After unveiling their 2012 budget and five-year plan, Smithers council now looks to adopt the budget and initiate plans to fix roads and move ahead with projects like the second sheet of ice and a water main looping along Railway Avenue.
“This budget puts a high priority on fixing the roads,” Mayor Taylor Bachrach said.
“Everyone’s aware of the challenges we face and the current condition of the roads isn’t acceptable.
“The reality is we haven’t invested enough in the maintenance of our roads and streets.
“The town has set aside $400,000 for road maintenance.”
Council has chosen to tackle the issue and to make some progress on getting on top of the problem.”
Although the five-year plan sets out a number of projects to be completed there are other projects high on everyone’s list of improvements they want to see.
In the past, council took $100,000 out of land sales reserves which isn’t a statutory reserve, Councillor Mark Bandstra explained.
“Each year there’s about $170,000 dollars budgeted for major patch work.”
However, in 2004 a study outlined how much money Smithers needed to allocate to ensure roads were maintained to a suitable degree.
The study noted council should have spent about $400,000 a year to maintain the roads.
Council has also allocated $200,000 a year following the 2012 season to keep up with disintegrating streets.
Another budget highlight is the finalization of sale and purchase agreements with Ambleside North Ltd.
The agreement covers 44 acres of town-owned land in the Willowvale subdivision for new residential housing lots.
The issue had been on council’s to-do list for sometime now.
As well as committing nearly $4,000,000 for the second sheet of ice project, council also approved $30,000 for the Downtown Entrance project to make upgrades to the court in front of the Central Park Building.
Though unusual, this year’s budget also had its surprises. Council was forced to increase the 2012 RCMP Municipal Tax revenue by five per cent to accommodate inflating contract and facility costs for the local detachment.
“Of course with the RCMP we have a surprise,” Bandstra said.
“With the rent increase virtually doubling because it’s federally owned it’s been at that rent for twenty years so there’s a reason it’s gone up.
“So that’s a surprise. We didn’t put all of that increase into this years budget, we do have some surplus left there that we’re using but we’re going to have to build that increase in over the next couple of years.
“But I guess we have to be thankful we have protection services.”
However, one thing that stood out in the five-year plan is an allocation of $5,000,000 for a new library in 2014.
Although the project is not yet funded and is more of a wish list item for council than a shovel ready project for Smithers, it does demonstrate the intent and optimism of council to see another major ‘dream big’ project come to fruition in the near future.
“It looks good in the budget even though there’s no corresponding revenue that goes with it, so that’s the challenge,” Bandstra explained.
“But neither was there with the rink and that’s fifteen years ago and now it looks like we’re getting close to doing something,” he said.
“So when you look at the five year budget it really is intent.
“It’s a plan and when we talked to the library group. There’s a number of people in our community that are quite zealous about putting efforts into getting a new library.”
Perhaps not all of the town’s objectives can be completed in just one budget, however, what the 2012 budget and five-year plan set out is a firm direction into the future to achieve projects that will enhance not only the local economy but also the quality of life in Smithers and the Bulkley Valley.
The five-year plan has even the most experienced town councillors optimistic about the fiscal road ahead.
“I’m pleased with the budget,” Bandstra said.
“It has a three-and-a-half per cent increase in tax revenue this year, which is not all a tax increase, some of that comes out of growth although not a big part this year.
“I think the goal of our community is to grow and offer different types of housing for instance to various citizens so we can grow our community particularly to what is going on in the northwest.”