Staff and council work through the budget on the March 8 meeting.

Staff and council work through the budget on the March 8 meeting.

Budget: Council debates whether to fix or replace public works vehicles

Council also mulls over building path to Silver Creek.

At the March 15 District of Hope budget meeting, council talked about building a pedestrian pathway to Silver Creek, vehicle repairs and replacement, and snow removal. They also brought the general fund deficit down to $117,601.

Vehicles took up a major portion of that budget meeting with operations director Kevin Dicken stressing the challenges that his staff have and strategies to deal with them.

Dicken wants to replace a 21-year-old dump truck, Unit 229, with a new one costing $259,000.

Unit 229 saw $41,000 in repairs in 2015, $10,600 in 2016 and $35,000 is estimated for 2017 for parts and repairs of hydraulics.

He also warned that these repairs might not hold up, and keeping a vehicle this old puts its reliability in question.

“It’s probably down 50 per cent of the time,” said Dicken. “During winter operations … we want reliability with our equipment.”

The mayor stood his ground on choosing to repair it. He said new vehicles also have downtime problems because of electronic problems and that he would rather use that money on other expenses such as paving.

Coun. Donna Kropp asked if there is a middle option. Dicken said that auctions presents some problems including the District’s purchasing policy that restricts them from bidding and buying at an auction. Also, buying a used vehicle could mean buying someone else’s problems, and there are no guarantees of availability. He said he could find demo units, but could not rent these vehicles nor does any contractor have this truck.

Dicken further warned that his mechanic is “running a triage with the vehicles.” At any time, he maintains about 30 vehicles and hence they are trying to reduce the fleet. Buying new equipment would free up time for him to start maintaining other vehicles, he added.

On the other hand, Dicken suggested that he would like to spend $150,000 to repair Unit 556, a 1979 Caterpillar grader. In the end, that amount was reduced to $50,000 after council members decided that they should do repairs that cannot be delayed.

Vicktor expressed his pleasure at the suggestion to repair, than to replace. Dicken rationalized that the machine is still in good condition and replacement costs can be $100,000 to $800,000.

Mayor Wilfried Vicktor also raised the topic of a pedestrian and bicycle path saying that it would make it safer for people commuting from Silver Creek to the downtown, and that he would like to apply for a federal grant to fund this.

“I know a lot of people in the Silver Creek area, their feet [are] tied if they are not driving,” said Vicktor.

Dicken said council must have a resolution that commits them to the project and proof that they can fund their portion of the project.

Council must do this soon in order to make it in time for the grant application. Chief administrative officer John Fortoloczky said they might discuss this at the next council meeting and warned that this might take time to develop as it will likely be dependent on grant availability and getting preliminary engineering and design completed.

District sidewalk snow removal is coming, according to the budget. Council has budgeted $20,000 for that this year, and $40,000 from the next fiscal year.

On the topic of snow removal, Coun. Kropp asked whether the District could get a lever for a grader that will avoid plowing snow onto driveways.

Kropp said there is a senior population in Hope and having a plowed-in driveway would jeopardize emergency services’ operations. Dicken said he could get costs.

After adjustments to the budget, the finance director’s last move was to pull $400,000 from the prior year’s surplus, leaving its deficit at $117,601, as they did not spend all that was budgeted for in 2016.