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NORTH PERTH BUDGET 2020: Proposed recreation capital projects dominate discussion at Jan. 22 meeting

NORTH PERTH – 2020 budget deliberations continued last week, with a number of departments making capital project proposals to the budget committee for potential approval for the upcoming year.

The presenters on Wednesday, Jan. 22 included the Listowel Business Improvement Area, the municipal childcare sector, the finance department, the recreation department, and the North Perth Public Library Board.

The Listowel BIA requested a total budget of $119,000, an increase of over $13,000 from 2019. BIA vice-chair Scott Patterson said that the dollar figure takes into consideration administrative and operating increases, a future community improvement project, and funding for Win This Space 2020.

Aside from minor requested capital project items which included upgrades to the outdoor play area of the Listowel EarlyON and Family Centre, the municipal childcare sector, with clerk Pat Berfelz speaking on its behalf, presented the ongoing construction of the new Monkton Family

Grouping/EarlyON Centre and adjacent library at the Elma Logan Recreation Complex as its main item for 2020. $385,000 is to be allocated out of library reserves to help fund the project, which is scheduled for completion by Aug. 1.

The foundation of the addition has been completed and the structure is ready for framing, according to Berfelz.

“Lots of exciting things happening in child care,” she said.

Finance department
The majority of the North Perth finance department’s proposed capital projects fall within computer software and IT governance and modernization actions. Obtaining a part-time information officer falls within the proposed items; and who once established would approach county and neighbouring municipalities about organizing shared services and committee representation. Finance staff have also been advised that there will be more provincial funding coming down from the upper tiers of government for modernization and efficiency initiatives. Some of its software expenditures could be eligible for grant funding. The annual estimate for IT improvements is $250,000.

“There will be more modernization money as well, but we haven’t been told what that is,” said North Perth director of finance Frances Hale during her presentation to the budget committee. “We feel that a number of the projects that might come forward from the software requests through the IT governance group might be an opportunity to utilize some of the modernization funding that is coming. We have not seen anything; our contacts have indicated that it will be similar to last year. So that was about half a million dollars for North Perth.”

North Perth Public Library carryover projects from 2019 include: Listowel library masonry/pergola repairs; Atwood library sewer hookup (ongoing since 2009); Listowel power door operators; exterior signage; Listowel library painting. Proposed projects for 2020 budget consideration were Monkton library furnishings, fixtures and equipment, and further development of the North Perth Library and Community Hub in Listowel.

“The library board has directed that we only proceed with the immediate repairs to basically ensure public safety, and the rest of the projects will only be handled until we know the decision with the grant,” commented North Perth CAO Kriss Snell.

2019 carryover items and the long list of proposed capital projects for the parks and recreation sector dominated discussion for much of last Wednesday’s meeting of the budget committee. Included on the list of carryover projects, as presented by interim manager of recreation Amy Gangl: Facility and trail signage, Atwood Cenotaph enhancements, Memorial Park barrier fence/planter repairs, completion of the new Spinrite soccer pitch development (irrigation), an emergency generator at the Steve Kerr Memorial Complex, general baseball field improvements, and potential replacement of the Listowel Kinsmen Pool.

“We need to start investigating options for the outdoor pool,” said Gangl. “The Listowel Kinsmen Pool is over 50 years old. We did have filtration equipment replaced but that was 15 years ago, and it’s at its life cycle.”

The preliminary construction estimate of a new outdoor pool is $2.5-$3 million. Gangl outlined an engineering/consulting cost of $30,000 in line with new regulations and building codes, as well as an audit of the current structure to determine its remaining years.

Mayor Todd Kasenberg, who also serves as the 2020 budget committee chair, questioned whether or not the municipality really requires two swimming pools based on population and overall need, given the current condition of the Atwood pool.

“It worries me that we have two pools in this community,” he said. “I think from a financial sustainability perspective that is a realistic concern. I gather that some industry estimates suggest that you need one pool per 10,000 residents. So, we’re kind of ‘over-pooled’ in some ways. I think the first analysis needs to be whether we need that kind of extra capacity in a new pool in Listowel, or whether this community could survive with a pool that was based in Atwood for the next 15 years until it reaches end of life. And, we need to know whether the Atwood pool has another 15 years in it or not.”

Kasenberg went on to say that should North Perth further investigate the desire for an indoor pool facility, ratepayers should be conscious of the much higher cost that would entail, reflecting either a tax increase or high fees for usage.

“There may be an opportunity there, but brace yourself, is all I can say with regards to that kind of project,” he said.

With Listowel Memorial Arena slated for demolition this year, the topic of transferring the electrical power source for the adjacent John Bell baseball diamonds currently situated in that building to another location was raised. Gangl included the replacement of the aging light standard towers at John Bell North amongst the proposed recreation capital projects, referring to a 2014 structural report on the JBN’s light towers (constructed in the late 1970s) that stated they were ‘in fair structural condition but with a fair amount of corrosion, life of about five remaining years’. Replacement of the light standards on each of the John Bell diamonds would be approximately $200,000, roughly $100,000 per diamond. John Bell South’s light standards were constructed more recently in the 1980s.

Councillor Julie Behrns questioned why the arena demolition and John Bell light standards were proposed as linked capital projects, as the electrical transfer would have to occur regardless of action on the baseball diamonds once demolition of the arena takes place. The committee ultimately agreed to include movement of the electrical to coincide with arena demolition, not to budget it with the potential installation of new lighting towers. Additionally, a further structural and safety assessment of John Bell’s light standards will be performed prior to the 2020 baseball season.

With the proposed addition of a gazebo to Trowbridge’s Robert Mathers Park, Mayor Kasenberg questioned if the initial estimate of $22,000 was too high. An idea was put forth to inquire whether Listowel District Secondary School would be interested in constructing a gazebo with municipal-purchased materials, similar to what was performed in Mitchell. Staff agreed to investigate the possibility further.

Continued partial removal of the Listowel Memorial Park dam – a section that wouldn’t affect the overall structural integrity of the bridge spanning the river – was included in the list of recreation capital projects, as part of the ongoing process to restore the Middle Maitland River’s health, which started with the initial removal of dam boards and revitalization of the upstream Memorial Park area.

The committee also entertained the possibility of adding a trail grooming apparatus to enhance sections of the North Perth Trail.

Ongoing 2020 budget deliberations were scheduled to continue on Wednesday, Jan. 29.