The Village of Ashcroft council rescinded approval for the 2020 budget and adopted a new 2020 budget to forgo a 2.5 per cent tax increase at the council meeting on April 14. The new budget has a zero per cent tax increase.
Chief financial officer Yogi Bhalla said the change was possible due to some of council’s decisions surrounding staffing, and that the budget is balanced at zero per cent despite the fact that revenues, such as from the pool or arena, will fall.
Cashflow-wise the Village is in a good position, having just received $1.3 million that the Village was owed, he said.
He added they won’t be able to hire some summer students due to social distancing requirements.
Council also voted in favour of the final adoption of Bylaw No. 834 which governs council procedures. Council had rescinded third reading at the regular meeting on March 23 to allow for the addition of two provisions relating to closing council meetings and allowing for video conference meetings during a state of emergency.
The additions allow for council to restrict public attendance during a state of emergency where the public is advised not to congregate by orders of the federal or provincial government, provided that alternate ways of public participation are established. Additionally, under those circumstances council may participate in electronic meetings without the requirement of a quorum at a physical location.
Mayor Barbara Roden noted it was good to have it in the bylaw permanently rather than as a temporary measure as was provided by the province.
Council also received a report for whistle cessation at the Mile 49.05 Old Cariboo Road CN railway crossing. If whistle cessation is not pursued, the report recommended $18,100 in improvements to meet Grade Crossing Regulations, including things such as replacing the wood-planked crossing surface, installation of proper flangeway, and more. Roden wants to go back to CN, noting that because the road predates the railway the repair costs are CN’s responsibility, not the Village’s.
In order to be considered for whistle cessation, a budget of $800,000 is recommended to install flashing lights, a bell, and gates. Annual maintenance costs for a gated warning system are estimated at approximately $7,833. It was tabled for later discussion, as Roden noted right now was not the right time for public input, adding that she was taken aback by the final price tag.
Ice plant replacement
Council approved a quote for a dual compressor system quote from Norlock Refrigeration for replacement of the ice plant at the curling club at a cost of $152,900.
Further work will need to be done on the roof and electrical upgrades, according to public works foreman Brian Bennewith, saying that they’re looking at about $170,000 altogether.
In total, the Village received three quotes for the ice plant, with the Norlock quote being the only one with two compressors, which allows for continued operation during curling season should there be problems with one compressor.
They received two grants, one from the TNRD and one from the Northern Development Initiative Trust, according to Bhalla. There is no timeframe for completion due to COVID-19, said Bennewith.
Ashcroft council voted to approve a grant in aid request from the Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society (WRAPS) in the form of $500. All councillors voted in favour. Roden excused herself from the vote and discussion on account of sitting on the WRAPS board of directors. It’s the same amount WRAPS received the previous year.
The community forum which had been scheduled to take place on April 16 was cancelled. Council also agreed to turn the town hall meeting scheduled for May 4 to a virtual platform. The Village is required to present the Five-Year Financial Plan to the public prior to submission to the Province on May 15.
Council approved participation in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s (TNRD) Essential Services Mutual Aid Agreement subject to a provision for reimbursement for applicable expenses. Roden said she’d like the TNRD to come up with a schedule of applicable expenses that can be paid back.
Through the agreement, each local authority must use their best effort to enter into mutual aid with neighbouring jurisdictions to ensure that first responder, waste water, and drinking water services are maintained, as well as reporting any provisions that might affect those to Emergency Management BC.
The 2019 audited financial statements were also accepted.
The gallery asked if there any plans for addressing a property on Brink Street that burned down more than a year ago. Roden said that it’s an ongoing issue with the property owner and that they will be following up.
In response to a question about educational programming on water management, Roden said it would be a good idea to remind residents about watering restrictions.
On a question regarding agenda/minutes clarity, Roden said that in the future they will try to include the agenda item number. On a separate item, she noted that the decision to note whether a person asking a question is a Village resident or non-resident at public meetings was based on legal advice, because only residents can request court intervention.