Initial budget discussions

Trent Ernst, Editor


Council got its first look at the proposed 2015-2019 Budget for the District of Tumbler Ridge, specifically proposed capital and special projects for the next year.

Finance Manager Chris Leggett ran the show with Accountant Clive Freundlich, on the line for support.

The meeting began with a discussion of last year’s Capital Projects. In 2014, just under $5.1 million was budgeted for special projects. Of that, $3.8 million was spent on various projects. This is due to some items coming in under budget, as well as some not getting started.

Leggett says the budget is well under way. He has been working with the Department heads to come up with a list of capital projects. “We are already two months ahead of last year’s budget cycle,” says Leggett. He has provided the department heads with Excel spreadsheets, allowing them to create an ongoing list of capital projects.

For 2015, he says, 12 special projects have been identified by staff. The total special projects budget is $452,000, down nearly $200,000 from the $632,000 budgeted last year, though only $417,185 of that was actually used, as projects like new sand for the golf course sand traps and a study of the groundwater seepage on Sukunka didn’t happen, while work that needed to be done on the Spruce Sewer Line came in more than $68,000 under budget.

These special projects include: Sustainability Planning, which shows up twice. Once to pay off outstanding bills from last year, and once for future efforts.

A line item called the Council Initiative Contingency is a fund that is set aside for Council to be able to do things like support the TR CARES Golf Tournament. “It is $50,000 for discretionary funding,” says CAO Barry Elliott.

The largest single budgeted item in Special Projects is the Return to Work initiative, which would set aside $150,000 for Council to be able to provide matching funding for job creation programs. “This is set aside in the budget to allow you to consider those items quickly,” says Elliott.

$6000 will be set aside to study the viability of a Zipline in the Tumbler Ridge area, while $15,000 is budgeted for Financial Special Projects, which will allow Leggett to update and fine tune the budgeting and accounting system at town hall.

The radios in the fire apparatus need to be replaced, says Fire Chief Matt Treit, and would cost about $7,000 to do.

$39,000 is budgeted for a website update, while $39,000 is set aside for advertising. $6000 is on the books for improvements to the new mountain bike trail that was created last year. “Some delegates from Province suggested some safety improvements,” says Leggett, and this cost would cover the rental of the equipment.

$79,200 has been set aside for a recreation master plan, and $3,300 will go towards finally finishing up the rock work on the electronic sign at the Community Centre.

Councillor Kirby says there is currently a lot of money out there for grants; now is the time to start putting those forward. Leggett says that the defining factor is not usually do we have the money, but do we have the staff? Kirby says a lot of these programs are to get unemployed people back to work. “To me, that’s a very key idea, getting those people back to work.”

Mayor says it might be possible to take it one step further. For instance, he says, look at the mountain bike trail improvement. “Do we apply for a grant for that to get some people working on that, or do we just pay for it?”

Freundlich says they have a list of sources of grants. “This is a list of priorities. Funding sources, time…everything gets reviewed. We do watch for where those sources of money are.”

Councillor Mackay agrees that now is the time to think about the grants. For some projects, he says, up to 50 percent, sometimes more, of the project covered. Freundlich suggests that the next meeting is where they will be talking funding sources, so Council should bring their suggestions forward then.

Council then entered into a long discussion about potential capital improvements, with staff describing the line item, and Council asking questions or adding comments.

Items include $24,200 to upgrade sound and visual in Council chamber. Councillor Krakowka doesn’t think this is important, but the mayor points out there have been complaints from people attending council meetings that they can’t hear discussions. “This would bring Council into 21st century.”

Nearly a million dollars has been set aside to upgrade the Town Hall Building envelope, $260,000 for 2015. The stucco is cracking, the windows need replacing the roof has been leaking etc, says Building Official Ken Klikach. The cost is $60,000 for engineering, which staff is seeking pre-approval for. Over next few years, says Klikach, they will do these repairs a little at a time. In addition to the exterior, the interior of town hall needs some work to redo counters and doors and the like. “They’re starting to get a little worn out,” says Klikach. “They just need a bit of work.” This has been in the budget for the last few years. Amount is $71,800.

Two doors down, the Fire Hall roof has been leaking. Klikach says some of the screws in the metal clad roof are coming loose and the washers are deteriorating. This would cost $7000.

For the last few years, Public Works has been looking for a new wash bay. It was actually on the books a few years back, but the cost of the quote came in about three times what they had budgeted. Klikach says he has talked to another contractor, and they came in with a quote of $199,140, which is what’s in the budget.

