District of Houston operating budget plans

Preliminary discussions into this year's budget continued at the March 2 budget meeting.

Preliminary discussions into this year’s budget continued at the March 2 budget meeting.

Council targeted certain new initiatives in its operating budget revolving around righting old wrongs, as sloppiness and poor methods have come to haunt the District.

Records management

This is particularly notable in administrative records management. The District wants to spend up to $18,000 to hire someone for 36 days at $500 daily to organize their files, and create a filing system for staff.

“We’re finding some major gaps in our filing system to the point where if I go make a decision and if I got to grab that folio file for that property or project, we find that information is missing,” said District chief administrative officer Michael Glavin. “Just recently, we found bonds that should have been filed and released sitting in a file in the middle of nowhere.”

Glavin added that lacking information can hamper his decision-making.

Responding to a question from Mayor Shane Brienen, Glavin said in the future this problem should not recur as filing procedures will be overseen by the CAO and corporate services officer, and there will be consequences for failure to do so.

“It looks to me like a bunch of stuff fell through the cracks, and now we’re paying the price for it,” said the mayor. “I don’t want to say laziness or sloppiness but that’s sort of what I’m feeling right now.

“This one to me clearly has to be done, I’m not super excited,”

Glavin agreed that the mayor is “right to a point,” but added that high turnover of staff is another reason.

Coun. Dawn Potvin said the proposed expenditure is too high and would like further investigation into the costs.

Water

pipes

Council pondered setting aside $50,000 for repairs of water leaks.

 

Aged infrastructure coupled with improper installation methods are causing more leaks.

“That’s something we have no control over,” said engineering manager Don Hounsell. “It’s all across Canada right now, it’s one of the biggest spending that’s going on — the infrastructure aging and falling apart.”

He added that the past two breaks the District fixed was due to aged infrastructure and “the way it was installed.”

“We have a lot of improper construction done back in the day,” said the CAO. “Those are coming back to haunt us now.”

“We’re paying the price of our forefathers, so to speak.”

Ditch maintenance

Hounsell also asked for a $30,000 increase for ditch maintenance.

The money will be used to clean ditches and ensure proper drainage that can prevent roadway substructure damage.

Hounsell unveiled a five year plan where each year the District would target ditches in different sections of town, going east to west. By the end of the cycle, the District would start back on the eastern side of town again.

Mayor Brienen mentioned that he has received complaints that the District has not been working on some ditches which are in poor shape.

Hounsell replied that the engineering department does an assessment in the spring to see which ditches need to be done, and do as much as they can for $30,000.

Public Wi-Fi

CAO Glavin said the District has received requests for public internet access at the Leisure Centre, arena and Community Hall, to which council expressed their approval for all but the Community Hall.

IT services quoted $6,025 for installation in all three facilities. To do just the Leisure Centre and arena, it would cost $3,641 to install and $908 yearly.

Glavin expressed his disapproval for the Community Hall to get Wi-Fi because of a lack of usage, to which Coun. Tim Anderson agreed.

Elections nest egg

Council pondered finance director Carolyn Bidwell’s proposal to put a total of $10,000 over the next three years for elections.

Bidwell said managing expenses this way will allow council to avoid a big bill from coming all at once during an election year.

Responding to a question by Coun. Dawn Potvin, Bidwell said this money could be used for by-elections, but the District needs a policy or bylaw on how funds are used.