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City of Powell River to establish COVID-19 reserve fund

Council will have a measured response in expending safe restart grant funds
Powell River city hall
Powell River City Hall. Peak archive photo

City of Powell River will establish a reserve fund for the $2.9 million it has received from the provincial government under the COVID-19 safe restart grant.

At the December 17 city council meeting, councillors voted to set up a reserve for money allocated by the province and to direct staff to prepare associated amendments to the city’s reserve fund policy.

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman said establishment of a reserve is a great thing to do. She said communities all over the world have been struggling through COVID-19 to reinvent the wheel and to try and figure things out during the pandemic.

“This is an opportunity for us to establish a reserve fund and find out how we can use these funds,” said Leishman.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said she thinks setting up a reserve fund for the money is the smartest thing the city can do.

“We have not finished sorting out how best to help our community restart or recover from the pandemic,” said Elliott. “We have not finished seeing all of the economic impacts that this pandemic is going to have on us. I think a reserve is the very best thing to do with it so we have flexibility to sort that out as we need it in the future.”

Councillor Jim Palm said the $2.9 million doesn’t go far in the budget but it’s nice to receive.

“We have to thank the government for sending those funds,” said Palm. “As our chief administrative officer said when we first learned of this, we don’t know of all of the shortfalls in terms of our budget because of COVID-19. I’m sure we have to cover a lot of bases.

“I’m glad to see we are taking a slow approach, putting it in a reserve, and we’ll see how the dust settles before we start allocation.”

Palm said it is interesting to see what Campbell River is doing with its $4.6 million. He said they kind of rushed things along by advocating for a small tax relief in Campbell River.

“I’m just glad to see we are not making any decisions in this regard until we have all of the facts before us,” said Palm.

Mayor Dave Formosa said council will be receiving a report from senior staff outlining their views of corporate needs.

“We don’t know how it affects the community,” said Formosa. “We will be seeing a report.”

In a report from chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier, he stated that local governments have seen operating expenses increase and some revenue streams decrease while requests to provide support to different populations and services have grown. Langenmaier stated the funding allocation is based on population, with a higher per capita weighting of funding for smaller sized municipalities.

According to Langenmaier, a combination of staff recommendations and council direction will be sought to best determine a reasonable allocation of funding as the COVID-19 situation progresses. He stated the intention is to utilize the funds over the next 18 to 24 months.

“Council and staff have a difficult challenge ahead to best determine the uses of these COVID-19 safe restart grant funds,” stated Langenmaier, “as the impacts of COVID-19 are widespread.”