Council passes slashed capital budget

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Cuts more than $3 million from initial plan

Council further trimmed its 2016 capital budget before passing an amended version unanimously at its Jan. 25 meeting.

The town’s 2016 capital budget totals $4,524,590. That’s down from $7,580,740 when the preliminary plan was first presented to council for review in November.

The single biggest cut made this past week was removing $240,000 in spending toward Centennial Park revitalization. In December, the town learned it would not receive a federal grant that could have paid for about half the $1-million project, to be completed over two years. As a result, plans were scaled back.

Chief administrative officer Norm McInnis said they hoped to start upgrading the park ahead of Canada’s 150th anniversary but it appears that work will have to wait.

Coun. Wade Bearchell was one in favour of holding off on the project.

“I don’t think in today’s economy, we need to be spending that money on Centennial Park,” Bearchell said.

“I’m happy we were able to identify some areas in the budget that we felt could be put off. I think there are projects that, when the economy turns around, we can seriously look at. Right now, I think our taxpayers expect us to make some cutbacks and we identified some areas that could easily be cut back so we can focus on the core services in our community.”

Coun. Mary Jane Harper added there hasn’t been enough public consultation done to justify spending the money on Centennial Park.

Other reductions included: $30,000 for a half-ton truck replacement, $140,000 for a pair of solar-powered pedestrian crosswalks, $90,000 for advanced green turning signals, $40,000 for solar-powered lighting and halving the town’s Highway 27 beautification project to $5,000.

“Just because they’re taken out of the budget at this point in time, doesn’t mean that they have to not ever be spent in 2016 because … there can be a budget adjustment at some future time,” said chief financial officer Garth Lucas.

The $7,800 in-car camera for the community peace officer did stay in the budget, despite opposition from Coun. Mary Anne Overwater.

Overwater said she wanted to see statistics on whether the camera would result in more traffic violation convictions.

McInnis said the solicitor general’s office has told them that they want more “solid evidence” to present to the courts.

“The officer’s word against the driver’s is not good enough, is what we’ve been told by the solicitor general’s office and was supported by our staff sergeant when he addressed council last month.”

The capital budget was originally scheduled to be approved in December but was delayed so council could undertake a closer review.

McInnis was relieved the process didn’t take any longer.

“We need to know how much money we have available for our capital works program that will go this summer before we can put it out to tender,” he said.

“Typically, our experience is, the quicker in this year we get our project out to tender, the better pricing we can get because the contractors are hungry for work.

“They want to make sure they do have work for the summer and the later you get, people have been awarded tenders already and they’ve got to squeeze jobs in and it will cost more money.”

jho@olds.greatwest.ca

I’m happy we were able to identify some areas in the budget that we felt could be put off. I think there are projects that, when the economy turns around, we can seriously look at. Right now, I think our taxpayers expect us to make some cutbacks and we identified some areas that could easily be cut back so we can focus on the core services in our community.” COUN. WADE BEARCHELL

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