Big Lakes talks tight budget

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County talked a tight interim operating budget for 2023 to meet rising costs and inflation.
Council discussed the proposed budget during a special meeting Dec. 5-6.
Administration has prepared a budget in ways “where we can find more efficiencies”, said Dave Reynolds, director of corporate services.
Council will review council’s attendance at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual convention where all council members have attended in the past several years.
North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Jim Zabolotniuk said there is little value in sending all nine council members.
“Wee have to see if this is worth taxpayers’ money,” he said.
Zabolotniuk attended the 2022 convention in Regina and raised the issue.
“It was a disaster.”
Interim CAO Roy Brideau said the issue will be discussed at the Jan. 11, 2023 council meeting.
High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Tyler Airth suggested council set a cap on the number of council members who attend the FCM convention.
Reeve Robert Nygaard also questioned the value of going to the FCM convention. He wondered if BLC gets more federal grants simply because council sends more members who speak to ministers.
South Sunset House – Gilwood Councillor Ann Stewart agreed the 2022 convention was disaster.
However, she sees value in sending a majority of council members, who also attend several workshops on various issues.
“We came back and talked about them,” Stewart said.
Neither she nor Zabololtniuk explained why it was a disaster.
Administration also proposed to increase grants to other neighbouring municipalities by about $792,000 based on Inter-municipal Collaboration Framework (ICF) agreements.
Stewart questioned the value of Big Lakes being a partner in Little Smoky Ski Area in the M.D. of Smoky River.
Brideau noted that Big Lakes is one the three municipal funding partners of the ski hill, along with Smoky River and the M.D. of Greenview based in Valleyview.
Public works will draft a level of service in 2023 to determine cost savings and the equipment needed to provide quality service.
Costs of equipment and fuel are skyrocketing, Kevin Cymbaluk, director of public works, told council.
He noted the County is bearing huge costs for bridge and culvert projects as provincial grants are minimal.
Currently, Big Lakes has 85 bridges and culverts, Cymbaluk said, and about 20 per cent need to be replaced or repaired.
Some of the projects would cost $800,000.

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