INNISFAIL – Town council has formally passed the 2018 budget and one of its first moves in the new year could be moving $450,000 from its multi-million dollar general reserve account to one set up for the new skateboard park.
At council’s regular meeting on Dec. 11 Mayor Jim Romane put the idea to council through a motion before the budget was passed. He noted the infusion of $450,000 would top up the Skateboard Park Reserve Account to $500,000. That would leave $150,000 that would have to be raised privately or acquired through a provincial grant to have enough money to get the two-phase $650,000 project started.
“It is because of what I have heard in the community. I saw a lot of support through the (election) campaign time,” Romane told council members. He noted the Innisfail Kinsmen and the Kinette Club of Innisfail, tasked to be the lead fundraisers for the $650,000 facility, have managed to raise about $25,000 to date but are “overwhelmed” in trying to collect enough to get the project started. “It is a Kinsmen club project and they are pretty much overwhelmed trying to raise that kind of money. I think it is just a worthwhile project.”
Many of the other six members of council expressed support for the project but some wanted to wait until after council held its Strategic Planning Session on Dec. 18 and 19. The outcome of the session will outline and guide council’s vision, including capital projects, on how and where it will lead the town during its four-year mandate.
“With strategic planning so close I would really encourage us to look at something like this at that point in time so we can get more of an overall look at what we want to do going forward over the next five, 10 years,” said Coun. Jean Barclay. “I am certainly not against the skateboard park. I would really like us to get a bigger plan than just a one-off at this point in time.”
Romane’s skateboard park cash infusion amendment to the 2018 budget was defeated but the mayor left no doubt his skateboard park project motion will soon be back on the table, and with strong support from council members, notably Coun. Donnie Hill.
“I’ve looked these numbers over several times and with the reserves at $13,758,000 I don’t think a couple of weeks is going to make a lot of difference,” said Romane. “I think it would be some good news for the community. I think there is a pretty large factor out there that are looking for this project.
“I think it would be a good time to bring it out – Christmastime,” he said to a smattering of chuckles around the council table and public gallery. “I think we have to get a bit more aggressive in our thinking. I am sure council is going to feel just as positive about the project after we finish that discussion on our strategic planning.”
And that big chunk of cash for the project is not the only change for the long-awaited recreation facility. Romane also said he’s in favour of reopening the discussion on its chosen location beside the horseshoe pits at the intersection of 42nd Street and 51st Avenue. The location has faced public opposition, notably from members of the Innisfail Horseshoe Club.
“We will have to reopen that. That is not cast in stone or anything like that,” said Romane. “We will look at the location. We will look at options too. The previous council debated it quite strongly. I will have to follow up on their information, what they gathered.
“We said we are going to be open and if this council is going to make a decision to go ahead with it we should have community involvement,” added the mayor.
Council ultimately passed the 2018 budget, which is calling for a zero per cent tax increase for the third year in a row, with one amendment to what was first introduced on Nov. 27. The 2018 operating budget is $20,892,332 while the capital budget is set for $5,084,566.
Council agreed to an administration request to spend $40,000 for additional staff support for the town’s FCSS (Family and Community Support Services) services. That money will come out of the contingency fund, which will now be $130,068.
Meanwhile, citizens will see water rates increase from $2.20 to $2.25 per cubic metre. However, the water flat rate will remain unchanged at $10 per metered site. Wastewater (sewer) rates will increase from $3.05 to $3.15 per cubic metre. The wastewater flat rate, however, will decrease from $15 to $10 per metered site. Solid waste (garbage) rates will increase from $17 to $18 per month, and recycling remains the same at $5 per month.
While the 2018 budget is proposing a zero per cent tax increase, residential and commercial tax assessments for some property owners for 2018 are estimated to increase by 0.65 per cent and 0.35 per cent.
When final assessment numbers are known and provincial school requisitions have been received, the Tax Rate Bylaw will come to council for approval in spring.
Mayor Jim Romane
“I think it would be a good time to bring it out – Christmastime. I think we have to get a bit more aggressive in our thinking. I am sure council is going to feel just as positive about the project after we finish that discussion on our strategic planning.”