City of Powell River Council has given approval to allocate close to half of the $2.9 million COVID-19 safe restart grant money it received from the province for 15 projects in 2021.
With the approval, council has authorized $1.3 million in spending, with nearly $1.6 million remaining in reserve. The city has two years to expend the provincial grant, which is meant to offset impacts of COVID-19.
At the March 4 city council meeting, councillor George Doubt, who chairs the city’s finance committee said the funds were to take care of extra costs and extra expenses that accrued to the city because of COVID-19. He said the money was to try and mitigate any losses from income in areas such as Powell River Recreation Complex and different areas of the city. He said the fund was designated to try and decrease the impact from COVID-19 on the taxpayer.
“Without getting into the details, I’ll say we allocated approximately half of those COVID-19 safe restart funds and all of these decisions so far have ended up reducing what would have otherwise been costs to the taxpayers,” said Doubt. “It would have had to be made up either in additional taxation or reduction in services, so we’ve come up with a good use. I encourage people to read the report and look at how we are using those COVID-19 safe restart funds. I appreciate the fact we’ve got those and they will make life easier for the taxpayers in the City of Powell River.”
Doubt said the city has this year and next to expend those funds. He said COVID-19 is not over yet and there is still more to learn about what impact it will have on the city.
Council unanimously carried a motion that staff be directed to allocate a portion of the COVID-19 safe restart grant funding to support operations and projects in 2021 as outlined in a January 28 report from chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier.
Report outlined the following projects:
Expenditures include $182,000 for the economic development office to hire an employee to aid in COVID-19 economic redevelopment.
The city will expend $2,500 for VPN licences for employees working remotely.
The city will allocate $164,000 toward early payoff of the Powell River Public Library loan. A further $180,000 will be spent on early payoff of 2019 capital purchases.
There will be nearly $16,000 allocated for expected additional janitorial costs at the library to allow it to return to normal operating hours.
A total of $7,000 will be spent for the city’s portion of the child-care action plan special project.
The city’s portion of the housing strategy special project will require $41,300.
An expenditure of $5,000 will be made for the Maple Avenue slow street design analysis.
There will be $8,000 spent for the city’s portion of the child-care planning program.
For engineering design and costing to create a grant application-ready active transportation project, $40,000 will be expended.
Enhancements to the city council chamber’s audio-visual system will require $30,000.
The city will spend $25,000 for bicycle counters to be placed on key cycling routes to collect data on cycling volume.
There will be $77,000 expended on conversion of a mezzanine in the public works building to accommodate change room diversity and a training/meeting room.
A human resources program implementation will be the recipient of $34,654.
The city will allocate $520,410 to the operating budget prior year surplus draw to support current year services.