Public works and staffing a priority in 2015 draft budget

While public works and staffing took much of the focus during town council’s budget deliberations, some recreation projects

While public works and staffing took much of the focus during town council’s budget deliberations, some recreation projects made into the draft interim budget.

Council deliberated on the 2015 Budget Dec. 8 and 9 with only one person in the gallery besides a Ponoka News reporter watching on despite the first-ever open invitation to residents of the community to be part of the budget process.

In addition to the North Bridge replacement project, valued at $3.5 million, planners will also be spending $450,000 in storm line upgrades on 47 Street.

Dave McPhee, director of operations and property services, told councillors that the 12-inch line was cross-connected some years ago, which may have been a factor in flooding to homes in the area. McPhee said they intend to build a 28-inch line to be prepared for a 100-year storm.

“It’s the cheapest option and it’s also the best option,” said McPhee.

The water main on 50 Street between 44 and 46 Avenues will also see $310,000 in rehabilitation. Some years ago soil became contaminated from fuel stations on either side of the street and a 12-inch water line was not constructed.

On one side, McPhee says former owners have agreed to some kind of contract to help pay for soil contamination removal and on the other side, he says the fuel station changed hands several times and he could not get a consensus from former owners.

“It will deal with the soil that needs to be removed because of the water line,” said McPhee.

Dealing with staffing needs

Councillors decided to forego a Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference this year to help pay for a full time clerk at the Ponoka RCMP detachment.

Administration allotted half time hours for the position but the request from the detachment was for full time.

“I do think they do probably need full time,” explained Betty Quinlan, director of corporate services.

Coun. Carla Prediger suggested council skip out on one of the conferences. “I would give up a conference in order for us to have that flexibility.”

She feels larger municipalities have a stronger voice than Ponoka council at the FCM conference and suggests it is not worth their time.

Coun. Marc Yaworski feels the position is worth the money. “It’s worth the investment to streamline that.”

Council needed approximately $35,000 to make the position full time. Typically a FCM conference is budgeted at around $8,000 to cover fees, travel and accommodation, council still needed $27,000 to make it happen.

“If we fund this, something else doesn’t get funded,” suggested Mayor Rick Bonnett.

He feels that either a group misses out on funding requests or council would need to consider raising taxes.

Councillors had initially set aside $30,000 for special grant requests but they had to remove it to help pay for a full time clerk position. There is still $5,000 set aside in the town’s community grant project.

Recreation

With property services seeing the majority of capital project dollars for 2015, there was little left for recreation.

Among the proposed projects were requests to resurface the tennis courts and develop lines for pickleball at $37,000.

The soccer pitches north of the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre will see bleachers, full size nets and garbage cans, a project valued at $15,000.

There was no mention, request or discussion regarding the group seeking $25,000 for the Ponoka Elementary School playground.

Councillor Loanna Gulka said she was concerned there is a two-tier system when it comes to recreation requests to administration.

“How does this kind of thing get here and other things don’t,” she asked, referring to the soccer pitch improvements. “How is it assessed that this project is worthy of a capital project and not a grant funding project?”

Wes Amendt, director of community services replied that he does not treat the soccer pitch any differently than he does the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.

He says the town pays for goals at the arena and feels improving the soccer pitch will bring other benefits to the town with events such as hosting provincials.

Coun. Prediger questioned the request and asked what Ponoka Minor Soccer’s involvement is with regards to contributing to the project but it appears they did not make any requests for equipment.

“My discussions with them is that they’re looking at doing some fundraising, assisting with signage and those types of things,” said Amendt.

A request to improve the Kinsmen Community Centre for $126,000 was discussed but council requested a building plan be formulated to determine if improvements at the building should even be done.

Bonnett suggested if council wants to develop a building plan for a multi-use facility, then putting money into the Kinsmen community centre should be done only after that plan on the multi-use has been completed.