By Cole Parkinson
Preliminary discussions for the 2020 budget have begun for Vauxhall town council.
In a special budget meeting held in late January, council went over several items that would be coming forward for the new 2020 operating budget.
With final decisions coming in February, council was able to talk over some items in their budget that would see some changes before carrying the budget through a motion.
One item brought forward was around fireworks for Canada Day.
With Vauxhall’s centennial set for mid-June, this year’s Canada Day has taken a back seat.
“Right now, we’re not quite sure if anything is going to be happening on Canada Day. We’re not sure if the Ag Society is doing the derby or not but town-wise, we aren’t doing the parade,” said Mayor Margaret Plumtree, though Coun. Kim Cawley stated she believes the Vauxhall Ag Society would still be doing the annual derby.
Administration also stated they usually got a government grant to help with Canada Day fireworks, though they weren’t sure that would still be available in 2020.
Council decided to move forward on fireworks for Canada Day if the grant was still available.
Another council discussion was around the Vauxhall arena concession.
“I believe it hasn’t been very busy. If we can’t find anyone next year (to run the concession), maybe council would consider buying a vending machine,” stated Mindy Dunphy, office manager.
A potential move to a vending machine was welcomed by council and it was explained they could potentially price out vending machines with frozen food and place several microwaves in the lobby.
It was also explained by administration the vending machine would be run by the town and not a contractor.
Before a decision was needed, though, council stated they wanted to put an ad out earlier for anyone to run the concession as they would want someone committed before September.
If no one came forward they would look at vending machines.
Community hall kitchen renovations have continued to be discussed by council.
While they had previous quotes, council wanted new quotes before committing any decisions to the project.
“I think some of it is going to come down to equipment we can use that is already there. Maybe we should call a committee here in the next little bit and update some numbers,” added Cawley.
Administration stated there was around $11,000 in town reserves for the project, if it were to move forward.
The Vauxhall Chamber of Commerce was looking for $4,000 from the town to cover their deficit for 2020.
The Municipal District of Taber had already carried a motion to provide $6,000 to the chamber at a future meeting.
“I don’t think it is an unreasonable request with where we want to see the town go. This is their first year in actual operation and they do have a staff person now and she’s doing a good job. I feel that should be supported,” explained Coun. Ray Coad.
They were also looking at an office space which administration and council pointed to as a potential opportunity to share an office with the Vauxhall Food Bank.
That particular building was already owned by the town and could potentially serve both organizations.
“You give money to a chamber to help them help us and if we are having to do this stuff that they are not, why are we giving money when we are using our resources?” asked Plumtree. “I really want to see them step it up this year.”
A motion was carried with Plumtree the lone opposing vote.
Another change was funding for the Vauxhall Public Library which saw their funding cut as originally stated by council.
“If we were up front with them and told them their funding for 2020 would be cut, then I guess that’s what we have to stick by,” added Coad.
Funding for the library was slated at $15,000 compared to last year which was around $25,000.
With more cuts needed, council discussed their Federation of Canadian Municipalities membership.
At almost a $300 increase, council was hesitant to commit money to the organization any further at this time.
“I know in the six years I’ve been on council they haven’t done anything specific for Vauxhall. I know a couple of things here and there but we can’t even get to a conference because they are too far and too expensive for us,” said Plumtree.
A motion to send a letter explaining why council was cancelling their membership was carried unanimously.
With the departure of their bylaw officer at the beginning of March, council went over potential options for further bylaw enforcement.
So far, administration had explored potential team-ups with municipalities in the area to share a bylaw officer.
As $30,000 was already in the budget, council elected to continue with that as administration would have further discussions around adding a new bylaw officer.
Council remuneration was also on the agenda for discussion.
The mayor’s remuneration per month is $550, while the other councillors receive $300 per month.
Rates for regular council meetings and budget meetings are $90 per month and committee of council meetings are $25 per hour up to a maximum of $200 per day.
Annual amounts of $200 are issued to compensate for use of cell phones, internet, stationery supplies and other miscellaneous out of pocket expenses.
“I think if we’re looking for a place to cut money, I think we could cut our own a little,” added Phillips.
They also discussed possibly purchasing town-owned laptops/tablets for each councillor to cut back on paper agendas for each meeting they attend.
A motion to cut council monthly remuneration by 10 per cent was carried.
With many meetings with the Vauxhall Curling Club already taken place, council had another chance to discuss how they wanted to structure their contract, which is due at the end of February.
Council was in favour was renting the building to the club at $1 with the club than on the hook for utilities in the building and a motion was carried for administration to revise the contract to reflect those changes.
They also discussed placing an ammonia alarm at the entrance of the facility at the town’s cost.
Concerning recreation, council discussed the M.D. grant they receive for their many different facilities.
With the town receiving around $130,000 from the M.D. in a recreation grant, council had questions on how many town residents used their facilities versus M.D. residents.
“I did a little counting in the newspaper with the hockey teams on the back and I think of the three teams, there were maybe five players that live in town,” stated Cawley.
“So the town is operating the facility primarily for the benefit of M.D. residents with the town bearing the majority of the costs. That just doesn’t seem fair. It’s reasonable the M.D. should chip in more on the rec end,” added Phillips.