TYSON WHITNEY PHOTO Port McNeill council held a committee of the whole meeting for the first time in at least 10 years to discuss the town’s budget for this year.

Port McNeill council holds committee of the whole meeting for budget talks

The committee of the whole meeting lasted over two hours, and here are some of the highlights.

The Town of Port McNeill continues to implement different and exciting ways of doing business under new leadership.

Port McNeill council met for the first time in at least 10 years for a committee of the whole meeting on Friday, March 1, to have an informal discussion about this year’s budget items.

The meeting lasted for three straight hours, and here are some of the highlights of what was discussed.

Storm sewer system upgrades:

Coun. Derek Koel wants to see a parcel tax implemented for a set amount of time to save up some cash to help fund storm sewer upgrades that could potentially be needed in the future.

The town’s staff will be looking into whether this tax is feasible or not.

Trails:

Koel also requested $25,000 be added to the budget for fixing up trails around Port McNeill. Last year the town budgeted monies specifically for the Rotary Trail, but Koel noted he wants to see other trails spruced up as well.

Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom confirmed the request was added to the budget to be discussed at their next meeting (March 4).

Fire department:

Coun. Ann-Marie Baron noted while the fire department’s ask is high this year, totalling $1,096,800, she stated the department has been underfunded for years and now they are playing catch up.

Wickstrom agreed with the assessment, adding, “We now have to catch up on various areas like the harbour, the fire department, and others. The town had just been doing the status quo like many other municipalities over the years.”

Tax increase:

Baron also noted a small tax increase may have to happen this year, and that the residents know they have been getting a good deal for a long time.

Wickstrom stated the town is “debating using a portion of our community forest money to help fund the budget items. So long as we don’t use too much, then we will have enough to fund the grant opportunities coming up.”

She added council is hoping to narrow the budget down some more, and then after that they will discuss whether to increase taxes.

Harbour upgrades:

The harbour is requesting around $473,000 this year, of which Wickstrom noted there has been no grant funding applied for as of yet. “We will be looking at possibilities for grant funding, but I think it will be a budget item,” she said.

Coun. Ryan Mitchell requested a kayak float be added to the harbour as a way to help boost tourism and offer more recreational activities, and Wickstrom mentioned she would like to fulfill a request made by Helen Scott to install a walkway with a gazebo at the end of the breakwater.

Public Works budget:

Wickstrom said council would to like to tie in the painting of the town office’s exterior with “improving the accessibility of our building.”

She noted the process will most likely be “getting the building assessed, a portion of which will be funded through a grant and a portion of it from the town, and then tie the painting into the improvements.”

Swimming pool:

The outdoor swimming pool needs $170,000 worth of repairs to the mechanical room in order to keep running.

Wickstrom stated the town has applied for grant funding, but if unsuccessful the pool repairs will come out of the community forest reserve.

She added if they get the funding, the money will stay in the reserve to fund other much needed infrastructure. “We need to ensure the repairs are done with or without the grant,” she added.

Wickstrom wants to let residents know that the swimming pool “is not going to be forgotten this year” and will open as scheduled.

The town has also budgeted $26,000 to bandage the swimming pool’s chlorination system.


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