Budget bylaws being prepared 

Infrastructure contracts awarded; rezoning for Gateway Loop washrooms

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - TAX TALK Director of finance Carlee Price presents to council on March 12.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • TAX TALK Director of finance Carlee Price presents to council on March 12.

Whistler's 2019 budget bylaws are now officially being prepared after receiving council's assent on March 12.

On the table are a 2.9-per-cent tax increase, two-per-cent increases to sewer parcel and water fees, and a 3.6-per-cent increase to solid waste user fees.

On a property worth $1 million in 2019 (that rose in value in line with the 16.3-percent average increase), the tax increase would amount to $31.79 over last year, said director of finance Carlee Price in a presentation to council.

"Now, if an individual property has increased by more than that amount, the outcome on their incremental, per-dollar tax amount will be higher," Price said.

"If a property has increased by less than 16.3, the tax amount will increase by less than what's noted here, and it may actually go down."

The increase to utility fees, flat for all properties, amounts to $28.09 over last year.

The 2019-2023 proposed projects list includes 176 projects worth $42.6 million (including $5.3 million carried over from 2018).

"I think I'm still concerned about the total amount relative to our current reserve funds, but we are reviewing the reserve policy again, and our pace of replacement, so I think this year is going to be informative," said Councillor Duane Jackson, adding that it would be beneficial to have more time to consider the vast and varied projects.

"I wonder if, at the next Audit and Finance meeting, we talk about being able to review projects on a quarterly basis, (so that) instead of having them all come at the end of the year (where) we all have to try and understand them in a very short amount of time ... there's an opportunity to introduce projects that are anticipated for next year earlier in the process, so that we get time to contemplate them and think about them, maybe put them in a longer-term budget."

Coun. Arthur De Jong noted the resort has been on a "remarkable run" as of late, with four straight years of solid winters.

"I've never seen that before here," he said.

"I really believe in our term we're going to hit some rough waters, whether it be geopolitical, climatic, economic, and so we need to be nimble, we need to be flexible moving forward. But I hope I'm wrong."

For Coun. Ralph Forsyth, overseeing Whistler's Finance and Audit portfolio, there are some "concerns" with the budget—but no deal-breakers.

"Things like the vehicle replacement budgets (nearly $9.9 million over five years), they're high—it's a mind blowing number, and I would love to dig my teeth into that a little bit deeper, and I think we will in the future," Forsyth said.

"There's things like the (Community Energy and Climate Action Plan) coordinator. I don't want to pay for that position, but those are things that I'm willing to accept.

"I think there's lots of things that we would cut or add to any budget, but I'm satisfied with the work that we've done, and in particular the work that staff have done to prepare this budget, and I'm happy to support it moving forward, despite any reservations I might have on certain aspects."

The Five-Year Financial Plan Bylaw is scheduled to come to council for first readings on March 26, followed by the tax rate bylaws on April 16.

INFRASTRUCTURE CONTRACTS AWARDED

Also at the March 12 meeting, council awarded contracts for two big-ticket infrastructure projects: the White Gold water main project ($1.9 million) and waterproofing of the Conference Centre parking structure ($1.7 million).

The contract for the White Gold project was awarded to Coastal Mountain Excavations, which submitted the lowest of three bids (32-per-cent below the engineer's estimate for the work).

Capital projects manager Tammy Shore attributed the significantly lower bid to the fact that CME is locally based, and has its own source of gravel.

The work involves replacing about 1.8 kilometres of water mains in the neighbourhood, switching them out from asbestos cement pipe to plastic polyvinyl chloride, as well as installing new valves, fittings, appurtenances, seven fire hydrants and temporary water connection services required during installation of the new system.

Design work for the project was done by ISL Engineering, which built upon knowledge gleaned from the $8.7-million Alpine water main project (completed in 2017) to help keep costs down.

The RMOW budgeted $3 million for the project in 2019, and another $400,000 in 2020 for road repaving.

Work will get underway in the spring.

The contact for waterproofing the Conference Centre parking structure, meanwhile, was awarded to Jacob Bros. Construction.

The work involves removing surface treatments, planters and landscaping above the lot, waterproofing the parkade structure, and restoring it all back to normal when the work is done.

Construction is proposed to start on April 15, with substantial completion planned for September 30.

GATEWAY LOOP WASHROOM REZONING GETS FIRST TWO READINGS

Also related to the budget, council also gave first two readings to a zoning amendment bylaw to allow for a public washroom pavilion at the Gateway Loop at the March 12 meeting.

The public-washroom project has spurred controversy in the community for its proposed $3-million price tag (for three public washroom facilities at high-traffic areas in the village, to be paid for with provincial Resort Municipality Initiative funds).

"I would be remiss if I did not say that ... watching more money go into the Gateway Loop is something that chagrins the community," said Councillor Cathy Jewett.

"I know that we have talked about the potential of working with the owner of the building of the Welcome Centre to make sure that those washrooms are in better shape, so I'm going to just put that out there."

The project is expected to go out to tender this spring, with construction to start soon after.

The RMOW is looking at ways to reduce the cost, said general manager of resort experience Jan Jansen.

"We have received some positive input from design panel ... in terms of some of the layout of the spaces and looking for some efficiencies there, so we're hopeful we can bring the price down on that," Jansen said.

Find more at www.whistler.ca/budget.

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