Assiginack passes 2017 budget, ratepayer questions mayor and council’s commitment to hydro savings

Assiginack provides a warm welcome to its newest family.

MANITOWANING—At its last regular meeting, Assiginack council passed its 2017 budget with one local ratepayer questioning the municipality’s commitment to lowering municipal electricity rates.

Major budget changes from last year include a budget line item for anticipated legal costs in relation to the lawsuit between Friends of the Norisle and Assiginack Township in the amount of $50,000. Any amount left unspent at the end of the year will be set up as a reserve for legal fees.

The Assiginack booth at the Manitoulin Trade also meant an additional $3,000 added to the advertising budget.

Projected policing costs for 2017 reflect an increase of close to three percent.

For transportation services and public works, the budgeted expenses for the marina have again been budgeted to include a full-service marina. The surface treatment budget has been increased by $15,000.

For land ambulance, the municipality is billed on a monthly basis based on budget estimates. This year’s ambulance cost is $232,122, an increase of $13,218 or six percent over last year. The Manitoulin Centennial Manor’s municipal requisition for this year is $39,947.67, up from $34,145 last year.

For 2017, the library levy will be increased by $5,000.

The ever-controversial Red Lodge Road has once again been budgeted for for Assiginack’s portion of the shared road’s surface treatment, should the Northeast Town allocate its share in its budget.

As for Burns Wharf Theatre, council is also prepared to allocate 10 percent (or $60,000) of the total costs of renovation of the theatre should a grant become available. The amount would be taken from the working reserves.

Phil Blake of Sunsite Estates, and a member of the municipality’s water committee, was in attendance to discuss the budget as it pertains to the water treatment plants.

“I’m concerned about the hydro usage—it’s the second biggest expense you have,” Mr. Blake began, asking how council came to the figure of an additional 30 percent for hydro costs. “That’s a lot to bite on your second biggest cost.”

“Is there some kind of commitment to explore usage and set a goal for savings and a way to meet it?” Mr. Blake continued. “Assiginack just keeps budgeting more, but with no effort as to examining the reason as to why those numbers are so high.”

He asked about the lift station repair budget and whether that was a best guess or based on actual information.

“Is the budget a guess?” he asked. “The difference from this year to last is $23/household. Why are we budgeting so high? OCWA’s (Ontario Clean Water Agency) budget isn’t that high. Only $1,700 has been spent so far on repairs and maintenance, but $9,000 has been budgeted?”

“And we’re doing a budget for 2017 in July,” Mr. Blake continued. “Basically budgeting after the money is spent. The norm on the Island is it is (the budget) done first quarter. What has to be done to ensure the budget is done in a timely fashion?”

Mr. Blake asked the council how they were following up on water treatment plant hydro savings suggestions given in the past.

“You’re not paying attention to the items that need paying attention to,” he said. “What is your commitment to this pertaining to hydro usage?”

CAO Alton Hobbs told Mr. Blake he would get back to him on the questions he posed within a week.

“With all things connected to the municipality, we need to be vigilant with hydro and need to keep OCWA onside with this,” Councillor Leslie Fields said.

“This is the fourth year I’ve been doing this, but it’s the same thing every year,” Mr. Blake responded to council.

“We’re just as interested in savings as you,” Mayor Paul Moffatt told Mr. Blake.

“I’ve heard that for three years in a row and, with all due respect, I’m not sure that you are,” Mr. Blake countered.