Ashcroft council and staff review upcoming projects and plans

Council votes to approve draft 2020 budget for Village

By Raven Nyman

The Village of Ashcroft held a special planning session in Village chambers on Monday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. with all members of council present with the exception of Coun. Deb Tuohey.

Strategic Plan review

The meeting began with a thorough presentation from CAO Anne Yanciw to provide more information about the Village’s upcoming projects and plans.

The intent of the presentation was to update council and ultimately assist with decision making around the budget.

“Because council worked really hard to keep the strategic plan manageable, it may look like the Village goals are really modest, but there are 11 other big projects in the planned category,” she said. “They’ve been planned, they’ve been budgeted for, they’re important priorities and so they essentially become part of the priorities of council.”

That brings the community’s 2020 priorities to 14, Yanciw stated.

Preparing for emergencies

Ashcroft plans to be better prepared for any future wildfires and has taken various steps to increase the community’s preparedness in the aftermath of the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire.

“We are in the process of forming an Emergency Preparedness Committee,” said Yanciw. “It includes representatives from a number of agencies: the ambulance, the police, the fire departments of Cache Creek and Ashcroft. There are 22 people invited to this.”

She explained that the model the Village will follow also calls for an executive committee that will be responsible for approving the Emergency Response Plan and setting its budget.

“In a community our size, [that] would simply be our council,” said Yanciw. She suggested this would be the best route for the Village to take.

In 2021 and 2022, Ashcroft’s CAO hopes the community can apply for further emergency social services grants to support such preparedness and training efforts going forward.

Planned projects update

The Water Treatment Plant is still at the top of the list in terms of planned projects, said Yanciw. “The plant isn’t classified yet, so we don’t know what level of certification our employees will need.”

The plant came in under budget though, she noted, which has allowed for the incorporation of additional infrastructure.

“The Housing Needs Assessment is in draft form,” added Yanciw. Another project that the Village is almost ready to cross off its to-do-list is the land tenure at the Mesa Vista Reservoir, which Yanciw believes won’t be a problem going forward.

The Village’s Economic Development and Tourism Strategy is also now in draft form and will soon be ready for council review.

“It will be interesting to see that come forward because that’s kind of the road map for how we roll out the marketing of our community,” said Yanciw.

Mayor Barbara Roden also briefly raised the issue of hotel accommodation in Ashcroft, or lack thereof, during Yanciw’s presentation.

Unplanned projects update

Turning to some of the community’s unplanned projects, Yanciw updated council on the Ashcroft Curling Club’s rink upgrades.

The lowest quote the Village obtained does not include a condenser, which Yanciw explained is necessary for the rink’s upgrades. “None of these quotes include the electrical work for a new chiller.” She advised that there are additional costs associated with the upgrades and various assessments are in process for the project. “This is still a pretty big project. There’s a lot of uncertainties and unknowns.”

The TNRD has agreed to contribute funds to the upgrades, and the curling club itself also intends to apply for a grant to help fund costs. “Right now, with all the uncertainties… [the project is] growing by leaps and bounds.”

The subsequent shortfall will need to come out of other infrastructure reserves.

Yanciw provided a tax suggestion to keep the Village’s reserves intact, but ultimately, her presentation offered information for council to make the final budget decisions on their own.

As for other local projects, Yanciw noted that the Ashcroft Terminal is still in active development. Currently, they’re in the process of erecting a 40,000 square foot warehouse.

Important needs and policy gaps

During this portion of her presentation, Yanciw spoke about the various training and responsibilities required to achieve some of the community’s plans. She noted that succession planning has taken up a portion of her time recently.

“Being able to attract and retain good staff is key is key to consistent and reliable service delivery,” she said. “Certification requirements have also increased for Public Works employees… and these certifications often take years to acquire… so we have to plan our recruitment very carefully to manage any potential gaps in certification.”

The 2020 budget contains elements important to this succession plan.

Yanciw also said that the Village has some policy gaps, such as a Respectful Workplace Policy, that must come forward soon.

Cannabis legislation is another area that council has yet to further address. She suggested that potential business owners may be discouraged from pursuing business or production in Ashcroft since the community has not yet put any legislation in place. An Asset Management Policy will also be required in the near future. Further, laptops are coming for Village council members, which means a Laptop Policy will need to be drafted, too.

^

CAO addresses Ashcroft’s “human budget”

Yanciw ended her presentation with a talk about “the capacity bucket” or “human budget.” “Just like a financial budget, the bodies available to carry out projects are limited,” she said, referencing the impact of extra projects on Village staff time. She also restated the many projects planned for the year ahead.

Coun. Marilyn Anderson spoke up to thank Yanciw for bringing this issue to council’s attention, and Coun. Nadine Davenport also expressed gratitude for the detailed project updates. “It helps us understand that things are progressing,” she said.

Roden asked Yanciw about how to manage the capacity bucket, at which point CFO Yogi Bhalla noted that the Village typically addresses the most critical projects first. Yanciw added that eventually most projects on the list do rise to a level of importance.

Proposed 2020 draft budget review

CFO Yogi Bhalla took over to complete the Village’s proposed 2020 draft budget review, picking up from where council left off at their previous meeting.

Some notable changes to the budget since its last look-over include the curling club upgrades. “That figure has been changed to $170,000… It was $140,000,” according to Bhalla. “Other than that, there are not any significant changes.”

He noted that the Village currently has $4 million in reserves and $50 million in assets.

Council ultimately voted all in favour to approve the proposed 2020 draft budget.

The next regular Ashcroft council meeting takes place on Monday, March 9 at 4:30 p.m. at the Village office on Bancroft Street. As always, meeting minutes and agendas are available through the Village’s website at https://ashcroftbc.ca/.



editorial@accjournal.ca

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