By Trevor Busch
The Town of Taber’s engineering and public works department is requesting a 9.65 per cent increase to their proposed annual operating budget for 2015.
At a special budget meeting of town council held on Nov. 5, engineering and public works director Gary Scherer presented the department’s annual operating budget to council for future deliberation.
The proposed 2015 net budget is $3,635,752, up $320,109 from 2014, or an increase of 9.65 per cent.
For 2015, the engineering and public works department expects $63,500 in revenue, with total expenditures pegged at $3,699,252.
The engineering and public works department designs, operates and maintains the town’s infrastructure, as well as providing essential community services such as garbage collection and water.
The department is divided into engineering, roads and walks, solid waste management, and utilities.
EPCOR operates and maintains the utilities which includes water treatment facilities, water storage reservoirs, water meters, fire hydrants, water mains, sewage treatment plant, sewage lagoons and pivots, storm and sewer manholes, pump stations, and catch basins.
Proposed is the inclusion of a new position for a qualified journeyman heavy duty mechanic, responsible for maintenance of all vehicles in the municipal fleet, including heavy equipment and trucks, fire trucks, and a variety of construction and maintenance equipment; coodination and scheduling of equipment for warranty maintenance and equipment repairs for all departments; completion of safety and mechanical inspections of all equipment.
“We actually broke out five years’ worth of invoices for services provided, separated parts from labour, and basically came up with a figure of $255,000 for labour,” said Scherer.
“Between all the departments — public works, parks and rec, fire department — I think the position will really pay for itself. In fact I know it will.”
As a justification for the position, administration noted that over the past five years, public works has spent $255,000 on labour for repairs and maintenance of equipment and vehicles, averaging $51,000 per year.
“I’m in favour of a mechanic personally myself,” said Coun. Jack Brewin.
Two new seasonal positions have been proposed for public works for weed cutting and general maintenance of the town and landfill areas. An additional summer position would be a technologist in training, intended to provide the town with data collection on sidewalks, signs and infrastructure.
Department goals and projects for 2015 include engineering and construction of 50th Street from 64th Avenue to 80th Avenue; asphalt overlay on 64th Avenue from Highway 36 to Highway 864; cast iron potable water line replacement on 52nd Avenue; Eureka and Highway 36 intersection; Eureka Industrial Subdivision; identification of the town’s infrastructure assets; completion of a storm water management master plan; continuation of garbage, recycling and composting initiative; stormwater maintenance plan for storm drains and culverts; increased service levels for asphalt and sidewalk replacement; and investigation of the feasibility of a spur line to the new Eureka Subdivision.
EPCOR projects for 2015 include the Wastewater Treatment Plant lagoons; North Pump Station upgrade; hack WIMS; additional Clearwell Reservoir study; filter pipe gallery pipe replacement at Water Treatment Plant; water meter replacement program; potable water master plan and modeling; and sanitary sewer master plan and modeling with CCTV for pipe evaluation and inflow and infiltration.
According to administration, the engineering and public works budget has increased from 2014 mainly due to increased service levels and salaries increasing due to a cost of living adjustment under the CUPE collective agreement. Additional funds are required for asphalt and sidewalk replacements.
Scherer also proposed a “refresh” of the public works and reception areas would “enhance our working environment”. The building was originally constructed in 1983 and has seen few modifications over the years “leaving a dull, drab, ineffective working area”.
“I did ask to look at refreshing our offices,” said Scherer. “I understand money is an issue — we plan on doing some of this work ourselves — but our offices were built in the 1980s, and they look like they were built in the 1980s.”