The Golden Star recently sat down with Mayor Christina Benty to get an update on what the Town has been working on, but she wanted to start with a congratulations to Golden Minor Hockey.
“The entire community is bursting with pride right now. It was a well deserved nomination for Curt Thorne and the work he does with Golden Minor Hockey,” she said. “His energy and enthusiasm rallied the entire community and beyond to make this win happen. Thank you Curt and thank you to all the volunteers that continue to make this community a great place to live. We are all so proud and inspired.”
Spring break is over, and the Town of Golden is back in action with a major regional conference coming up next week in Invermere.
“The AKBLG (Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments) is going to be a great conference. There’s some excellent speakers lined up, and some really good professional development opportunities there,” said Benty.
Benty and four others (staff and councillors) are going to the three-day conference to work on some resolutions, hear the speakers, get some professional development, and get together with peers from other communities to discuss commonalities, frustrations, ideas and opportunities.
“I think sometimes we perceive that we exist in a bubble, and that no other community is experiencing the economic challenges that we are,” said Benty.
“The communities that are represented range from 1,000 to 20,000. So there’s a lot of small communities similar to ours that are facing similar challenges. It gives us an opportunity to share ideas and look for ways to support one another.”
For the past several weeks, council’s focus has been primarily on the budget. They logged in more than 20 hours of deliberations before finalizing a five year financial plan.
Due to increases in operational costs for things such as fuel and equipment, reductions had to be made to bring the budget in line with last year’s. They approved a two per cent increase on top of that to go into an Asset Renewal Reserve.
“Asset management, so looking after our assets, has been a key focus for this council. The reality is we have invested a fair amount into capital projects over the last several years – spirit square, the skateboard park, the Golden pathway, the Civic Centre, the spray park,” said Benty. These projects have resulted in a depletion of the Town’s reserve funds.
“All of those were capital projects that cost the municipality money, and we’ve taken advantage of a lot of granting opportunities and leveraged funds to ensure that as much as possible in these projects was covered by grants.
“We’ve made a lot of investment over the last several years, and it’s time to now build up the reserves. And as we do our asset management, and look at the life cycle of our assets and the renewal and replacement costs, we need to make sure we have some reserves to leverage funds for new granting opportunities.”
Council is still working on their Asset Management Plan, and the Official Community Plan, where they will examine what their priorities will be in terms of upgrading or replacing aging infrastructure.
The budget is scheduled to be adopted at the regular open council meeting on April 9.
Some of the Town’s work plan may be affected in the coming months, as there has been some changeover in staff.
“We’re experiencing some staffing changes. Due to spring break, council hasn’t met yet to really decide on a plan,” said Benty.
Chief Administrative Officer David Allen left his post in late March, and Jon Wilsgard, manager of corporate services, will be acting CAO until the Town hires a replacement.
“We may not be able to get as much accomplished as the work plan had laid out,” said Benty. “I am thrilled that Jon Wilsgard is filling the gap. We’re very fortunate for him to step into that place.”