CITY COUNCIL: Grand Forks forging ahead with five-year financial plan

Grand Forks city council gave three readings of its 2012-16 five-year financial plan at a meeting on Monday.

Grand Forks city council continues to push forward with passage of the 2012-16 five-year financial plan, giving the first three readings of a related bylaw at Monday’s council meeting.

But while Bylaw 1928 – the City of Grand Forks 2012-16 financial plan only requires final reading now, there could be some amendments made between now and when it is passed.

As of Monday’s meeting, the plan did not include a $22,500 funding request from Phoenix Ski Hill, $10,000 from the Boundary Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, $3,500 from the Kettle River Festival of the Arts, $3,000 from the local air cadet squadron, $500 from the Grand Forks Auxiliary to Boundary Hospital, $10,000 from the GFI baseball tournament organizing committee, $15,000 from the BETHS cold weather shelter, $3,000 for Boundary Youth Soccer, $6,000 from the Boundary Women’s Resource Centre, $10,000 from Whispers of Hope and $640 from Boundary Restorative Justice.

“This does not include the items which are still on the table, not resolved, and waiting for further information for council on regional (district) participation,” explained Mayor Brian Taylor.

The current form of the five-year plan also had $10,000 set aside for preventative maintenance to the scout hall on 72nd Avenue, which would include repairs to the exterior, and Coun. Michael Wirischagin thought it was money that could be used elsewhere. He put forward a motion to have the item removed, with Coun. Neil Krog seconding.

Wirischagin thought it was more of a want than a need but Coun. Gary Smith thought it should remain.

“I feel that it’s important to maintain our assets. (The scout hall) is just going to further deteriorate and become of less and less use,” explained Smith. “It’s like any building; you see them all over, dilapidated buildings that aren’t falling apart but just falling into disrepair. Maybe the estimate is a bit high but it’s just a budget.”

“I understand what Coun. Smith is saying, however, regardless if $10,000 is high or if it’s low, the fact is we’re still taxing for it,” Wirischagin said. “I think if we were going to do work on any city building, it should come from a different budget, whether it’s operations or city works, because the city works building itself needs a paint job.”

City Chief Financial Officer Cecile Arnott reiterated that it was preventative maintenance and said that if funding was taken out of the surplus fund today, the city would have to tax for it tomorrow.

While Krog seconded the motion, he saw value if the maintenance included adding siding to the hall, as it would prolong the building’s life as opposed to just painting.

The motion was defeated and Bylaw 1928 passed three readings with Wirischagin the lone dissenting voice in each one.

The five-year financial plan has to pass final reading before becoming law and that is scheduled for next council meeting on April 16.

In other council-related news, Grand Forks RCMP’s Staff Sgt. Jim Harrison gave a presentation to council at Monday’s meeting relating to the 2012 Report on Policing for the Boundary Detachment. There were no homicides in the city in 2011 and there were significant drops in crime.

Between 2010 and 2011, assaults decreased from 56 to 41, sexual assaults decreased from 13 to five, total break-and-enters dropped from 46 to 36, while willful damage went from 123 to 105.

Also making a presentation was Lisa Fichtenberg of Whispers of Hope.

As mentioned earlier, Whispers of Hope requested $10,000 and is in danger of closing. More on the five-year plan, policing and Whispers of Hope in a future issue of the Grand Forks Gazette.