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Delayed decisions hold up regional district

When it came to financial planning, next year’s budget and borrowing for the arena project, the order of the day was “defer, defer, defer,” at the Strathcona Regional District.

The board also decided to delay accepting the terms of governance for solid waste management, a joint function between the Strathcona and Comox regional districts.

“What’s the point of deferring month after month…when the province sets the rules?” asked Brenda Leigh, representative for Area D (Oyster River-Ocean Grove).

But again, the governance for garbage was put aside for another day which became a common theme at Wednesday’s board meeting in Campbell River.

The board also put the brakes on approving the 2013-2017 financial plan and next year’s budget, after Campbell River representative Claire Moglove made a motion to strike three items from the budget.

She wanted to get rid of the recommendations to hire human resources and communications employees for the regional district and Strathcona Gardens recreation complex.

Earlier in the day, at another meeting, the Gardens’ board also expressed its view that two new employees were not required.

“Strathcona Gardens does not want a human resources and communications position,” said Moglove.

However, some members of the regional district board believe these are positions that need to be filled.

As a result, the potential positions were later discussed by the board behind closed doors.

The other item that sent the board in-camera was the proposed rate hikes for water that the City of Campbell River sells to its Area D neighbour.

The city is increasing rates for its residents and council believes Area D should pay its share, while director Leigh is against the fee hike.

Board chair Ted Lewis asked staff how the delays would impact the budget.

The board was told it has until March 31 to finalize the budget and there is a regular meeting scheduled for March 13.

The last item put on hold was the borrowing bylaw for the Rod Brind’Amour Arena at Strathcona Gardens.

The brine line system, cement pad and dasher-boards need replacing in the 40-year-old arena, and the the project cost is $1.1 million.

Leigh suggested the Gardens’ board use the $320,000 it has in reserve to lower the cost of short-term borrowing.

“It costs a lot of money to borrow…it’s irresponsible,” she said of the proposal to borrow all the money.

But Campbell River representative Larry Samson said it doesn’t make sense to deplete the reserves when there could be unexpected breakdowns of equipment or ice cleaning machines.

He also pointed out the repairs are desperately required and further delaying the project could impact next season’s hockey and figure skating seasons.

“To use a pun, we’re skating on thin ice. The brine lines are showing,” Samson said.

Nevertheless, work has already begun at the arena which surprised Campbell River Mayor Walter Jakeway.

“How can can a contract be started if it’s not approved?” he asked.

Staff responded that the work was approved in last year’s budget and the bylaw to borrow came up this year.

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