Courtenay mayor steamed about regional district costs
Courtenay mayor Larry Jangula had a little rant Monday night last week.
He didn't feel particularly better after making it, but he called for solidarity in voting at the regional district to try to rein in costs.
The little "rant" came after a presentation on regional district financing by city financial services director Brian Parschauer.
He was giving a "tutorial" on how the regional district draws up its budget and what input municipal staffers like himself have into the process.
Parschauer started off by noting that the regional district's requisition this year for Courtenay is going up 10.3 per cent – or $28.5 for the average city property.
"We're seeing some significant hits in the next few years,"he added.
Most of the hits have to do with water, sewer and garbage disposal.
Parschauer said he and other finance officers always have to ask how the regional district could be more efficient.
For instance, he cited falling natural gas prices that weren't reflected in the RD budget.
And, he said, they have to make sure the RD is "borrowing for the proper things", such as longer-lasting assets.
Parschauer said it never hurts to ask questions in order to save a few dollars here and there.
Looking at the RD budget figures set Mayor Jangula off on his "rant".
"I have been really alarmed ... We're a powerful force at that table ... if we all vote together. These costs are phenomenal, especially to small businesses.
"We're here to look after our businesses, our taxpayers. It (RD) is a big ticket item for us. We need to work together, vote together ... as a group.
"This is not the end. This is just the beinning."
And then he laced into the RD for hiring someone at $84,000 per year to "educate" people about illegal dumping.
"They have at least six or seven people in the public relations office. And it goes on and on like that."
And the city, he says, is being "blackmailed" on water. Five years ago, he said, the standard for turbidity was 5 parts per million. Now it's 1. And as a result, the RD has to spend well over $100 million on a new filtration plant and deep water intake.
"It never stops."
Waste management, or garbage disposal, is a particularly thorny issue because as landfills get full, it costs milions to close and cap them, plus millions to open new ones. Which get full, and so on and so on.
Courtenay has been trying to push the waste management commission, comprised of Comox Valley and Campbell River representatives, into looking at converting waste to energy to avoid constantly having to close and open landfills, and to recover some costs.
In 2015, Courtenay paid $169,377 for solid waste management. In 2017 that figure rises to $951,822 and in 2019 is estimated to be at $1.427 million.
Counc. Doug Hillian wondered if the RD hadn't been spending enough before and "it's coming back to bite us."
"I don't hear a lot of solutions that are going to get us off the hook," he said.
Well, it could be worse, said Parschauer. In the last jurisdiction he worked in – Saskatchewan – infrastructure costs were much higher.
He suggested staff and politicians should "be open to some creative thinking".