Alberni’s draft budget focuses on aging infrastructure

Scott Smith earns promotion to director of development services as new engineer joins city

Engineering and public works departments will focus on the city’s long-term infrastructure plan over the next five years.

City planner Scott Smith has been promoted to the newly-developed position of director of development services, effective Feb. 1, 2017.

In this new role, he will lead both the planning and engineering departments, retaining many of the responsibilities of the city planner position and leading the technical engineering services.

New city engineer Kamruz Zaman will report to him when he takes his position in mid-March.

“This change will reduce the number of direct reports to the CAO, provide organizational efficiencies, consistent and accessible support to the city engineer and result in a streamlined response to inquiries from members of the public,” said mayor Mike Ruttan during a Feb. 14 council meeting.

The engineering department will not see much change in budget, council said, as the city waits for its new engineer to arrive.

“Much of this budgeting exercise is to make room for undertaking a lot of infrastructure work,” said city CAO Tim Pley. “So it wouldn’t be advantageous to gut our engineering department, the very people that we need to redesign our city.”

Over a five-year period, the city will be re-directing 30 percent of the engineering technologists’ costs into the capital budget.

“What that means is that if we undertake significant capital work, then those costs will be shown in the capital budget,” said Pley. “If for some reason we don’t undertake that capital work, then we’re going to have to reduce 30 percent of our technologists. So while it seems like an accounting fix, it’s real, it means we’re relying on those projects for our employees.”

Pley said one of the first priorities for the new engineer will be a longer-term replacement plan to assist with the capital projects budget.

“We had been keeping projects in our capital plan and just moving them to the next year, but that resulted in us tracking those projects in our budget,” he said.

“So now we’ve taken them out of our budget so they don’t drive an unrealistic tax increase that we don’t expect to take.”

Along with an asset management plan, Pley said the new engineer will build a 10- and 20-year replacement program so that people can tell where they are on the priority list.

The public works department, which is also tied to infrastructure work, will see a slight budget increase over a five-year period. 2017 will see a reduction in annual power costs due to LED streetlight upgrades that were taken on last year. There will be a gradual increase in garbage collection fees.

“We’ve budgeted according to 2016 actuals, rather than on our previous budget,” said Pley. “Garbage service is primarily residential now and the fees that we charge for those fall $37,500 short of the actual costs than they did in 2016. What this plan envisions is that over a five-year period we’re gradually increasing garbage fees to be equal to our costs by 2021.”

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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