PENTICTON - Penticton’s new council got down to business in a big way Monday with the first of four scheduled meetings discussing the 2015 budget.
Monday’s budget talks outlined capital budget expenditures.
Two citizens voiced their wishes to council prior to the 8:30 a.m. start of the meeting, one requesting more fire suppression infrastructure on Spiller Road, the other looking for financial help from the city to address drainage issues on Corry Place.
Chief Financial Officer Colin Fisher outlined cost pressures faced by the city in the 2015 budget, noting such items as FortisBC’s electrical rate increase of 4.65 per cent. New agreements with union staff, the RCMP and the fire department should add $246,000, $188,000 and $309,000, respectively, to the 2015 requisition as well.
The city’s strategic priorities undertaken by the Engineering Department for 2015 include carrying forward the 2014 budget on the Peach Plaza and Walkway and the S.S. Sicamous, as the two projects still in progress. Council was also asked for design and implementation of the master plan for the S.S. Sicamous at a cost of $150,000.
The $3.925 million downtown revitalization plan is proposed to continue, with funding options including $2.5 million in Gas Tax funding and grants like the newly created Canada Building Fund. Coun. Andre Martin asked what would happen should the grant not be approved. With the grant worth one third of the project cost, he was told the project would have to be revisited by council.
Another $110,000 was also requested to for parking lot improvements in the downtown core. Coun.Tarik Sayeed expressed an interest in seeing a skating rink constructed in one of the downtown parks, instead of parking lot improvements, while Coun. Helena Konanz asked whether revenue realized in parking lot improvements would pay for the costs proposed. She was told parking lot revenue would not significantly increase with the upgrade.
Council was also asked for $90,000 to pay for an analysis of a Penticton Avenue water pipeline that is rotting in places due to corrosive soils. Another $250,000 was also requested for cleaning and inspection of the city’s cast iron water mains, as some of them are in serious stages of deterioration.
During the discussion over public works expenditures, council debated a proposal to provide $60,000 (including an additional $20,000 from the 2014 budget) from the parks budget to fund four pickle ball courts.
Coun. Konanz objected to the amount, saying pickle ball and other special interest sports groups should contribute to the funding of their sports facilities.
“The days of the city putting up sports items with no contribution from user groups are past,” she said.
Council agreed to reduce the funding request by $20,000.
A $400,000 request for Lakeview Cemetery upgrades was also debated by council. Konanz asked Public Works Manager Len Robson what the payback would be for such an investment.
“The immediate need is space," Robson said. "The rates are set so over 50 years we have payback. Is there a business case on an upgrade? No.”
Konanz expressed a desire to see the cemetery run privately, saying,”I don’t think it should run at a loss.”
A motion to defer until after the Committee of the Whole meeting next Monday was carried by council.
Other budget times of significance proposed to council included:
- $895,000 to install curbs, gutters, storm drains and street lighting on Corry Place. The work will also include infrastructure upgrades.
- $1.15 million for water main replacement in two areas of the city.
- $927,000 to upgrade the sanitary sewer system connecting to Penticton Regional Hospital.
“It’s going good,” Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said of the process midway through Monday’s marathon session. “There’s some new people, so they have some new questions. It’s quite overwhelming to get all the information and binders full of material, so, so far so good. There’s been some good conversation, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The next budget session takes place at council chambers on Wednesday, December 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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