issue is finding qualified people. Some positions are easier to fill than others. He expressed it was difficult to find people at a busy time.

He went through the operations budget. One of the topics where the cost is going up is in lighting the streets. Feldhoff remembered they were looking at 150 programmable units which dim the lights at certain times of day. He was told there was a BC company which did this, but they disappeared. They went back in business two years later. Gleig suggested there was not a lot to be saved. They would switch to lower wattage when they can.

On the topic of the landfill, Wayne Sussbauer explained the dump was not out compliance. “The ministry originally came to us saying we were out of compliance based on changes in the legislation of the landfill having to meet the contaminated sites regulation. Because of that, we were out of compliance and they put a bunch of initiatives that we then came to budget in 2013 for a partial closure of the landfill, some testing and monitoring enhancements and it turned out in the end the amendments that were applied to the CSR actually didn’t apply to landfills, they were never intended to so we became no longer in noncompliance,” said Sussbauer.

The District is still going to carry out the hydrological review to show that the land fill is not having much of an effect on the river.

There will be supplemental budget for new decorations and new flags. Monaghan stated she had heard some comments on the new decorations, which are blue and yellow instead of red and green. Gleig asked what hockey team that was and Feldhoff cracked a joke about it being Christmas in Sweden.

Gleig continued through the sewers in Kitimat, talking about how there may be breaks in the sewer lines this winter due to the weather. They have already experienced one in Service Centre. On the cemetery, it appears it is time to expand the Cemetery into a new area.

He touched briefly on the Supplemental. The road Maintenance plan is the Wakashan upgrade. The walkways are the ones at the mall which they did not have any bidders last year, combined with this year’s plan. Several traffic improvements are also left over from 2013.

Feldhoff wanted to know what the total cost for the Haisla Bridge Upgrade and how much was in the money. $2,500,000 was the price tag on it and they have applied for funding from the BC Government and have been turned down every time.

Gleig stated they have put a weight limit on it because they are concerned about the bridge. If a vehicle is overweight, it needs to be checked over and then limited in a manner that only one such vehicle is on the bridge at a given time. “When you only have one bridge, you have to do what you can to make sure no one goes through it,” said Gleig.

He expressed he would be presenting on the supplemental budget at a later date.

The final presentation was given by Martin Gould with Leisure services.

He started his presentation by presenting on behalf of the Kitimat Snowflake Seniors Centre. They are asking for a grant of $23,500 for their programmer. “It would be beneficial for the senior planning of the senior centre if Council could foresee agreeing to a long term agreement of 3 years of funding this position of $23,500, instead of having to come back every year for this programming,” said Gould.

Gould explained the programmer helps out with special events, organizing trips from the community, register’s them for the seniors games and much more. Scott agreed with the suggestion but expressed it should go before a new Council for the 2015 budget.

“The Leisure services department has had another busy year, we’ve been involved in a great many projects and we’ve seen a lot of new faces and a lot of old faces come through our doors. We’re proud to submit our budget submission and our annual report to Mayor and Council,” said Gould.

He told Council, in 2014, Kitimat Ice Rink will be 50 years old. It opened in the fall of 1964 and in the fall, there will be a celebration to recognize it.

“Many of our facilities are, as many of us are, are aging. Although we do maintain the facilities in the best possible order we can and we bring those items forward to Mayor and Council,” said Gould. “Not only is KIR 50 years old this year, the Tamitik Arena is 34 years old, the Riverlodge Recreation Centre is 35 years old and Radley Park is 43 years old.”

He talked about the Statement of Objectives which operates Leisure Services was adopted in June of 1981, the Leisure Services Advisory Commission was created in April of 1995 and they will be reviewing those objectives this year.

Gould explained there are many opportunities for leisure in Kitimat, many of which are run or helped out by the leisure services department and other groups in town. They take care of buildings in the town and help other groups. They maintain the School Board Fields, work with the Seniors Centre and run Hirsch Creek and Radley Park.

