by Barbara Roden
Money was the main topic of discussion at last week’s Town Hall meeting in Ashcroft, with taxes, water and infrastructure being of most interest to the 50 members of the public in attendance.
Linda Howika, the Village’s Chief Financial Officer, led off the meeting with an hour long description of the 2011/12 budget, detailing where the Village’s money comes from and where it is spent.
While the Village currently has a healthy reserve of funds, she pointed out that aging infrastructure will soon need replacing. With a small business tax base, and no industrial taxes, the majority of the Village’s revenue comes from residential taxes, which are based on provincial assessments beyond the Village’s control. This year’s decrease in assessed residential property values means that the budget’s two per cent tax increase will not result in more funds for the Village.
Mayor Andy Anderson talked about water restrictions and said the Village would be required in the next few years to upgrade its drinking water system. He pointed out that provincial funding for that would almost certainly be contingent on the Village proving that water conservation methods are in place. He asked how many would agree to some form of water restriction, to which most in the audience raised their hands, which seemed to surprise him.
Discussions with the Ashcroft Indian Band about a water system agreement are ongoing, and he was emphatic that any costs incurred by connecting to Ashcroft’s water system would be borne by the Band.
The viability of the transit service between Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Clinton was still up in the air. It was pointed out that while the service is valuable to many people who are otherwise without transportation, it is still under-utilized.
Ashcroft’s Tourist information Centre is in need of volunteers who would like to work as ambassadors for the Village. Last year the South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society was able to obtain a grant to pay a student to work there, but there is no grant this year.
Among the projects scheduled for 2012 are a second Columbarium for the cemetery, wheelchair-accessible curb cuts on the corner of 3rd and Brink streets, new lights for the “old” fire hall, more repairs to the water lines on Old Cariboo Road, and a new ceiling in the Curling Club that will reduce the building’s maintenance costs. The Village has also received a donation from Highland Valley Copper for landscaping the Community Hall grounds.
The proposed Ashcroft Terminal was also discussed in some detail. Mayor Anderson pointed out that an alternative site for an inland port has been proposed for the Lower Mainland, which would involve removing 600 acres of prime farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve. He argued that it makes much more sense to locate the facility in Ashcroft, and encouraged residents to get behind the idea and give it all the support they can.