By Raven Nyman
The Village of Ashcroft held a lengthy series of meetings on Monday, Jan. 27, with all members of staff and council on hand as well as a few members of the public. The night started with a Committee of the Whole (COTW) meeting at 5 p.m., followed by a regular meeting at 7 p.m.
The COTW began with Chief Financial Officer Yogi Bhalla offering a preliminary budget review for 2020, which was expanded upon during the Village’s planning meeting on Monday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m.
“It’s that time of the year again,” began Bhalla during the Jan. 27 review, which covered the Village’s 2020 draft budget and uncontrollable costs, as well as projects and project rankings.
Bhalla advised that one of the changes scheduled for 2020 involves the Deputy Corporate Officer transitioning to Corporate Officer in Ashcroft. The Village also hopes to hire a young intern this year, in addition to the two summer students who are typically employed annually.
During the budget review, Mayor BarbaraRoden said that in the future, council should reconsider sending all elected officials to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference (UBCM) each year.
“Last year we had most of council go to UBCM… I don’t know that it’s practical to send all five council members and the CAO to UBCM every year,” she said.
Council also discussed the option of changing dog fee licenses to a lifetime fee, as the Village of Clinton’s council recently discussed in one of their regular meetings.
Coun. Deb Tuohey highlighted that many other projects are ongoing in the community and planned for the year ahead. It was generally agreed that adding more projects to the roster isn’t currently feasible for staff or council.
Before moving on, Roden thanked CFO Bhalla for being “so fiscally on the ball” in regards to the Village’s finances.
Curling Club receives support going forward
Next, Ashcroft Chief Administrative Officer Anne Yanciw advised that one important decision would need to be made immediately during the budget review: a request for support from the curling club to upgrade their facility.
The Village has already obtained three quotes for a refrigeration or climate control system for the club, but other upgrades are also being requested and are necessary for the club’s continued operation.
“With that grant [that the curling club is applying for from NDIT], we still come up a minimum of $10,000 short… but in order to apply for that grant they need to have a budget,” explained Roden.
Council was presented with the option to leave the upgrades in the 2020 budget or take them out, with the understanding that the curling club will likely close permanently without the support.
“We now have three quotes,” said Bhalla. “We have a general idea what it’s going to cost. I think you have the information to make the decision.” He clarified that a 2.5 per cent tax increase was already included in the budget, but that the NDIT grant was not.
Coun. Marilyn Anderson asked about defering the decision until 2021, but Roden responded that it’s already included in the budget. Tuohey said she would like to see council move forward with support of the curling club.
“I think it’s a very important thing for our community,” she said. “I think that the curling club themselves are willing to work really hard towards this.
“We have that building that we have to maintain anyways. I see it as a good asset for Ashcroft and I see 2020 as a huge year for us for so many good things happening. I think it’s just one more good thing.”
Coun. Nadine Davenport agreed with Tuohey, adding “I do see it as an asset and it has been included in the budget with a 2.5 per cent increase. I see Ashcroft as growing, so there’s a lot of kids I think that didn’t get to do curling this year.”
She noted that the curling club seems to be putting forth an effort to gain new members and work towards upgrades, too.
“It’d be a shame to see it go. It’s nice to know that with maybe a few grants we could get it all covered.”
Coun. Jonah Ansttet agreed with Tuohey and Davenport, adding that he curled as a child and enjoyed the activity.
“I’m glad to see it in the budget,” said Roden. “I think we should leave it in there for the time being… and hope that we are successful in obtaining the necessary funds and grants to cover the work here.”
Curling club member Jim Duncan, who was present in the gallery on Jan. 27, spoke up after the COTW to thank council personally for their decision.
“We’re now able to do all these wonderful projects,” Roden said. “We’ve just got so much on the go and so much that’s going to improve our community.
“I think it’s a nice mix of the things we’re mandated to do—water and sewer—and the things that are nice to have, like the pool, like the curling club; all the things that make living here so nice.”
The next regular meeting of Ashcroft council is on Monday, Feb. 24, with a Committee of the Whole meeting at 6 p.m. and a council meeting at 7 p.m. Agendas and minutes of all council meetings can be found on the Village of Ashcroft website at https://ashcroftbc.ca.