BUDGET 2015: New phone system and council live streaming

More bylaw enforcement and animal control were considered as well.

City hall’s aging phone system is at a high risk of failing soon,, manager of information technology Jeff Pelech told council during a departmental budget presentation on Feb 19.

“It’s a very old phone system. Could it die? Yep. When will it die? I don’t know. Could be tomorrow, could be in five years.” Pelech said, adding that he is strongly encouraging council to replace the phone system.

According to Pelech, “some parts of it were upgraded in 2002, some parts of it are the original parts from 25-30 years ago.”

Pelech told council that issues with the phone system are becoming more and more common and increasingly difficult to deal with.

Pelech said that a top of the line new phone service could cost up to $150,000, while a more basic one could be between $50,000-$100,000.

The phone system is currently being supported by a retired Telus employee but that replacement parts are getting more and more difficult to find. While council brought up the idea of having staff only using cell phones, Pelech said the cost savings would likely not be significant.

The city’s phone system connects all city facilities, from the works yard to the fire department.

Pelech also presented two options for adding digital recording and steaming equipment to council chambers.

Both options have an initial cost of $15,000 for the equipment.

The first option is a hosted service where the city would pay an external company anywhere from $2,000-7,000 a month to handle the streaming on their servers.

The second option is to do everything in-house.

“It requires more hidden cost because of staff participation but it is less of an overall cost,” Pelech said.

Other proposed expenses include replacing parks and recreation software that is being retired at a cost of $150,000 spread over two years. Another $25,000 will have to be spent on a mandatory upgrade for the Tempest business licensing software.

Director of Corporate Services Theresa Kingston told council that the city can expect to see 12-15 city staff retire over the next three years, making succession planning a key part of her department’s job going forward.

“How do we need to shift the organization and look at the organization to deal with that potential knowledge loss” when a staff member retires,” Kingston said.

Of the $277,682 proposed for personnel expenses in 2015, 91 per cent of that will go to wages, with the remaining nine per cent split between advertising, contract services, supplies and miscellaneous expenses.

Training and development is proposed to cost the city $140,556 with in-house, public works, parks and recreation and fire department training being the biggest expenses.

Replacing the city’s commercial waste truck is an expense that the city could do without, mechanical services superintendent Wayne Cheveldave told council during the Equipment Replacement Reserve Fund presentation, citing its 12,200 hours and a replacement cost of $315,000 but only $225,000 set aside in ERRF.

With 383 bylaw calls in 2014, the city needs more bylaw enforcement resources, city planner Scott Smith told council during his department’s budget presentation.

The number of bylaw calls has increased by 35 per cent since 2013.

The proposed operating budget for bylaw enforcement is $93,600. It includes one full-time bylaw enforcement officer and a vehicle shared with the IT department.

Smith presented three options for increased bylaw enforcement.

The most expensive of which is proposed to cost $84,600 annually for a second full-time bylaw officer. Two dedicated bylaw enforcement vehicles would be purchased with funds from ERRF.

The mid-priced option would cost the city $42,300 annually for a half-time bylaw enforcement officer. One dedicated bylaw enforcement vehicles would be purchased with funds from ERRF.

The least expensive option, proposed by both Smith and Port Alberni SPCA branch manager Irene Towell, would be to open the SPCA on Mondays at a cost of $16,000. Smith also proposed the purchase of one dedicated bylaw enforcement vehicle from ERRF funds for this option.

Any vehicles purchased would be equipped with laptops to avoid unnecessary trips back to city hall.

Currently, due to the SPCA being closed on Sundays and Mondays, the city’s bylaw enforcement officer Tim Hautzinger responds to animal control issues on Mondays.

According to Smith, there is no one to respond to animal control issues on Sundays although if the animal is deemed dangerous, the RCMP will attend to it. Smith added that if either a full- or half-time bylaw enforcement officer was added, that individual could perhaps have working hours on the weekend so that the city always had someone to enforce the more urgent bylaws.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

twitter.com/alberninews

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