The aftermath of a two-vehicle incident that damaged the Malakwa Bridge on the evening of April 9.

Council to renew push for improved Trans-Canada

Notes from the April 19 meeting of city council:

City council is looking at making a trip to Victoria to lobby for improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway following the extended shut down earlier this month.

“It’s a really good opportunity to go back and lobby the new minister of transportation, the Honourable Blair Lekstrom, and push again for upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway,” said mayor David Raven at a meeting of council as the committee of the whole on Apr. 19. “And they can be very aware of the concerns, the economic and social impacts of these road closures.”

The proposal stemmed from the fall-out of the truck crash on the Malakwa Bridge west of Revelstoke on Apr. 6. The crash resulted in structural damage to the bridge and saw the highway shut down for close to 20 hours. The driver of the truck was killed in the crash.

The shutdown caused traffic to back-up for hours and resulted in lengthy delays at the Shelter Bay ferry as travellers and truckers detoured to get around the accident scene.

Councillor Phil Welock, who sits on the city’s road safety committee, said that at the committee’s meeting last week concerns were raised about the lack of communication about the closure.

There was also talk about bringing in the dormant Safe Trans-Canada Highway group to address council. Mark McKee, the chair of the group, said in an interview that he was only interested in reviving it if a member of the governing party was voted in during the upcoming election. Otherwise, it would not be worth the effort.

Sparks fly as council discusses budget submissions

Councillor Tony Scarcella continued his assault on the city budget last week, twice slamming his pen on the table and accusing staff of doing what they wanted and ignoring council.

“What’s going on here? Who’s running the city budget – council or staff?” he asked.

Scarcella’s comments came while council, meeting as the committee of the whole, had preliminary discussions on public comments regarding the city budget.

His main point of contention was that council asked for a value-for-money audit, comparing Revelstoke to other communities. Mayor David Raven defended staff, noting that council’s resolution only asked staff to see how much the audit would cost and not to have it undertaken.

“In a value for money audit you can spend a hell of a lot of money chasing your tail,” he said.

The city received eight written comments on this year’s budget, up from one last year. They included praise from the Aquaducks for maintaining pool hours and Bear Aware for including bear proof garbage bins in the budget.

To the contrary, there was a lengthy criticism submitted, Bob Melnyk (which can be read at www.revelstoketimesreview.com) as well as a 91-signature petition from the Chamber of Commerce defending funding of the Tourism Coordinator position. Melynk sat in on all of this year’s budget discussions.

“This is the first time we’ve seen substantial comments come in,” said Mayor Raven.

Councillor Phil Welock said the comments represent a reality check.

“They didn’t show us anything new,” he said. “What they did is give us a reality check.”

Responding to a letter from Downie Timber asking for a reduced tax burden, Scarcella said the company was still overtaxed and should receive further tax breaks amounting to about $100,000. He said their mill rate should be closer to Westbank’s, which is 10.5. compared to 30.5 in Revelstoke. The owners of Downie also operate a mill in Westbank.

“We have to look after the business sector,” said Scarcella. “What Westbank does, we should be doing.”

According to a staff report, Downie’s share of city taxes has decreased to about four per cent of the city tax burden in 2011 compared to almost 11 per cent in 2005.

Council also approved an increase in the city’s snow removal budget for 2011. The city had budgeted $908,000 for snow removal this year but had already spent $1,038,776, the staff report said. It recommended increasing that to $1,258,000 so the city could deal with snow removal at the start of next winter. Once again, Scarcella criticized staff for the huge budget increase, saying they should work with the budget they’re given and calling the increase “outrageous.”