Into his report, he said 2013 was exciting for his department because they accomplished a lot, but also sad, because one long time staff person, Jo Young, retired while another staff member lost a battle with Cancer. Gould expresses they miss both of them in the department.

“Over the years, the Leisure Service Department has received recognition for its excellence for providing recreation services, not only in the community and the region but throughout the province. We often get phone calls from other areas asking us how we manage things and do things which is a great testament to our staff and the way we run the department,” said Gould.

This year, they will have completed 27 of the 31 supplemental budget projects. They were not able to complete some budget requests, such as the hanging baskets, the removal of the Stikine Street Park (the land hasn’t sold), there were issues installing Radley Park power sites and the handicapped access at the rear of the pool (which is on order but has not come in).

This past year, the leisure services department completed the Radley Park Survey and now have all the information to improve Radley park including ‘punching’ a new road into the park and adding new sites. Feldhoff wanted to know how many sites at the camp were lost. He was told there are a total of 42 sites, with 21 electrical and 21 non electrical. They lost a dozen sites.

They track campers in the park and they have been on the rise. Feldhoff asked how long a person could stay in the camp. Gould replied there was a bylaw which was passed in 1991 that says no camper can stay more than 14 nights. If someone does, they have to leave the facility for 24 hours and then they can come back for another 7 nights. When that is done, they cannot come back for the rest of the summer. He added the bylaw has not been enforced since 1993 because it does not make sense to kick people out of the park when there are empty sites.

Feldhoff asked if they are accommodating Temporary Construction Workers and denying visitors to Kitimat a place to stay. Gould stated they are very careful and the camp staff is keeping them informed. However, the campgrounds have become tighter and if the trend continues, they may seek advice from Council as to whether or not they are ready to enforce the bylaw. Hirsch Creek was used by camper from both the public and contractors. However, there are only 8 campsites at Hirsch Creek.

Leisure Services were involved in 92 economic development activities. They manage 12 contracts to create leisure opportunities in Kitimat which they do not run, such as the Boxing Club, the Kitimat Youth Centre, The Fire Mountain Shooting Range, Bill Rich Soccer Fields. They sit on several committees. They are member of several national and professional organizations. They deal with Riverbank Camping, Forestry, Downtown Beautification and the Cemetery. They work with corporate partners and businesses.

Gould moved into the budget. He explained the Leisure services department earns revenue from five sources and they meet their revenue expectations and sometimes manage to meet and pass them. He broke down the revenues for Council.

He expressed the Recreational Facilities expenses have increased over the last five years because of the age of the facilities. The cost of staffing has gone up. The pool completion in 2009 increased their budget. They spend the money they are given responsibly and have found ways to stay under budget through saving money or coming in under budget.

He broke down the basic budget to Council, explaining how they may not make money in everything they do, things like the town’s flower gardens are important to the community.

He explained one of the things they have done in 2013 was maintain the Bill Rich Soccer Fields where there were a lot of problems. The District helped by mowing the lawn and collecting the grass. They were told about late in the year and cooperated because they were afraid of losing the fields. He said if it is needed, they will help maintain the fields on a temporary basis.

For supplemental requests, Leisure Services will be expanding on the Bear Aware Program which they have worked on over the last two years. However, they will be looking for two new summer students for the program, as the previous students have moved on into other stages of their lives.

In Riverlodge, there is a request for doors at the Kitimat Youth Centre which need replacing. Gould stated earlier in his presentation they support the programs there and there are a lot of people who came out of the Youth Centre who have stated the Centre saved their lives. There are three kilns which are used for pottery, two of them are beyond repair.

Program wise, after successes with their Men’s Health awareness program, the next program will be to work to reduce child obesity in Kitimat. They will be making a request to Council and Northern Health for matching grants.

In the Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre, the Leisure Services Department has UV equipment which need to be replaced having passed both their warrantee and their life expectancy. The change room floor in the men’s and women’s change room needs to be replaced after it was discovered the flooring had peeled from the walls.

