Although the City of Campbell River’s 2021 budget won’t be set until the end of the month as staff consider options for how to get down to the mandated 2.85 per cent tax increase for residents, city council nonetheless has made its priorities clear in terms of capital infrastructure projects.
Capital projects make up a huge percentage of the city’s annual budget, and during council’s three-day financial planning deliberations Oct. 26-28, they focused on a few key areas where they’d like to see that money spent next year.
The biggest-ticket item was the continued Highway 19A improvements and sewer upgrades at a cost of $12.1 million but there were a number of smaller investments determined, as well.
For example, the Seagull Walkway that connects Fisherman’s Wharf and Robert Ostler Park running behind the Georgia Quay plaza has been pushed back a number of times in recent years, but will now go forward in 2021 at a cost of $1.5 million.
“Some basic remedial work was done in 2014 and 2015 but major work is required to ensure the walkway does not fail as the substructure is being washed away,” reads the staff note in the budget document, which adds, “there is potential for underground infrastructure and the adjacent building foundations to be adversely affected without a substantial amount of work done on this walkway.”
The Norm Wood Environmental Centre is set to get a $4.45 million upgrade next year, as well, based on the preliminary budget that will come back before council at the end of the month for approval.
Local pickleball players will also be happy to find out that they aren’t going to be losing their courts for long. They have been playing at Strathcona Gardens while the ice was out but were to be without courts until council allocated $150,000 to create new ones at Robron Field next year.
Another $150,000 in funding will go towards technology improvements in city council chambers to increase accessibility for the public. Not only has the room needed a new sound system for quite some time but with council meetings being held virtually for the foreseeable future, other improvements will now accompany that work.
The preliminary budget only had $35,000 set aside for the internal sound system but Coun. Michele Babchuk proposed increasing the amount to cover other system upgrades while they were at it.
“Although we do webcast, the system is old and antiquated and the cameras are old and antiquated,” Babchuk says, and pointed out that there is more than enough money in the city’s IT reserve to fund the improvements so they wouldn’t affect taxation.
Mayor Andy Adams supported the motion, saying that Campbell River was “one of the first, if not the first, to webcast council meetings,” and there hasn’t been any significant change to the system in the 14 years it’s been in use, “so I think we are due for some upgrades.”
Council also set aside $15,000 for additional cycling infrastructure, $60,000 for additional marine foreshore restoration work, and $132,600 to extend the city’s CRAdvantage – the municipal broadband fibre optic network – up 10th Avenue.
Then there are the constant and continuous projects that the city needs to spend money on year after year to keep the physical infrastructure from crumbling, such as watermain and water facility renewals, recreation equipment for community facilities, asphalt overlays to city streets, and upkeep and replacement of the city’s fleet of vehicles and equipment.
All told, the current budget contains about $20 million in spending on capital projects next year.