By Trevor Busch
The preliminary Town of Taber 2015-2017 capital budget has been presented to town council, and includes almost $15.9 million in capital spending for the upcoming fiscal year.
At their Nov. 10 meeting, town council voted unanimously to accept the proposed capital budget as information. The budget presented to council is a preliminary document and was not passed, including many proposed capital purchases which will be reviewed prior to approval.
The proposed 2015-2017 capital budget is showing $15,837,090 in capital purchases for 2015, followed by $14,223,150 for 2016 and $12,717,690 for 2017.
Broken down as categories, building purchases have been allocated $1,875,000 for 2015, followed by $2,628,200 in 2016 and $1,600,000 for 2017. Engineering structures have been allocated $10,669,340 for 2015, followed by $10,011,000 for 2016 and $10,286,640 for 2017. Land improvements will see $115,500 in 2015, followed by $83,250 for 2016 and $123,500 for 2017. Machinery and equipment will see $1,858,250 for 2015, followed by $933,200 for 2016 and $615,550 for 2017. Totals for vehicle purchases is $1,319,000 for 2015, followed by $567,500 for 2016 and $92,000 for 2017.
Taber Emergency Services has proposed the construction of a fire training centre for 2015 with a total project cost of $1,005,000. Phase 1 of the project would include setting aside the land, preparing underground infrastructure, and installation of electrical, fencing, and the construction of the two-story live burn facility at a projected cost of $580,000.
Coun. Rick Popadynetz questioned what kind of revenue potential might be presented for the department once construction would be completed, which could include use by other departments for training.
“As soon as our house is in order, and our training of our personnel is up to a full standard, I would love to expand in that direction, and be able to support other economical funding sources to help reduce the actual operating costs,” said fire chief Steve Munshaw.
Phase 2 ($250,000) and 3 ($175,000) would see the installation of propane-fired props as well as local-based industrial training props, and finally the development of a storm water retention pond to be utilized for ice and water rescue training, including drafting. This would also see the introduction of farm safety props and a vehicle extrication area.
“Even though this may be a very worthwhile project, when all of the phases are done this is a very daunting figure, as far as the price tag for this,” said Coun. Randy Sparks. “It may be money well spent, but that’s a lot of money.”
Coun. Jack Brewin indicated his support for the project moving forward in 2015.
“I really appreciate your presentation, and I believe anything we can do to support our volunteers and encourage new volunteers, I think is great. I would throw my support behind a project like this. We’re very fortunate in this town to have the volunteer staff that we do.”
Replacement of the fire rescue truck for Taber Emergency Services has been allocated $500,000 for 2015. The current unit in use is a 2000 International used in motor vehicle incidents, rope rescues, water rescues, confined spaces, ice rescues, and other functions.
In order to comply with industry best practices, rescue fire trucks are required to be replaced every 15 years to maintain the standard and mitigate impact on insurance ratings.
Purchase and installation of a new 42” plotter for use by staff in the Administration Building has been allocated $8,000 for 2015.
The plotter would be used for maps, banners and building plans, providing the ability to print large, detailed colour documents.
Coun. Andrew Prokop questioned why construction of arena dressing rooms would not be getting under way in the immediate future.
“From what I see here, we wouldn’t be moving forward with any of those figures until 2017. I think it was identified as a high priority, and I thought and understood through the rec board and town council, that we would be into it in 2014, and possibly completed in 2015.”
On the information technology front, replacement of one quarter of workstation computer hardware for 2015 has been allocated $56,300; purchase, installation and configuration of Microsoft software for Computer Aided Dispatch servers has been allocated $22,100; recreation software has been allocated $30,000 to replace the CLASS program; and $59,000 has been allocated to install a Virtual City Hall, including a permitting module and payment engine, which would be intended to improve communication and customer service.
As a green initiative, $26,000 has been proposed for a server room solar offset project, which would see solar power generation through the installation of solar panels on the Administration Building roof to provide enough power to run the main server room.
Lifecycle replacement of a police vehicle has been allocated $37,500 for 2015 to replace a five year old patrol vehicle.
The Highway 36 intersection project has been allocated $600,000 for 2015, which will consist of the construction of a new intersection on Highway 36 with widened driving lanes, turning bays, and acceleration and deceleration lanes.
Development of the Eureka Industrial Park has been allocated $4,350,000 for 2015, intended to allow for the creation of industrial-sized properties through the development or roads, storm water management ponds, underground storm, sewer and water systems and shallow utilities, including electrical, cable, gas, telephone and optical.
Purchase of a herder mowing bucket has been allocated $70,000 for 2015, to aid in cutting weeds in drainage ditches.
For the bi-annual capital works projects involving roads and walks, $1,721,640 has been allocated for 2015, including utilities replacement for 52nd Avenue from 54th Street to 57th Street ($825,000), the 64th Avenue upgrade ($1.3 million), and the 50th Street upgrade from 64th Avenue to 80th Avenue (1,334,750) for phase 1.
Proposed EPCOR projects for 2015 include Hach WIMS ($84,755), construction of the North Pump Station upgrade ($338,994), storm water drainage construction ($973,700), additional Clearwell Reservoir ($22,000), filter pipe gallery pipe replacement ($391,230), and the ongoing water meter replacement program ($150,000).
Also presented to council on Nov. 10 was the preliminary 2015 Town of Taber operating budget. On the revenue side, the proposed 2015 operating budget is showing $20,472,608 in total revenue, up $486,249 from 2014, or 2.43 per cent. On the expense side, the town is showing $23,557,032 in total expenses, up $2,033,831 over 2014, or 9.45 per cent.
Residential utility rates based for a family of four would see a 1.98 per cent increase for 2015.
“The utilities model that we’re presenting has water heavily subsidizing wastewater, and has for a lot of years,” said director of corporate services Dale Culler. “The last few years we’ve held water rates very constant, and where we’ve been focusing the rate increases is on the wastewater side. So you’ll see about a 7.5 per cent increase on the wastewater side, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to a 7.5 per cent increase to someone’s utility bill. In fact, a typical family of four with about 30 cubic metres would see a $2.73 increase, or a 1.99 per cent increase. On the commercial/industrial side, a commercial business that uses about 106 cubic metres, will see an increase of about $11 or 3.55 per cent.”
Culler went on to solicit direction from town council as to where the town should be moving with regard to utilities.
“We’re looking at a deficit on the utility side, overall, of a little over $900,000, and that includes debt repayments. This is on the operating side, which includes amortization, but doesn’t include reserve transfers. We have a large number of asks that are coming in, and those asks are driving a deficit. There’s always that shift of trying to determine where do we want utilities. Should they be self-supporting? Should they be supported by taxes? We’re just looking for some discussion on where do we want utility rates.”