Houston council adopted a 2012 to 2014 “Strategic plan progress report” at the end of March that outlines priorities for the upcoming year.
Mayor Bill Holmberg says their top three priorities are (1) the water treatment plant, (2) 24/7 health care and (3) maintaining the current level of services without burdening taxpayers.
With the water treatment plant, council successfully lobbied for a federal Gas Tax Fund grant, receiving $3 million on March 12 to cover 70 per cent of the plant construction costs.
Mayor Bill Holmberg says that with that money and the reserve funds, council is not sure whether they need to hold a referendum.
That is still being determined and will be decided soon, said Mayor Holmberg.
The second priority is getting 24/7 health care in Houston.
Asked why that was such a priority, Mayor Holmberg says there are variety of reasons.
“We have two sawmills here that run 24 hours a day, and if we have any serious injuries then they’ve got to be shipped off to Smithers right away,” said Holmberg.
“We just want to get that level of service up in our community,” he said, adding that it’s going to be struggle because of the fight to attract doctors.
Holmberg says they are talking to Northern Health about it.
“If we can’t get doctors here, than it’s kind of a mute point because you’re never going to get 24/7 health care if you don’t have doctors,” Holmberg said.
Third, council is trying not to burden their taxpayers with more taxes.
“We’re really trying to be fiscally responsible,” said Mayor Holmberg, adding that they are spending extra time on the budget for that reason.
Other things listed in the strategic plan include the water reservoir replacement, the study on the district energy system, promoting Houston mining, CN rail improvements, and general maintenance of facilities.
In an effort to promote Houston’s economic development, District Economic Development Officer Maureen Czirfusz and Councillor Kyle Thomson went on a trip to China March 26 to April 6.
The strategic plan also recorded “what if” planning, looking at what the District of Houston budget would look like if there was a 25 per cent drop in revenue.
Mayor Holmberg says they were looking at what the budget would look like if one of the mills had to close.
“It’s just a scenario that we’re looking at with all the pressures that are being put on the Morice River Timber Supply Area,” said Holmberg.
“It’s a plan that we want to have our ducks in a row in case it ever happened. I don’t think it’s going to happen but we’re just doing our due diligence,” he said.
Council’s final budget meeting is open to the public and scheduled for 7 p.m. April 23 at the council chambers.