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Town of Lake Cowichan finances to be unveiled Tuesday

How much Lake Cowichan homeowners can expect to pay in taxes will be announced during the town’s Tuesday, April 26, regular council meeting.

How much Lake Cowichan homeowners can expect to pay in taxes will be announced during the town’s Tuesday, April 26, regular council meeting.

During the 6 p.m. meeting, the Town of Lake Cowichan’s tentative 5.35 per cent tax increase for 2011 is expected to pass through its first three readings. A special meeting will be scheduled some time before the Tuesday, May 10 deadline, during which time the budget will be passed.

In addition to that, the town’s financial plan through 2015 will be presented, during which time verbal input from the public may be made.

During the town’s Tuesday, April 19, committee meetings, mayor and council discussed the ins and outs of the town’s tentatively approved tax increase.

Finding the $10,000 thermal camera still in the Lake Cowichan Fire Department budget, councillor Franklin Hornbrook pointed out that mayor and council had decided to put the item off until next year.

But, chief administrative officer Joseph Fernandez pointed out, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s (CVRD’s) budget has already been approved.

“By the time we get to discuss it, it’s already been approved by the CVRD,” he said.

Although the CVRD has already paid its portion, the town’s payment toward the cameras will be put off until next year, mayor and council decided. Next year’s fire department budget discussion will occur earlier, so it can be better coordinated with the CVRD’s.

Although garbage collection rates are projected to go  up slightly from last year, the service remains running at a deficit.

Finding the silver lining in it, councillor Bob Day pointed out that the deficit has been cut significantly, from a 2010 deficit of $44,443, to this year’s budgeted deficit of $27,526.

This is just one item in a 17-page financial report that makes up the Town of Lake Cowichan’s 2011 budget.

The full print out will be available at the town’s Municipal Hall on South Shore Road for perusal, in advance of the April 26 meeting.

The town’s financial plan through 2015 will also be available.

An auditor’s presentation will follow discussions around these two items.

CLEC and Lakeview Park

The Cowichan Lake Education Centre (CLEC) and Lakeview Park is one item that has stuck out thus far in the town’s budgetary discussions.

Although council approved of a three-year plan, at the end of which time a deficit of zero is to be projected for the CLEC and Lakeview Park, councillor Jayne Ingram voted against the motion.

“I’d like to see it sooner,” she explained. “I think that the budget should be zero this year, zero the next year, and zero the next year.”

This year’s tentatively-budgeted deficit for the CLEC and Lakeview Park combined is $47,240. This amount reflects how much is spent through the Town of Lake Cowichan for services related to administration and Public Works.

Meanwhile, CLEC and Lakeview Park manager Dalton Smith is projecting a good year for both locations.

As he presented to mayor and council, he’s currently working on a potentially big link with School District 79, and has a visit scheduled with them in the near future.

“From there, we hope to get a buy in, which would be fairly significant,” he said.

Links in China and Korea for English as a second language programming has been made, and overall bookings at both locations are coming along well.

“Everything is pretty well on target,” he said.

In order to show the town is welcoming of these groups that come in, councillor Jayne Ingram suggested that a welcome sign be looked into for certain groups.

“Sometimes, some of these things don’t get publicized,” councillor Bob Day said, in agreement.

This item will be discussed in greater depth during the town’s next Public Relations Committee Meeting, Tuesday, May 10.

A recently-announced grant to employ five people for 16 weeks has been put on hold, Smith said, as a result of the federal election.

When it comes to fruition – potentially as early as May 26 – the program will be similar to  the last one, and will include things like trail work, the creation of a small electrical building, a fence, a swimming platform, and other such things.

Backyard chickens

Local resident Carolyne Austin sent mayor and council a letter, in support of backyard chickens.

“We can and must work toward being more self-sufficient in the production of our own food,” the letter reads.

The letter goes on to state how plausible she feels chickens would be in Lake Cowichan, and includes pictures of some small coops.

“Obviously, chickens must be well-cared for and growers will need to address rodents and animals that might want to eat them or their eggs,” the letter reads.

Having been a part of numerous Advisory Planning Commission meetings during which time this item has been discussed, councillor Bob Day said that it’s not plausible with current bylaw enforcement, which relies heavily on voluntary compliance.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” he said. “If we can’t get them to compost, how are we going to get them to take care of their chickens?”

That said, Day admitted that he’d be the first one to get chickens.

The letter will be brought forth to the Advisory Planning Commission for their next meeting.

Lift station beautification

The sewage lift station next to the South Shore Road bridge is an eyesore, a number of councillors stated.

“When you drive into Lake Cowichan, it’s the first thing you see, and it’s not very attractive,” councillor Jayne Ingram said.

Nagi Rizk said that visibility is a good thing when it comes to safety, as it helps keep access quick and easy in the event of an injury. For this reason, and fear that tubers will use the enclosed space as a port-a-potty, that Rizk discouraged the construction of a fence around it.

Instead, Rizk was encouraged to look into getting it painted nicely, treating it as a canvas instead of an eyesore.

This item will be discussed during future meetings.