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Budget COW Meets Again

Updated: Feb 15

Tough decisions on the horizon

February 13, 2024 Edition

Event: Lions Bay COW Meeting

Time: 6 p.m.

Agenda: HERE

Video link: HERE

Present at the council table were Mayor Ken Berry, Councillors Jaime Cunliffe, Neville Abbott, and Michael Broughton, along with Public Works Manager Karl Buhr, Chief Administrative Officer Ross Blackwell and Financial Officer Joe Chirkoff. Deputy Corporate Officer Marina Blagodarov was also present. Councillor Marcus Reuter was present via Zoom.

One resident watched proceedings from gallery, and six tuned in online.

This evening's meeting commenced as scheduled at 6 p.m. with an agenda that included both public participation elements and was made available prior to the weekend.

The agenda was adopted with a couple of minor changes.

The approval of previous minutes began with a discussion of the format that meeting minutes should take. CAO Ross Blackwell clarified that the term 'minutes' actually should reflect a verbatim account, but that customarily what are offered are summaries of events. Councillor Neville Abbott expressed concern that the current minutes offer too few specifics. It was agreed to address this issue in more detail at another meeting, and noted that COW minutes need to be approved at a COW meeting.

Council then approved minutes from previous meetings, including those from meetings on January 9, 2024 (Page 2), May 9, 2023 (Page 5), May 4, 2023 (Page 7) and December 8, 2022 (Page 10).

As there was no business arising from these past minutes, Council dove into the principal topic of the evening, a closer look at the supplemental elements of the 2024 draft budget.

Blackwell noted that the budget is a three-part process. The first addresses the core budget, and Council has already made a preliminary decision for the essentials. The second part is a discussion of supplemental requests by department heads, which continues with a closer look at these requests. The third part of this process will come in future meetings, drawing these first two elements together to determine a final draft, which will then be put forward for consideration and ratification by Council.

Financial Officer Joe Chirkoff led Council through a discussion of the supplementals that were presented at the last meeting (Page 53), following a list of capital requests presented in order of total cost. (Bracketed figures below are the 2024 budget requests).

Discussion of these items included:

  • New information was presented regarding the the first item on the list, a new fire truck ($1.35 million). Chirkoff said Fire Chief Barret Germscheid has confirmed the Village does fit into the small municipality exemption, which extends the useable life of the existing fire truck. Additional annual costs will accrue for testing to ensure the truck meets accepted standards, beginning in 2025 when the truck reaches 15 years old. The cost of a new truck will continue to rise over time, and discussion arose regarding the wisdom of setting aside a contingency to help cover some of the anticipated costs. It was also noted that anything that requires financing that extends for a period of five years or longer requires approval from residents. Blackwell noted that the small communities exemption allows Council some breathing room before a decision needs to be made, and added that any funds set aside will continue to earn interest.

  • Lions Bay Beach Park (LBBP) project ($263,000). Councillor Michael Broughton, a member of the committee, requested a change of scope for the project, saying that a further $30,000 contingency is needed to cover potential costs of project management and septic over-runs. He said that five contractors attended the mandatory site visit, and that the bid (which can be found on the BC Bid site)* closes on February 27, after which the committee will bring a recommendation to Council. Blackwell stated that a minimum 10% contingency is always a good idea, and that the emergent issues Broughton has brought forward means that it is wise to set aside funds, as the existing contingency has already been eaten up. Councillors requested an accurate revised estimate to provide further clarity before a decision is made.

  • Highway tank replacement ($900,000). Wide-ranging discussion included the question of whether the tank is the major source of village water leaks, and whether the tank will be replaced by an additional Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV) station, a tank or something else. Public Works Manager Karl Buhr explained why he needs funding before the budget goes through. $100,000 of the cost was approved in the 2023 budget and is available. Buhr also made reference to a potential leak that he said he can't discuss for privacy reasons, and indicated more information will be forthcoming.

  • End-Tidewater project ($500,000). Buhr noted that costs are increasing by exponential rather than linear rates, and this is a job that must be done. He reminded Council that the gas tax could be spent on a road project such as this one. There was further discussion on the need for project management, whether in-house or not, and how risks are assessed based on the degree of impact and the probability of occurence. It was also noted that any damage to CN property is repaired to their standard by Village coffers.

  • Klatt building. Buhr said the project is grant-funded, on track and underway.

  • Connector Project ($100,000). This project is on a very short timeline, and has to be completed by December 31. It is 75% grant-funded.

