Submitted by Bow Island Mayor Gordon Reynolds
While there is some uncertainty around provincial funding to municipalities, I still have a positive outlook for our community in 2020.
The cuts to municipalities in the fall budget were relatively small, but I anticipate there will be more pain this spring. The pending requirement for us to pay for policing will have a $37,000 impact on the Town’s next budget and those costs will rise by 200 per cent over the following three years. In the meantime, for 2020, council will likely approve another fairly aggressive capital budget utilizing reserves and what grant funding we know is available. We knocked down our debt this fall by paying off the debenture on the Airport Industrial Park with money from lot sales.
The cannabis/hemp developments in the airport subdivision have been slowed by delays in Health Canada licensing and some nervousness about the industry as a whole on the part of investors. These local projects currently look like they will get back on track this coming year.
The new bulk water fill the county installed at the airport should be commissioned any time now and this spring, work will get underway to rebuild the runway and lighting at the airport. The town has secured a very sizable grant for this project that will be a great benefit for us all but especially for the agricultural community.
An energy assessment was done this fall on the arena as part of a grant process and the town is currently weighing the recommendations that are intended to lower the operating costs of the building. Considering that overall usage of the facility is down from what it was 10-15 years ago, it is important to get those costs down as much as possible. Having said that though, there has been a spike in usage so far this winter with an increase in private and out of town rentals. The energy efficiency grant will pay a very significant portion of the various upgrades. Not all the recommendations have to be accepted and the assessment gives us a breakdown on the payback for each recommended item so we can see where our money is best spent.
Another recreation project will see some infrastructure upgrades at the pool. A grant from the Community Foundation will go to some new equipment, including a new cover for the pool.
The big-ticket items will be upgrades to water lines. Once the budget is approved, we will have a better idea of where the work will start and how much will get done this year. The pavement at the sites of last year’s water breaks are scheduled to be re-paved this year and there will be more sidewalk repairs.
The additional campsites are complete at Centennial Park, so if we get some demand from people working on the windmill projects there would be adequate space. This new area will also be available for groups, family reunions, etc. Our campground has been very busy the last few years which helps bring dollars into town.
There was a setback this fall with one of our major employers, but I hear that operation will be up and going again soon. 2019 was a weird and tough year for many of our ag producers but as always, local farmers are looking ahead to next year. The moisture situation is much improved over a year ago, both locally and in the mountains where the irrigation water comes from.
Although our operating budget has not been passed yet, council is still hoping to hold the line on the mill rate. Water rates will be up from last year as will the recycling fee. Other fees will likely remain the same for 2020 but these will be confirmed in the next few weeks when the budget is approved. The garbage truck is due for replacement and the garbage hauling agreements with Foremost and the county will make better use of our resources and make that purchase more worthwhile. These agreements are great examples of inter-municipal collaboration that fit well into the collaboration framework that we are currently building with our neighbours to improve the efficiency and viable of each partner.
I am grateful for the efforts of management and staff in looking for savings and efficiencies in the budget to avoid major increases to ratepayers.