Trail council eases budget cuts to city works

Despite cuts, most capital projects will be going ahead as planned.

As the city’s public works department struggles with a major turnover in manpower, the department caught a break from members of Trail council at Monday’s governance meeting.

The recent strain to train eight new yard workers after losing eight experienced employees, was compounded in March when council directed the city’s works manager to trim $620,000 from upcoming capital projects.

Larry Abenante presented his list of project deferrals totalling $401,000 to council, but received word that all projects would be going ahead, with the exception of the $100,000 gateway feature at the east end of the Trail bridge.

“This decision is more based on the actual visual impact it will have in terms of the suggested placement,” explained David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer (CAO). “Which we had been debating the last year and felt the monetary expense does not support what would be gained.”

Adjustments to the capital program are typically dealt with before the city’s budget is approved in May, although the level of funding in the projects can shift based on actual costs or changes in priorities.

“These monies may be better reinvested in other aspects of further downtown improvements or used to enhance other areas of the 2014 capital plan,” the CAO added.

With that, Abenante was given the go ahead to begin projects that include widening Fifth Ave. sidewalks, structural repairs in the Trail Memorial Centre, a new warehouse service bay, and civic improvements such as stairway painting and wheelchair ramps.

“Not knowing where we were going with the budget has put the brakes on a lot of projects,” said Abenante. “Now that we know where we are headed, we can kick start these.”

Abenante was asked to look at reducing projects on two occasions during budget talks.

During the first round, he collaborated with the city’s parks and recreation department to reduce $120,000 from capital costs associated with East Trail sidewalk improvements and stairway painting.

The second round of $500,000 reductions was based on some initial concerns that were coming forward as part of the city’s 2013 year-end, explained Perehudoff.

“But it did not turn out to be a material financial concern given that the preliminary figures we were using had missed a rather significant accounting entry which when fully reconciled resulted in the 2013 year-end being consistent with what was initially anticipated.”

The city’s public works department manages transportation services, utilities, parks maintenance, cemetery operations and a mechanical shop.

This month, Abenante’s staff will be trained to operate Trail’s new float, set to be unveiled during the Silver City Days parade on May 10.

Additionally, a decision was made to continue with the Trail Memorial Centre entrance enhancements, including recommended modifications based on public safety and traffic flow.

Future projects the department is exploring include a “climate action” initiative for docking (charging) stations and car share cooperatives for electric cars.

“The project was to come forward as a 2014 capital project,” said Abenante. “No progress has been made due to limited capital funding, but it may be considered next year.”

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