There are, says Klikach, 318 of the old style cobra head lights in town. About six years ago, a number of the lights in the Peace River Crescent area were changed to LED lights. The plan was to change some over each year, but that hasn’t happened. While the cost per light is around $800, they will save on the amount of electricity that is used (LED uses about 20 percent of the electricity), as well as longevity. Councillor Howe asks if this is something that a grant would cover. Klikach says maybe. Councillor Howe says Walter Energy got a grant from BC Hydro to replace their lights. He asks about lights along walkways. Klikach says they’d have to approach BC Hydro about that.

In an energy report a few years back, the Public Works building was identified as one of the least energy efficient buildings in town. Klikach says there’s a variety of reasons. The walls are concrete blocks filled with Zonolite insulation. This insulation has settled, and in some places, the top six feet of the wall has no insulation. And Zonolite contains asbestos, so it probably should come out of there. In addition, the windows need to be replaced.

There is an additional $354,730 in a line item under the Visitor Information Centre. This is not, says Elliott, part of the current contract with Summit Brooke, but additional expenses to get it to occupancy-ready. For instance, says Elliott, lawn will need to be installed, additional paving will need to be done, an LED video sign will need to be installed. Computers will need to be purchased for an interactive learning room. All these, he says, are over and above Summit Brooke’s contract.

Councillor Caisley asks if this will complete everything at the VIC? Elliott says there are some additional costs that are being negotiated with Summit Brookes that may be over and above this. Councillor Caisley asks what the town has paid so far? $1,276,857, as of the end of last year. Elliott says what was required in the contract with Summit Brookes will come in on budget, but they are still negotiating these extra expenses.

RV Park electrical upgrades have been on the books for a while. They need to upgrade electrical system to park before any additional stalls can be built. This would cost $44,900, while additional upgrades (landscaping, paving, new sign, HRV ventilation for building, security cameras, etc) would cost $55,123.

Councillor Kirby asks what the revenue is from the RV Park last year. That figure is not immediately available.

$7000 has been put in the budget for landscaping in the Roman walkway area, while $63,000 is budgeted to change the existing bubble lights, which no longer have parts, to LED lights. “There will be a cost savings to core services as a result,” says Elliott.

Last year, the District began work on replacing the old outside deck, but did not finish it. There is $11,000 in this budget to finish it this year. More problematic for some is $211,000 to change the pool system back to a chlorinated system.

Staff wants to change the lighting in the arena, curling rink and pool area to LED, which will save money. They also want to build a new storage building at the Community Centre. It has always had a storage problem, says Klikach. “Stuff is being put into rooms where it shouldn’t be. Just the other day we had a small problem with a pump, and it took half an hour to get in there. This means that things aren’t getting inspected properly. We need more space.” $80,000 is budgeted towards this. Councillor Howe asks about the storage area that used to be for the flooring that used to be put in the curling rink to have dances. I think we got rid of that. What’s that space being used for now? Klikach says it is being used for storage. Howe asks after the idea of a running track in the rec centre. Klikach says the engineers looked at that four years ago and determined the trusses weren’t capable of bearing that much weight.

About $6,000 worth of work needs to be done on the surge tank at the pool.

Down at the Golf Course, $7900 has been put aside for landscaping to repair the damage from the new cart building and some other work, including a final waterproof coating on the deck.

Councillor Krakowka asks why these costs are not being included in the initial building cost? “What I’m seeing here is that we have to come back and do more stuff adds to the costs.” Klikach says it’s partially done because things change. At the golf course, he says there was $200,000 set aside for all this, but there wasn’t enough to finish it. We did everything we could do with the budget last year, then stopped.

Councillor Krakowka says he’s concerned because this is not an accurate budget. “When we look at something like the wash bay, is that the total cost, or are we looking at having that cost go up next year?”

Elliott says that a budget is not a quote, but an estimate. “Things can and do change as we go on. It’s a good system, but it’s not an exact science.”

In addition to the aforementioned landscaping $142,799 has been set aside for a new maintenance building at the golf course. “There’s no dry place to keep fertilizers down there, for instance,” says Klikach. “There’s not even a washroom for maintenance. They need a building out there to store stuff in. It would also house the new compressor. There are a couple old ATCO trailers out there and they should be removed from the site.”

Councillor Howe asks how big this shop would be. 30X60X12 heated maintenance shop, is the proposal. Councillor Scott says she worries that it would take away from the view. Klikach says the new building would go down where the existing maintenance building is, which is at the end of the driving range. Councillor Howe wonders about getting some seacans down there, but Klikach says they would need to be heated, so the cost of that would go up.

