Longer, brighter trails are in Morinville's future now that town council has tweaked its latest budget – a future that, for now, no longer includes a LAV III monument.
Town council passed second reading of Morinville's 2017 operating and capital budget last Nov. 8 with numerous changes. The revisions were unlikely to affect the projected one per cent tax hike, said town corporate and financial services manager Shawna Jason.
SJB, LAV III cut
Two capital projects and Morinville's biggest summer festival bore the brunt of council's cuts.
Council voted 6-1 in favour of Coun. Nicole Boutestein's move to scrap the $52,000 LAV III military monument capital project. Coun. Rob Ladouceur opposed the move, citing the town's strong military links.
Council had heard from project co-ordinator Jason Wood that the monument's budget had ballooned to $150,000, sparking concern from many.
Project advocates had raised only a fraction of that amount and the town could end up paying the whole bill, Boutestein said.
"I like this project, but I can't see taxpayer dollars having to pay for this, and that's what's going to happen if we continue on this path."
Councillors Stephen Dafoe and Barry Turner agreed, saying that military members they'd spoken with said rec-centres and libraries, not monuments, were the best way to support the troops. Coun. Brennan Fitzgerald said that this was originally pitched as a community project, and it should be up to the community to back it.
Mayor Lisa Holmes noted that this one project would account for about a third of the town's parks budget. She and Coun. Gordon Putnam wanted a rethink of the project, particularly its location.
Council also voted 4-3 in support of Fitzgerald's move to cut the full-sized, lit, $60,000 south-side entrance sign from the capital plan. Boutestein, Holmes, and Coun. Rob Ladouceur were opposed.
Council replaced the town's old wooden southern sign with a small unlit one this year for $32,500 instead of spending $65,000 for a full-sized lit one.
Boutestein said she regrets that decision, as the small sign did little to boost the town's economic development.
"Right now you can blink and not see that sign."
Although Holmes argued that a proper-sized sign was seven years overdue, other councillors argued that it was too expensive and not a priority.
Council backed motions from Dafoe and Ladouceur to hold support of the Morinville Festival Society at $18,500 instead of upping it by $35,000.
"The festival society for Morinville is going to have to consider making (Festival Days) a smaller festival," Ladouceur said.
Council also supported Dafoe's proposal to cut $10,000 from the town's community grant fund. Many of these grants would be better supported by the town's public relations budget, he argued.
More food and lights
Council voted 6-1 in favour of Boutestein and Dafoe's motion to give the town's food bank another $7,500. Ladouceur opposed the move, explaining in an interview that he wanted to talk to the food bank society about it first.
Dafoe proposed doubling the capital budget for solar-powered trail lights to $166,000 so that the trails around and leading to the Fish and Game pond would be safe to use at night. Council supported him 4-3, with Putnam, Ladouceur and Holmes opposed.
Holmes opposed the motion as she wanted to see the money spent on completing the town's trail system first, particularly the unpaved, unlit trail in South Glens that bordered 100 Street.
"I would not be comfortable walking on that trail."
Council gladly supported Holmes's move to add $40,000 to the parks budget for possible trail improvements.
Council voted 5-2 against Fitzgerald's idea to add $45,376 to the library's budget, which he said would let the library pay competitive wages today instead of by 2023 as it currently planned.
"Staff wages down there are sad," he argued, and this increase could help reduce turnover.
While Dafoe supported the idea, the rest of council said no, saying that it was too much money and that the library had not asked for it.
Councillors voted 5-2 against Boutestein's move to cut $25,000 worth of sound-reduction panels for the community cultural centre's lobby from the capital plan (Dafoe and Boutestein in favour). Community and protective services manager David Schaefer said noise was the top complaint the town had received about the centre's front lobby, and these panels would address it.
The budget goes to third and final reading Nov. 22.