Welcome back to Tyson’s Thoughts! Brace yourselves, as this week’s edition is going to be all about the Town of Port McNeill.
First off, before I dive into town politics and budget line items, I want to say a few words about former longtime Port McNeill Mayor Gerry Furney.
Even as a child growing up 30 minutes away in Port Hardy, I was very aware of who Gerry was and his legacy as a politician on the North Island.
My dad always liked to tell me that Gerry was the longtime mayor of “Furneyville,” which was his little nickname for the Town of Port McNeill, and that Port Hardy’s mayor was “some guy named Russ Hellberg.”
I didn’t spend much time in McNeill as a youth, mainly going over to play soccer and other sports against North Island Secondary School, so I never had the opportunity to actually meet Gerry until I started working at the North Island Gazette back in 2015.
He was always kind to me whenever we spoke — he jokingly called me a “Port Hardy kid” once with a smile on his face — and I mostly saw him when he was watching Elliot’s hockey games.
Anyways, that’s enough from me. There are far more people with greater memories of Gerry than I who should be talking about him.
I will quietly end this little tribute by saying thank you to Gerry and his family for everything they have done over the years, not just for Port McNeill, but for the entire North Island.
Gerry was a great man who’s dedication and sacrifice to our northern communities will echo down through time for many more years to come.
Now then, let’s talk politics and budget line items.
It seems to me after sitting through Port McNeill council’s budget meetings recently that the town could possibly be planning to loosen the purse strings a bit and start spending more taxpayer money.
Port McNeill has traditionally always kept taxes low for residents. The town’s total tax increase in 2018 was 2.7 per cent, which was the net change in the consumer price index plus an additional one per cent to cover the increased cost of paying an honorarium to the fire department personnel and emergency coordinator.
Whereas Port Hardy’s total tax increase in 2018 was 4.025 per cent, which included a 1.25 per cent increase for remuneration to Port Hardy Fire Rescue volunteers.
Interesting, right? My understanding is that because Port Hardy has a higher population they have a bigger tax base to pull from to help fund whatever projects they want.
Or maybe Port Hardy just likes to spend taxpayer money?
Let’s take a look at Port McNeill’s budget items listed in their Jan. 21 agenda, which you can read on their website.
Port McNeill Fire Rescue is requesting quite a few items this year, totalling $1,096,800, which to me are all well worth the cost. I see first hand what the local fire departments go through as part of their job, and they are worth every single penny that they are asking for, especially when you consider Port McNeill is a volunteer fire department who aren’t getting paid for their services to the town.
The harbour is asking for around $473,000, which includes dock replacements, dock repairs, and approach repairs as the most expensive items listed. I don’t know too much about the Port McNeill harbour’s docks and their life expectancies, but I do know the town is looking at securing grant funding to help cover these costs.
Public works has listed three pages worth of items, totalling around $1,080,000. The outdoor swimming pool is the biggest expense listed, as it needs $170,000 worth of repairs to the mechanical room in order to keep the pool running.
However, the town ‘s council has voted to bandage the problem for a small fee of $26,000 just to keep it operational this summer instead of breaking open the piggy bank and fixing it outright without grant funding.
Finally, CAO Pete Nelson-Smith submitted a strategic priorities budget totalling $167,500 for various things like putting together a recreation complex grant ($50,000), a new community plan ($100,000), website upgrades ($15,000), and council meeting equipment ($2,500).
Not only is all of this stuff listed as budget items this year, the town is also going to make a decision on whether or not to pay the chamber of commerce roughly $10,000 a year for the next four years, and the town has even been approached by the Port McNeill library about working together to finance a brand new multi-use building in town, though nothing is set in stone and the project has not even been discussed yet.
What do you think about Port McNeill’s budget items this year?
I recommend researching where your tax dollars are going so if you get hit with an increase this year you know exactly why and where it came from and who’s accountable for it.
Tyson Whitney is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Port Hardy.
His family has lived in Port Hardy for more than 40 years.He graduated with a degree in writing from Vancouver Island University in 2008. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org