I hope you all enjoyed the summer solstice! Council has a heavy meeting load this week. Today’s weather was perfect for reviewing a total of 234 pages of agenda package for Monday!
Council meets as the Finance Committee at 10 a.m. Monday in Council Chambers and – as always – you are welcome to attend. You can see the whole package for the meeting at this link:
http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Finance-Agenda-120625.pdf The two items on the agenda are ...
Fleet Capital Reserve
As you know, we are reviewing all of the town’s capital reserves to ensure that, as a community, we are putting away enough money to replace our capital assets when we need to, without nasty surprises for future taxpayers.
How much do we need to put into a fleet reserve each year in order to make sure that we can replace vehicles and equipment as they reach the end of their useful lives? You can see the report that analyzes this question, starting on page 4 of the package. I was pleased to see that staff had carefully weighed the maintenance records of our vehicles and equipment, their expected cost recovery at the time of disposal, and used two different methods for calculating replacement cost. The upshot of it all is that we are aiming at an average of 15 years of useful lifespan for our vehicles. This will require an annual transfer of $359,000 per year to be fully funded over time, and we are within sight of that now with an annual transfer of $270,000.
In order to be transparent and accountable, the Town is adding easily measured performance benchmarks to our service review system. This means that you can look at a report each year and see how we’re doing on a range of factors, compared to how we were doing in previous years. A report that starts on page 13 of the package shows you some of the benchmarks that will be added this year, and reports on benchmarks that we already have in place. You can see comparisons to other communities’ results where we are able to access them. (The reason you’ll see comparisons to Ontario is because they have a benchmarking system in place that we can access easily). Just to give you a few examples of the numbers you can see in this report:
• The percentage cost of our benefits package (health, dental, etc.), compared to wages, is going up, in spite of the fact that we have cut back on benefits available to Town staff. This appears to be an issue that many employers are facing.
• Our website use continues to climb, and is way ahead of OMBI (the Ontario average) and Whistler
• Our voter turnout is lower than in comparable communities
• Our fire department costs less to operate per person served than those in two comparable communities
• We have fewer transit riders per population than the Ontario average, but our ridership is increasing
• Our operating cost per hectare for “grounds” (gardens, parks) is higher than the Ontario average, and is increasing in the three years shown
• We’re landfilling much less waste per person (residents and visitors included) than Whistler, and our amount is decreasing
• Our energy use per person continues to slowly increase
• The percentage of our population that registers for community classes continues to slowly decrease
• Crime numbers are available only for 2008 and 2009 – in those years, we had higher numbers than the Alberta average
• The tourism marketing dollars spent per visitor varied from $1.30 in 2009 to $1.06 in 2010 to $1.18 in 2011.
SPECIAL MEETING OF COUNCIL
At 9 a.m. on Monday, Council will continue its deliberation on Land Use Bylaw related items, including the required housing and required parking policies. You can see the package at this link: http://www.banff.ca/Assets/Special-Council-Agenda-120625.pdf Feel free to join us in Council Chambers!
REGULAR MEETING OF COUNCIL
At 2 p.m. on Monday, we’ll roll up our sleeves for a heavy agenda for the regular meeting of council. You can see the whole package at this link:
and you’re welcome to attend. Here are a few highlights from the agenda:
Read the report that starts on page 10, for more than you ever wanted to know about yellow grease, brown grease, and how they can clog the arteries of our sewage system! Utilities staff are briefing council about a pro-active education program they want to undertake, so that staff in restaurants and other businesses can understand better how their grease traps work and how to prevent sewer clogs. If you’ve ever seen the football-sized grease balls floating at the sewage treatment plant, or had your neighbourhood’s system blocked up by grease, you’ll know what a problem this can be.
The town offers rebates to residents and businesses that update their property with water-efficient or energy-efficient appliances and equipment. Examples? Dual-flush toilets, energy-rated dishwashers or refrigerators, solar hot water systems, programmable thermostats ... and many more! Take a look at the report that starts on page 25 to see what’s offered and how some of the offers may change. It’s interesting to see that we get the best bang for our rebate buck by helping to fund programmable thermostats.
There is a proposal in this report to change the rebate for solar hot water from $650 to $3000, because we have had no takers so far. However, this would also involve capping the rebates to the first three homes that apply. I don’t think this is a fair way to allocate public dollars – a lot of money to a very few people on a first-come, first-served basis. I’d like to leave it at $650, but make sure that people know that this is available. Or perhaps we could consider the higher rate for people who will commit to making their home a demonstration project that others can look at?
FCSS Annual Report
Starting on page 108 of the package, you can read about the many programs offered by FCSS, and how they are working with a multitude of partners to meet their goals and to support the people of our community. Everything from the community greenhouse to the seniors’ bus to settlement services for foreign workers is in this report, and it’s pretty impressive.
The Railway Lands
Council is being asked to approve some options for public consultations about the proposed uses at the railway station. When the Land Use Bylaw was being discussed, most members of the public were focussed on other areas. But now there are major changes proposed for what that area might look like, changes that would result in a new commercial area in the town. Council believes that people will want to be consulted about this.
Land Use Bylaw
Council will consider third reading of phase 2a of the Land Use Bylaw update, after hours and hours of discussion and amendments on second reading. In these recent meetings, I have been on the losing end of lots of motions related to the Land Use Bylaw. However, I feel that every item was discussed thoroughly, and that all councillors brought their carefully considered opinions to the table and listened with an open mind to everyone else’s opinions before voting. So the system is working the way it’s supposed to.
On Tuesday, I’ll be attending a meeting about the Transportation Master Plan, along with a lot of people from various sectors of the community.
And dog owners will be pleased to know that the fence for the off-leash dog park is almost complete. Councillor Canning has taken a walk-through and says it looks great.
THE FINE PRINT
As always, any opinions expressed in this post are mine alone. This post is not a communication from the Town of Banff or its Council. I welcome your comments or questions, and I’m always happy to add your friends to the email list. If you’re just too busy to read these updates, let me know, and I’ll take you off the list (but I’ll miss you!).