  • Magnesia Intake Reconstruction ($333,333 est.). Buhr clarified that Works staff are not actually working overtime to address the current problems, but the work means staff are being taken away from other jobs. A fix here will not affect quantity of water, but will only address time wastage. Council agreed that this cost will likely not be budgeted this year.

  • Mountain Drive drainage ($285,000). Buhr said this project is a high priority, as the road is already collapsing, however no final decision to move forward was made.

  • SCADA equipment ($105,000), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems require improved security of equipment (one monitor was lost to a lightning strike last year). Buhr notes the system is antiquated, and needs updating. Council members agreed this is a priority.

  • Oceanview Road watermain and drainage design ($100,000). The goal is to make this, one of oldest pieces of drainage in village, a shovel-ready project, in case any available grant money comes along. Blackwell notes that the budget can be amended down the road if this becomes a more immediate problem. Deferred.

  • Lions Bay Beach Park - Jetty, ($170,000). This element has been removed from the grant-funded LBBP project, and was discussed at length last week. Buhr asked for $35,000 for the design element up front. Though discussion centred on whether this should be covered under the LBBP project, or whether it is grant-fundable, the general feeling was that one way or another it needs to be funded as without the jetty, the beach is at risk. More discussion pending.

  • A pH adjustment to finished water, ($100,000). There was a suggestion that resident water expert Tony Greville could speak to this at the next council meeting, but there was a sense that it might not be prioritized this year.

  • Klatt building - Neidermayer system. Previous council approved the number, so the $85,000 is a carry-forward, and needs to says on the table as it is a safety issue.

  • Pride Trail rebuild. This project is underway, and is grant funded.

  • Command Vehicle ($50,000). Discussion of vehicle usage and the possibility that a bylaw enforcement vehicle could be dual-purposed. There was additional discussion about reallocating existing by-law funding to buy a second-hand vehicle instead of paying mileage charges every year. The decision was that other solutions will be sought to solve this problem.

  • LBBP - floating dock and barrier, ($50,000). To replace the current log boom and dock. More expensive than the current dock, but a much longer lifespan. Buhr said that a six week delivery is available. Saves the costs of removing it yearly. Still under consideration.

  • Forklift/backhoe, ($40,000): Speaking for Public Works, Buhr said they agree to share their forklift with LBFR, as it is only used for auto extraction practice a few times a year, so this cost was removed from consideration.

  • SCBA ($32,000) and Turnout Gear, ($10,000) Comprises the breathing apparatus and gear including helmet, boots, gloves, pants and jacket. Required, so still under consideration.

  • Electric Jaws of Life Cutters and Spreader, ($30,000). To replace existing hydraulic systems, which they would maintain as a backup. This request was deferred in hope of grant money becoming available.

  • Kuboda side-by-side ATV, ($25,000). Buhr withdrew this item from consideration.

  • Furniture and equipment after Klatt renovation, ($20,000). Cabinets and other items, decision to be deferred until after the renovation is complete.

  • Rescue 63, (the small engine). Roll out tray, doors and cover to protect equipment. Carried forward, so no new funding required this year.

  • Village Hall Sound System Upgrade, ($7,500). Sound system is in bad shape, but is not a priority. Suggested that accessibility grants be pursued before assigning money from the budget.

  • Village Office furniture and equipment ($5,000), and Renovation ($1,000). The funds would be used to create a secure storage area, replace desks and chairs that are falling apart, beyond what is covered by office operating costs. Still under consideration.

  • There was some discussion of the Village Hall external stairs, but Buhr said it would be covered in the maintenance budget.

  • Chirkoff directed Council to page 20, with regard to a $50,000 request to incentivize new firefighters to move to the village. Discussion included the value of paying potential fire members, and the cost of a study to do an analysis of current fire needs and services for the community. There was also discussion of development in Furry Creek and Britannia Beach and what impacts that will have. Deferred for the moment.

After a brief break, Council returned to say they were ready to move on to public questions and comments, so the $10,000 Emergency Program Coordinator's request (Page 23) was not addressed.

As no public comments or questions were offered, the motion was made to take the meeting into closed session. Berry said he did not anticipate reporting out, so effectively the meeting ended there. Upcoming meetings include the Infrastructure Committee meeting, to be held February 15 at 6 p.m. The next regular Council meeting is scheduled for February 20 at 7 p.m.

*Editor's note: This bid site requires a password, so we have unlinked it.

As always, The Watershed welcomes your thoughts about this year's budget. Leave your comments below, or email us at 

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