They talked to the Rock Hard representative which was in Kitimat doing work and showed him the flooring. They went back through the notes of the flooring and found that although they were told the walls were painted with epoxy paint which bonds the Rock Hard to the wall, it had been, most likely, it had been painted with latex paint and the flooring has pulled away from the wall.

“Our big fear is if we don’t fix where it goes up the wall, the water will get underneath and ruin the rest of the floor,” said Gould.

There are several projects set for Radley Park. They are asking for $800,000 from the reserves for the project. They need to repair the septic field in the park and provide the funds for a Sanitation Dump. They also want to put in a new road and have 10 additional campsites off of it. Finally, they want to put in a new wash hut, electrical sites and other improvements.

Germuth asked if they considered doing away with the septic field and attaching it to the sewer system. Gould stated they have looked at it but the long term costs would be higher, he passed the question to Engineering but Gleig stated he could not answer the question because he had not been asked it before tonight. He suggested looking at it because while the costs for the septic field are significant, it would be a long way to tie into the gravity mane. Murphy agreed she did not want a septic field there.

At Hirsch Creek, they want to improve the roads in the park and build a one kilometre wheelchair accessible trail. They also want to reopen the campsites so they can collect revenue from them.

In Tamitik, they need to put in an Ammonia Leak Sensor. They also need to replace the Dehumidifier which needs more maintenance every year to keep it operating. “Without the dehumidifier during winter times, we get a lot of fog,” said Gould.

Feldhoff wanted to know about female change room’s amenities in the Tamitik. Gould explained that when there are mixed teams and all of the other change rooms are being used, the women use a fifth, smaller, change room which has no bathroom, shower and sink. If they need to use the bathroom, they need to walk down to the public washrooms. Monaghan suggested putting the guy’s teams in that change room and give the girls one of the better ones.

In the Kitimat Ice Rink, they need to replace two rusty double doors.

In Gardening, Leisure services wants to go into year three of the invasive plant project. He hopes they have eradicated the Scotch Broom and Japanese Knot Weed. The next plant is Himalayan Balsam and Mountain Bluet. Gould expressed the latter was in his garden. Monaghan added a lot of the invasive species were pretty to look at.

Councillor Corinne Scott wanted to know about the Haisla Boulevard project. Gould explained they extended the garden in 2013. They will be planting perennials this spring. Phase two is to extend it farther to the Village Road. They also plan on removing some of the mountain ash trees.

Left over from 2013 is the hanging baskets project. One project for 2014 is to repair the cenotaph in a partnership with the Legion. “Essentially, what we are looking at is a project there to replace the etching on the cenotaph which is now coming off or is in need of repair. In addition, we are looking at doing something with the top of the cenotaph which recognizes all the military campaigns that are recognized by the Legion Association and the Government of Canada as official items that can be recognized on a cenotaph,” said Gould.

They want to retain the money to remove the lot on Stikine Street if the park is ever developed. The District also wants to remove the broken old basketball court at Heron Street Park and put grass there and a covered area with a picnic table which would improve the standards there on both sunny and rainy days.

“If anyone goes and looks at the ball field next to Riverlodge, the fence is in good shape. The problem is, it’s all leaning to the left of the outfield,” said Gould. “After 30-40 years of service, all the frost heaves and people leaning against the fence, kids jumping the fence and who knows what, we want to straighten that fence back up and make it look appropriate,” said Gould.

Gould recommended Council to consider the study for the Riverlodge Recreation Centre Study because the facility is aging. He suggested if the Provincial Government does come through with some funding, they should look at it. Gould told Council he is concerned about leaks which could damage sections of the gyprock, the copper tubing and lead which might still be in the facility, and there is one more sanding left in the gymnasium floor. The floor will have to be sanded in 8 years.

He hoped the department would become greener over the next couple of years. Feldhoff caught on to this and suggested Council look at carbon neutrality.

The meeting closed, everyone went home.