City budget gets down to the nitty gritty

Two new city staff positions had to be justified in front of council Wednesday, the third day of budget deliberations.

Two new city staff positions had to be justified in front of council Wednesday, the third day of budget deliberations.

Council got hung up debating the addition of a second custodian for the Community Centre to address safety concerns related to working alone.

The $77,000 per year position was added to help support the custodian working alone after office hours who’s had to deal with fighting and public drunkeness (see story on page A5).

“We had some very, very close calls,” Ross Milnthorp, city parks, recreation and culture manager, told council. “We believe this position is integral to the safety of workers and customers.”

He said a joint health and safety committee originally took a number of steps to fix the problem including setting up cameras and setting alarms on the doors of the Community Centre. In the end, the committee felt the best solution would be to add a second custodian.

Coun. Claire Moglove acknowledged that having the transit exchange at the Community Centre has potentially contributed to the amount of mischief that occurs in and around that area.

But Coun. Andy Adams said moving the transit system exchange to the Community Centre was the right thing to do.

“I believe most parents would say they feel more safe putting their child on a bus that ends up where it does now instead of at the former bus shelter (Tyee Plaza) which was not a very nice place,” he said.

The second additional city staff position is a $84,000 per year deputy clerk, a position mandated by the city.

City Manager Andy Laidlaw said the position needs to be in place in order to maintain operations.

Peter Wipper, who took over the position of city clerk after Bill Halstead retired last year, said a few months ago while on holidays, he was called in to work to sign papers that were time sensitive. If the city had had a deputy clerk at the time, they could have signed the papers in Wipper’s place.



Council also worked through the city’s reserve accounts on Wednesday.

The information was relayed to council by Laidlaw and Laura Ciarniello, corporate services manager, via a powerpoint presentation. But Adams was not pleased to see a handout of the slideshow passed around just prior to the presentation.

“It’s not appropriate to get this information so late. We need time to look it over,” said Adams. “We need some time to go through it before council can make a conscious decision.”

Adams requested a 30-minute recess but that was turned down and the presentation went ahead with council given the opportunity to ask questions after each reserve was presented.

The most significant alteration was made to the Allowance for Assessment Appeals, a stabilization reserve that supplies the city with funds in the event someone is successful in appealing their taxes. The reserve had $729,000 in it but council, with the exception of Adams, voted to set it at $250,000 and apply the rest towards the deficit.Adams argued that it’s not sustainable to use those funds to erase the debt.

“We cannot balance the books on the backs of one-time reserve dollars,” he said.

Council continued to debate the budget Thursday after the Mirror went to press and are expected to resume discussion today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

See for updates.

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