Qualicum Beach town council grapples with roads

Public gets input into financial plan; new fire hall in the mix

Has the new fire hall project pushed much-needed road work to the back burner in Qualicum Beach?

Answers to that question seem to vary, depending on who is asked.

“In the last year the fire hall has gone to the top of the agenda and everything else has gone to the back burner,” Tim Pritchard, the president of the Eaglecrest Residents’ Association (ERA), said Tuesday, the day he was scheduled to become past president at the group’s annual general meeting.

“But in my mind, the train has left the station on the fire hall — it’s going to happen, it’s a fait accompli. It’s almost to the point it’s motherhood — you can’t go against it.”

The financial plan currently in front of council is more than a month away from possible adoption. Part of the process this year is opportunity for public input, which included a meeting this week  attended by community groups, councillors and town staff.

“I think it actually went quite well,” said Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer. “Everything seems to be moving in a fairly good direction. There may be some people who may be disappointed because everything they wanted addressed wasn’t addressed.”

Luchtmeijer pointed to the town enjoying the enviable position of having about $4.3 million in reserves and no debt.

“I think our town is in pretty good shape.”

The last three years, one per cent of the 3.5 per cent increase in taxes to homeowners of Qualicum Beach has been earmarked for road improvements, creating a kitty of about $450,000. Going forward starting in 2014, that one per cent will go to the fire hall project.

Pritchard said that realignment of priorities means less attention on the road-improvement priorities presented in the recently-released Age Friendly Transportation Study, like the ERA’s main concern, a roundabout for the intersection of Village Way-Country Club-Highway 19A.

“We do think the recommendations of the Age Friendly Transportation Study are being delayed, or deferred, and we can only attribute that, in large part, to the fire hall,” said Pritchard.

Here are some facts about taxes, revenues and expenditures in the Town of Qualicum Beach:

• the town collects $7.1 in taxes, 88 per cent of which come from homeowners.

• taxes make up only 54 per cent of the town’s revenue, which totals $15.68 million. The other funds come from debt (19 per cent), fees and charges (14 per cent) and government grants (six per cent).

• the town’s expenditure breakdown (it balances at $15.68 million) is led by capital expenditures (32 per cent), public works (15 per cent), protective services (13 per cent) and general government (12 per cent).

• the legislative agenda has the 2014-18 financial plan receiving second reading Nov. 4, third reading Nov. 18 and adoption Dec. 2.