Continuing with questions from the All Candidates Forum on Monday evening, the next question for Council hopefuls dealt with the importance of arts and culture to the community.
There was general agreement that the arts and culture scene was vital to Kimberley, and that the core of it was driven by volunteers, although the city support was essential.
The next question asked candidates to explain the reserve fund.
“What reserve fund?” asked Darryl Oakley. “It was set up by Jim Ogilvie to allow the community to move forward from mining to tourism. Every time I voted for using the reserve funds, Jim Ogilvie would call and lecture me.”
Kent Goodwin said he didn’t have all the history but Kimberley had a number of reserve funds.
“The Kimberley Reserve Fund was built from the sale of properties and a few other things like gas tax rebates,” he said. “We should use it for things we need and decide on a case by case basis.”
“In my line of work, a reserve fund is used for having money down the road,” said Darren Chase.
“I would like to see it saved so we have it when we need it, not on the flavour of the day.”
“The City has a lot of funds,” said Bev Middlebrook. “We have a Financial Officer and she works hard to make sure the funds are there and balanced, to make sure we can still move ahead. We have to trust our professional staff.”
Nigel Kitto said it was his understanding that reserves are for a rainy day and Sandra Roberts said that any business plan has a retained earnings feature.
Brent Bush said that the reserve fund wasn’t used often when he was a Councillor from 2008 to 2011.
“I don’t think it came up often. We only dipped in in exceptional circumstances.”
“The reserve is a rainy day fund,” said Albert Hoglund. “We use it to do projects that are not in the budget and they do come up. We are currently tearing down the old Esso building using reserve funds, the same as when we used it when the Canadian Hotel came down. I don’t believe it is being abused. Jim Ogilvie wasn’t afraid to use it either. That’s why you put money there.”
The fifth question asked how you can ensure a capital project stays on budget.
“When my jaw came back up off the floor when I found how much the flume project was over budget, I went to the Auditor General,” said Kent Goodwin. “We wanted the Auditor General to come to Kimberley but that can’t be arranged. But they issued a best practices document for capital projects with 26 different points. These are now going into city policy.”
Goodwin says there are some valid reasons why the flume went over budget but some were not so valid.
“It’s pretty simple,” said Darren Close. “It comes down to project management. You have to make sure that whoever you are hiring is on budget and that staff keeps Council informed.”
Bev Middlebrook said that grant money should be secured first.
“The flume was a learning experience, staff learned, Council learned. The project was needed for safety. This was a huge project. If you look at home renovations, you know how easy it is for the budget to grow. But hard lessons were learned on this.”
Kitto agreed that the overage was surprising, but at the same time, he said, the flume is a fantastic amenity. It would be best in the future, he said, to make sure Council has a very clear understanding of what the community wants.
“It was a pretty expensive lesson,” said Sandra Roberts. “It does come down to project management, but it is vital that Council knows the situation as it proceeds. That’s the piece that I see.”
Brent Bush said that the flume isn’t the first project that has gone sideways for some reason. He listed the Peak to Platzl Trail, the conference centre, the cost overruns on the aquatic centre as well as the flume.
“We can’t keep repeating the same mistakes, something needs to be done.”
Albert Hoglund said that grants needed to be in place before the next big project begins.
“But also when the tenders come in, you sit with them and say you will come in at that price. I’m not saying the managers didn’t do a great job on the flume. Properties came in at higher prices than expected and there were changes to the project.”
“In this project your tax dollars went south,” said Oakley. “These are highly paid senior managers. Where is the accountability?”
The last issue discussed was deer. Council candidates were asked whether they were in favour of another cull.
“This answer won’t please everyone,” said Middlebrook. “I am a huge animal lover, but I’m a realist. I see the deer and I know the cull helped the problem. But it’s really touchy. 50 per cent say yes, 50 per cent say no. I would like to stop the culls. Another issue is that it’s a government problem. As long as we keep paying to cull, the province won’t pay their share. We have to stop solving their problem.”
Nigel Kitto said that in his mind it was a public safety issue and the city should continue what it started. He also pointed out that all the meat from the cull went to the food bank.
Sandra Roberts said that the city put together the deer committee, which then spent six months looking at the problem from all angles.
“The bottom line is that after investigating every possible side, the committee recommended a cull. Council went ahead then called it half way through. A democratic decision was reached and it should be seen through.”
Brent Bush said he was part of the Council that voted for the cull.
“As Council we relied on the committee’s expert information. In the future if the committee recommends a cull, I’d support it. I don’t believe the city should be intimidated by outside interests.”
Albert Hoglund said he supported both culls.
“I am concerned the province doesn’t come to the table. We shouldn’t have to pay for it. And I think we should look at translocation. Yes, 50 per cent of translocated deer die. But if you cull, it’s 100 per cent.”
Darryl Oakley said he has sat on the deer committee for three years.
“It’s a difficult committee but no community could have a better chair than Gary Glinz and Irene Teske is amazing. I have had so many emails and phone calls about close calls. We’ve had some really close calls with kids. Wildlife and humans don’t mix.”
Kent Goodwin also said he would like to see the cull continue, but would also be in favour of trying translocation. He also said he disagreed with the deer committee’s assessment that the deer population in Kimberley should be somewhere between 100 and 150.
“It think it should be 30 or 40 deer,” he said. “I do question that number.”
“It sounds like a decision was made and not followed up,” said Darren Close. “I would be in favour of future culls but I also believe more responsibility should be put on property owners to be responsible for themselves.”