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Revitalization dominates financial plan

With a big debt paid on time, Virden Town Council has plans for infrastructure, aesthetics and recreation
Town of Virden Civic bldg
The Civic building, where Virden's town office, court room /council chambers is located.

About a dozen local ratepayers attended a public hearing at Tundra Oil and Gas Place on May 10 for the presentation of the 2022 Town of Virden Financial Plan.

After reviewing capital projects completed over the past year, Coun. Tina Williams, Chair of the Planning & Finance Committee, and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Rhonda Stewart delved into details regarding what is in the works for this year.

A balanced budget is proposed, with total municipal revenue coming in at $12,643,555.23. This is an increase of $1,586,618.30 over 2021. The assessment increased by a meagre .18%.

The Town and HTFC Planning & Design of Winnipeg have completed the conceptual plan and design work for the revitalization of the downtown area. The budget allocation for the first phase of the work is $150,000, which includes the preparation of construction and design documents for wayfinding signage, edging and parking lot screening on King Street and the streetscaping of the downtown area, which includes site furniture. $25,000 will be put towards a storefront improvement grant program.  

A grant has been received from the federal Investing in Canada program to go towards the construction of a new bridge on Seventh Avenue North, which is estimated to cost $1.8 million. Stantec, the engineering firm, is now working through an approval process with Transport Canada as Scallion Creek is a navigable waterway. The work, for which the Town will be responsible for $400,000, is expected to proceed to tender in the summer, with construction to be carried out in the fall.

$12,000 has been budgeted for renovations of office space to accommodate additional administrative staff and alleviate congestion in the Civic Centre. It will not, however, involve an addition to the existing building.

“We purchased the house next door when it was up for sale,” CAO Stewart said. “We will be using it for some of our staff like our new programmer and our summer staff.”

New washrooms will be constructed on the recreation grounds, and the budgeted amount of $75,000 will be offset by a grant from the provincial Building Sustainable Communities Fund. The replacement of the score clock in the Tundra Oil & Gas Place arena has been earmarked at $120,000.

The Town plans to pave Fifth Avenue from its intersection with Lyons Street to the second entrance to the Tundra Oil & Gas Place parking lot. This work is estimated to cost $800,000 and will be borne by borrowing. The replacement of the arena score clock is earmarked at $120,000.  

A new road grader will be acquired to replace the current one, which is over 20 years old and difficult to source parts for. Supply chain issues may affect its delivery.

 

Other budget highlights include:

  • An irrigation system for Victoria Park at $45,000 and the resurfacing of the tennis courts for $50,000.
  • A $45,000 contribution to the Boost Committee towards the Very Virden Christmas promotion and the creation of two new murals downtown this summer.
  • The creation of a programming/events position costing $90,000 which will be offset by the dissolution of Prairie West Recreation and increased revenues from Tundra Oil & Gas Place, which has returned to full operation.
  • $70,000 to cover startup costs for the licensed practical nursing program which was recently announced by Assiniboine Community College to begin in Virden this fall.
  • The extension of municipal sewer service to properties in the Town’s industrial park, at an estimated cost of $650,000 which will be financed by borrowing.

Questions and answers

Two new recreational amenities which opened last year have been added to the budget – $550,000 for the spray park, to be built later this summer, and $340,231 for the skate park. During the question period which followed the meeting, Bobbie Heaman asked if the committee which raised the funds to establish the spray park is going to be contributing to its upkeep.

“That was the intent, but volunteer burnout has hit pretty hard,” said Coun. Whitney Baker, who sits on the committee. “It’s been a long, hard road to raise the $500,000 and there’s been about six volunteers for five or six years that have done the majority of that, and they need a bit of a break. We’re hoping to offset it. The Town has put the spray park in the budget as a line, and we would give them a grant back if we have done any fundraising that year.”

Plans call for the installation of lighting and the landscaping of the skate park area to be completed before it is opened for the season.     

Terry Johnson, a former councillor, commended Council for its efforts in retiring the debt incurred by the construction of Tundra Oil and Gas Place.  

“I think that's a good news story,” he said. My hat's off to you for staying the course and having this place paid for within the time frame that was initially set out.”

Council passed motions to adopt the financial plan as presented and give first and second reading to the tax levy by-law.

Road construction spending approved

Following the presentation of its Financial Plan, Council held a public hearing with respect to the financing of road construction projects planned for later this year.

On King Street, the work involves the resurfacing of the parking lanes from the bridge to Thomas Drive. The overlay and pavement of the parking lanes on Seventh Avenue South, from Lyons Street West to King Street West, is also included. Both streets are under provincial jurisdiction, and Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation will be responsible for the paving of the travel lanes. They are also picking up the tab for the engineering. In both locations, hydrants will be replaced as necessary, and curb and gutter repaired. CAO Stewart stated that in the event the Town is required to finance the entire cost, which is estimated at $400,000, through borrowing, the mill rate will increase by .409 mills.

“For a property owner having a house assessed at a value of $300,000, this results in a $55.25 local improvement tax that will be levied annually over five years,” Stewart said.

The timeline for the work is not yet known.   

“The King Street portion has been approved,” she said. “The Town is getting the borrowing in place for both streets in anticipation that the Seventh Avenue portion of the project will also be approved for 2022. We have not been confirmed on that.”

The Local Improvement By-Law received first reading and will now be sent to the provincial Municipal Board for review and approval.