The Civic Centre is in need of funds from the District of Port Hardy in order to be fully operational in the event of a major emergency.
As it stands, if a mass power outage occurs in the North Island, the Civic Centre will not be able to power up its bar, coolers and dishwasher through the current outlets.
The Emergency Planning Committee realized this was an issue and made the recommendation to council that $10,000 be added to the budget to be able to provide full emergency power to the Civic Centre in the event of a major catastrophe.
“Would you like to speak on [the recommendation], Leightan?” asked Mayor Dennis Dugas at the Feb. 23 meeting of council.
Coun. Leightan Wishart, who is the chair of the Emergency Planning Committee, said that currently the Civic Centre is able to provide heat, hot water and electricity, “but there’s a tremendous amount of dishes and utensils in the kitchen, they would all have to be handwashed because when they wired the civic centre they didn’t include the dishwasher and they didn’t include the coolers either.”
He stated he thinks it would be a good idea for council to spend the money and have those items added in “so that if there was an extended period of time, three or four days, where we were supporting people in that building, we would be able to do it and it would be easier for us – we wouldn’t have to have people washing dishes all day long and we could keep food cool in the coolers. As it is now, if the power is out the coolers are down.”
Wishart then moved for the recommendation to go to a vote, which was seconded by Coun. John Tidbury.
“Go ahead Fred, you had your hand up,” said Dugas.
Coun. Fred Robertson made a minor clarification, asking if the funding is solely for emergency power.
Wishart confirmed the generator they have in the back of the building is fine. “This would not require us spending more money on a generator, it would just be a matter of connecting those few items up to the building, and the $10,000 is probably an amount that staff came up with.”
“Because we’ve already voted on our budget for the upcoming year, is this to go as an amendment to the 2021-2022 budget, or are we looking at next year’s budget year?” asked Coun. Pat Corbett-Labatt.
Coun. Janet Dorward said that was her exact same question, wondering if they could just find the money somewhere without amending the budget.
“Heather, do you have a comment with regards… to the financing part of it?” asked Dugas.
Chief Administrative Officer Heather Nelson-Smith said the issue is “up to council at this point,” noting when they originally serviced the building to handle power outages, they only had a certain amount of money to work with, so there were a few things they weren’t able to upgrade at that time. “We dealt with only the emergency aspect of it, making sure it had heat, hot water, electricity and cooking facilities… in order to keep the project within the budget.”
She added it’s up to council whether or not they want to put it in the 2021 budget. “If we do it in 2021 it would have to come out of capital in some way, and the quote of $10,000 is upper echelon, the cap for the amount.”
“I believe the recommendation is for 2021,” confirmed Dugas.
Robertson asked if there would be room in the surplus to pay for it.
Nelson-Smith noted the surplus has already gone into reserves, “so we would have to take it from whatever reserve it ended up in.”
Dorward asked if the motion could be revised so the capital expenditure could come out of a specific reserve.
“That would work for me,” said Wishart.
Corbett-Labatt added that while she’s not against spending the money, “we do have enough to make due in an emergency situation right now, so if it comes out of a capital fund, do we have to do an amendment to our financial plan, and is it a pious priority that we do an amendment to our financial plan for this one item, or can we wait till 2022 when we do the budget for that year?”
She added she feels they have spent a lot of money this year on a lot of different things. “I hate to say I’m getting kind of cheap, but if everybody feels it’s a high priority then we will go with the majority, but if we can wait another year then we wait another year – just stirring the pot.”
“You can wait another year, but you won’t be able to serve any meals out of there… when there’s a power outage,” noted Tidbury.
Robertson stated that amending budgets is exactly what a council does, and then pointed out “There’s a motion to amend the budget.”
“We never know when an emergency might occur, and that’s why I’d like to see it done sooner rather than later,” added Dorward.
Dugas then brought the original motion to spend $10,000 on emergency power to the Civic Centre to a vote, where it was approved.
Coun. Treena Smith was the lone vote against spending the money.
Dugas noted that district staff “will be creative in where they get the money to pay for this and they’ll let us know.”
Nelson-Smith confirmed that she will be talking to Deb Bodnar, director of financial Services for the District of Port Hardy, about the amendment and will bring it back to council.