Finally, there is $7,900 on the books for security cameras at the golf course for the new cart building and to replace the previous security system in the main building.

$113,000 is in the budget for signage. This has been carried over for the last few years. Current navigational signage getting into and around town is not that great. The District is working on getting the signage consistent and prominent. Councillor Howe suggests he’d love to see some signage on the Hourglass road to get to Tumbler Ridge.

There is $142,900 on the budget for new computers, phones and IT at Town Hall.

Over last few years, the Family Needs Committee has been working on identifying playgrounds to upgrade, says Operations Manager. This year, $200,000 has been budgeted and will cover four of the smaller parks: Spruce Ave, Monkman RV Park, Murray and one other. Those are well past their life expectancy and non-compliant. $100,000 is budgeted for the following year to add more to those parks. Councillor Kirby asks about park by Recreation Centre. Beale says it hasn’t been considered. That park is going to be replaced by the water park, when it happens.

Down at the dump, $170,000 has been budgeted for a cold storage building. Beale says at transfer site they also collect hazardous waste, like old paint cans, batteries, etc. Currently these are being stored outside, which is a huge risk to environment. A cold storage building, he says, would protect it from elements. Any leaks would be contained by the concrete floor, and part of it could also be used as a share shed. That way we limit amount of exposure of community to danger. Councillor Howe asks what revenue we make for recycling, but that figure is not known at the time.

Councillor Krakowka asks about size. It will be 40X60.

$110,000 is budgeted for a new bobcat to use down at the transfer station. Currently, says Beale, they are sending public works equipment down there, but there’s damage to tires, which is expensive. Looking at getting a bobcat that would live down there and it would have solid tires, which could also be used at Community Centre for cleaning snow, etc.

$29,000 has been set aside for cemetery expansion. This is a something that has been on the books for a couple years. They will require more plots soon, and to do that, the town need to have a plan. They are currently in the process of having Urban Systems consult on the plan, which will come before Council later in spring.

$30,000 is budgeted for an expansion for the Public Works Yard. The town owns the lot next door. The plan is to move fire training area there, which would open up the commercial lot they are currently using to be sold. There’s also $20,000 budgeted for a small stand-up electric forklift for inside the Public Works yard. Currently, says Beale, they use a loader to store Christmas decorations, etc. on the shelves there. “This would be a lot safer and easier to get stuff up and down.”

$50,000 is set aside to replace one of the trucks. $12,500 is in the budget for a snow bucket. $10,000 for additional Christmas decorations, and $10,000 for new outhouses at the golf course.

This last inspires some discussion, as the suggestion is to get ones like are down at the boat launch, which are self contained. Councillor Krakowka asks if they can get a vac truck in there? Beale says yes. Councillor Howe says he would prefer a different design, as the ones down at the boat launch are “not appropriate.”

Down at the Lions Campground, the sanitary tanks will need to be replaced, as they are showing signs of corrosion. This will cost $30,000.

$40,000 is budgeted to replace some of the solid waste bins around town. The final big ticket item would be a new recycling bailer. “The grant writer has submitted a grant on this,” says Beale. He says the existing bailer is very small and only used for cardboard and needs a lot of manual, tedious work right now. New bailer would have a conveyor, which would speed things up, and could take plastic and other materials.

Beale says there are a few items not on the table, including a GIS initiative on collecting data on the community, as well as a proposal to replace the current SCADA monitoring in the water system, as the current one is thirty years old and if something breaks, there are no more parts. There also needs to be a review of wastewater treatment system.

CAO Barry Elliott asks council if there’s anything missing, or any other projects they want to see on the list. He admits there’s not a lot of high profile things on the list, and it’s mostly infrastructure.

Councillor Mackay says that he wants to see a continuation of the walking trails, as well as LED lights at the Visitor Centre. Councillor Howe says he wants to look at all lights around town including the parking lot lights, exterior lights on businesses. He mentions land purchases, especially the lots down by the golf course and industrial commercial lots and acreages. He asks if there a consultant who can look at what it would take to put in a rail siding. He still wants to look at putting a running track into the Community Centre, and says he wants to talk about an RV park down at the Murray River. With the comments about the pool damage, he suggests a pool reserve fund. Councillor Krakowka says he wants to see an off leash dog park and wants to know what the District is planning around paving this year as far as streets. “Not hole patching,” he says. “Paving.” Councillor Scott says if they are talking paving, she wants to know that the sewer system and catch basins are in good condition so the new paving won’t need to be torn up. Also, she says, a fairground.