Sechelt property taxpayers should see an easing of District asks for 2021 tax increases following March 17 council decisions to spend some of its COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant on operational projects.
The highest-priced item to be bought with the funding provided by the province is a $188,000 spend to finally incorporate the OnBase document management system. This will pay a contractor to complete file digitization and migration, staff training, as well as policies and procedures to keep the system operating. The need to spend in this area had been raised as the 2021 operational budget was introduced in February. Sechelt launched its “paperless office” system in 2016. Since that time, only one department has been transitioned to the new format. During a 2021 budget public information discussion, Mayor Darnelda Siegers attributed the delays in getting the system up and running to ongoing turnover in key staff positions, including department directors.
Another big-ticket operational spend being funded from Restart rather than general revenues will be a $100,000 investment in a website upgrade. Staff were unsuccessful in getting council approval to do this work in 2020 and had brought the request forward again in
A $40,000 ask to add personnel to handle increased duties related to staff occupational health and safety will also come out of the Restart money.
In all, staff asked council for approval to spend just over $780,000 of the District’s $2.5 million in Restart grant funding at its March 17 meeting. Sechelt has already allocated $81,600 of the grant to cover revenue shortfalls for 2020 and information technology upgrades.
At the meeting, council gave the “OK” to go forward with about $512,000 in Restart spending. In addition to the first three projects, there was authorization to buy a $65,000 vehicle to serve as a mobile Visitor’s Information Centre. Purchase of four 10 by 10 foot tents to be used for outdoor events and meetings was agreed to. Those will be branded with the District logo and will cost $30,000. Just over $72,000 of the Restart money will be used to cover multiple adjustments to the District office to make working onsite in a time of social distancing easier.
Council was unwilling to support a request to have an elevator installed at the Seaside Centre, at the cost of $65,000. It also rejected a $60,000 ask to add accessible washrooms to the Festival of the Written Arts offices located near Rockwood Centre on Cowrie Street.
Another item that did not make council’s “cut” was a request for $102,000 to update the wayfinding signage in the District. Communications Manager Julie Rogers advised council that the project had been included in a District request to the province for a Tourism Communities grant initiative. It was not approved under that
Council asked staff to provide a report on using some of the remaining approximately $1.9 million in Restart funding for an additional bylaw compliance and community ambassador position. Councillor Matt McLean noted that he would be speaking with staff about the development of further projects related to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations. McLean stated that his preference was to “look at what we can do to create a major program with this fairly large chunk of money.” Connie Jordison