Council wraps up capital budget

Duane Hicks

Town council is done with the capital side of this year’s municipal budget after adding a few more much-needed items at a meeting last Thursday.
These included replacing a 1989 Bobcat with track, bucket, and landscaping equipment ($85,000), a dehumidifier for the ’52 Canadians Arena ($23,000), energy controls for the Fort Frances Museum ($17,855), and a new treadmill for the Memorial Sports Centre gym ($7,000).
All of these items have reached the end of their life-cycle or just about to break down, it was noted during the meeting.
In the case of the Bobcat, if not replaced, the town would have to hire equipment to take its place.
Coun. Doug Kitowski also suggested the town could use the old Bobcat out at Sunny Cove Camp to perform tasks such as gathering rocks and dirt.
Regarding the treadmill, Coun. June Caul said she would like to see it replaced before all of a sudden “people who are paying good money to work out at our arena don’t have that” and have to wait a month to get a new one.
Coun. Wendy Brunetta agreed that since the need for new equipment was brought forward by local resident and fitness trainer Ian McKay in September after the town had asked the public to provide such input, because people “pay good money” to be gym members, and because the town has agreed to provide a service, it’s only right to ensure the gym has “good working equipment.”
Community Services manager Jason Kabel noted there are eight pieces of gym equipment at the Sportsplex.
The newest—a treadclimber— was purchased in 2013 while the oldest—an elliptical trainer—was first bought in 2001.
The average lifespan of gym equipment is five years, he added.
Council agreed there should be a plan in place to gradually replace gym equipment each budget year (the town uses a similar system to replace aged vehicles).
The 2016 capital budget totals $5.4 million. Most of this is funded from reserves and various grants, with no new long-term debt.
If everything is completed as laid out in the capital budget, the town’s reserves will be at $10.96 million this year.
“It’s outstanding. Our reserve levels in consideration of our long-term debt, which is rapidly evaporating, is outstanding,” remarked Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig.
Coun. Ken Perry agreed, noting the town’s long-term debt is diminishing.
“After next year, we’re going to be in really good shape,” he added.
Meanwhile, it remains a bit too early to talk about tax increases, as the town is waiting for education tax rates and DSSAB levy information.
It also has ongoing contract negotiations with CUPE employees and firefighters.
As of last week’s meeting, the 2016 operating budget showed a deficit of about $189,000.
When the budget is closer to being finalized, mayor and council said they’d prefer to see a residential tax levy increase of 1.5 percent or lower this year.
The next budget meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 4 at 4 p.m.