Town of Clarenville wel­comes sug­ges­tions at pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tions

Cit­i­zens can still of­fer ideas un­til Nov. 11

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Community - BY JONATHAN PAR­SONS Jonathan.par­sons@thep­acket.ca Twit­ter: @je­j­par­sons

As was the plan on Tues­day evening, Oct. 30, the Town of Clarenville wel­comed dis­cus­sion and sug­ges­tions to help them pre­pare for their an­nual op­er­at­ing bud­get.

For the first time ever, the event was broad­cast on Face­book Live for any­one will­ing to tune in and com­ment via the so­cial me­dia plat­form.

In ad­di­tion to mem­bers of coun­cil and town staff, two rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Clarenville Cham­ber of Com­merce — pres­i­dent Joe Twyne and past-pres­i­dent Richard Power — showed up to make a pre­sen­ta­tion.

Fi­nance chair Coun. Paul Til­ley be­gan the meet­ing with a brief overview of the town’s past bud­get, ex­plain­ing how they have to des­ig­nate money for de­vel­op­ment, op­er­at­ing and bor­row­ing costs.

Much of this is al­ready set be­fore they be­gin the bud­get dis­cus­sion, he says.

Much of Twyne’s pre­sen­ta­tion for the Cham­ber of Com­merce re­it­er­ated sug­ges­tions from the group’s pre­sen­ta­tion last year.

The Cham­ber sug­gests the town should hire an eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer — ei­ther on a per­ma­nent or con­trac­tual ba­sis; con­tinue the re­launch of a town web­site; soften the blow of prop­erty taxes for busi­nesses by mon­i­tor­ing mill rates, and of­fer a de­ferred pay­ment plan for busi­nesses taxes.

An­other topic of dis­cus­sion was White Hills Ski Re­sort — Power sits on the Alpine De­vel­op­ment Al­liance Cor­po­ra­tion board of di­rec­tors.

Power said while the 2017-18 op­er­at­ing sea­son was one of the most chal­leng­ing ever at White Hills, they hope the town will con­tinue to sup­port the re­sort, as they’ve al­ready done.

Sev­eral ques­tions were posed to the town by the pub­lic, via the Face­book Live plat­form.

One of the first com­ments from the pub­lic ad­dressed by coun­cil re­lated to in­fra­struc­ture work, like road main­te­nance and sewer in­stal­la­tion.

Pub­lic works chair Coun. Bill Bai­ley ex­plained they have a set list of projects in or­der of pri­or­ity — but when other press­ing projects arise, they are forced to pivot and ad­dress the more ur­gent cir­cum­stance. “Things like that keep hap­pen­ing be­cause all the in­fra­struc­ture is ag­ing, it’s break­ing down — nat­u­rally, it’s been in the ground for a long time — un­for­tu­nately, those things hap­pen and throw ev­ery­thing askew,” Bai­ley ex­plained.

Til­ley added as coun­cil ad­dresses these is­sues, they aim to make sure they in­vest enough money into the re­pair to en­sure the prob­lem doesn’t be­come a fre­quent re­cur­rence.

When asked by The Packet if the town had con­sid­ered, in its bud­get­ing process, al­lot­ting money for a le­gacy fund for un­ex­pected emer­gen­cies, Til­ley said the money still has to come from some­where in ei­ther sce­nario.

Cur­rently, they draw from the se­quen­tial pri­or­ity list of projects to pay for emer­gency water breaks or un­planned road main­te­nance.

Mayor Frazer Rus­sell says many of the un­fore­seen ex­penses are far too costly for an ac­cu­mu­lat­ing emer­gency fund.

“All this coun­cil and past coun­cils have been able to do in terms of emer­gen­cies is bor­row to cover them or . . . make a case to pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment un­der emer­gency fund­ing,” he said.

“Each year tak­ing a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars and putting into a kitty for fu­ture use, we have never done that be­cause we do take some money out of our cur­rent rev­enue for cap­i­tal projects.”

Rus­sell says money they con­trib­ute each year —about $400,000 — once com­bined with the gaso­line tax re­bate for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, might add up to as much as $750,000.

When this goes to­wards road re­pairs it is quickly used up.

As an ex­am­ple, he says road work on Man­i­toba Drive last year was $440,000 and the work on­go­ing on Memo­rial Drive costs $110,000.

“That will give you an idea how far a lit­tle bit of money goes.”

Chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer David Har­ris says the town is de­vel­op­ing an as­set man­age­ment plan to pro­vide a bet­ter pic­ture of the in­vest­ment needed to bring their in­fra­struc­ture up to stan­dards.

Mem­bers of the pub­lic also asked for the town to in­clude con­struc­tion of a pub­lic swim­ming pool in its bud­get plans.

Har­ris re­sponded they’ve al­ready had a fea­si­bil­ity study done and the fi­nan­cial bur­den of a swim­ming pool is too great to be man­aged by solely the Town of Clarenville. He says if it were a re­gional fa­cil­ity with many more peo­ple than just the 6,300-res­i­dent tax base in Clarenville, it would be more fea­si­ble.

Coun­cil is still ac­cept­ing sug­ges­tions and com­ments on the mu­nic­i­pal op­er­at­ing bud­get from res­i­dents, un­til Nov. 11.

Sub­mis­sions can be phoned in, emailed or dropped off at the town coun­cil of­fice.

The town plans to have its an­nual bud­get, for 2019, fin­ished by mid-De­cem­ber.

The pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tion video is still avail­able for view­ing on the Town’s of­fi­cial Face­book page, as well as the page of The Packet Com­mu­nity News­pa­per.

JONATHAN PAR­SONS — THE PACKET

Town of Clarenville Fi­nance chair Coun. Paul Til­ley host­ing the pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tions on Tues­day, Oct. 30. The event was broad­cast via Face­book Live.

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