by Phil Ambroziak

The City of Meadow Lake has its sights set on the future.

Included as part of the 2017 municipal budget, which was approved during city council’s regular meeting Dec. 12, is $11,000 to redesign the city’s website and to develop a corresponding mobile app to better assist the public in connecting with the community.

“Late last week we did receive some information on something we’ve been talking about for a number of years –  what it would look like to do some improvements to our website,” explained mayor Gary Vidal. “I’ve been giving it a fair amount of thought, have reviewed the material we received and I really believe there would be some real upside to this.”

While $11,000 has been earmarked for web design, the actual cost will be determined through a request for proposals or RFP process. This could allow the city to receive the service for an even lower cost, but – based on numbers provided by the City of Melville – $11,000 was the cost associated with that community’s website and app for the first year, while the additional cost worked out to be $6,500 annually for the remainder of a four-year contract.

“The cost is fixed, and the opportunity to communicate and engage with our citizens, I believe, would be greatly improved,” Vidal added.

Councillor Tom Harrison agreed, adding he’s open to it.

“Communication is key and the dollars aren’t that significant when you compare the cost to some of the other things we’ve been talking about,” he said. “We need to talk to people and they need to talk back, and this is one way of doing it – it’s the new way of doing it. It’s interactive, it’s convenient. The first thing people think these days is website.”

City manager Diana Burton said a redesigned website will allow for it to be more user-friendly and streamlined in terms of sharing information with ratepayers.

Removed from the capital budget, however, was $460,000 tagged for the development of a new public works building that would have been used for several purposes including the storage of city vehicles and equipment. It was deferred until another time when the city does not have a large capital commitment such as a $4 million water treatment plant upgrade.

Meanwhile, other operating budget highlights include: adding a second bylaw enforcement officer to allow continued focus on city bylaws; adding an administrative assistant to be split between fire, building and bylaw; $20,000 for long-term infrastructure and capital planning; maintaining the annual $300,000 to asphalt recap; expanding engineering from one full-time position to one full-time position and one contract at 40 per cent capacity; $22,500 to replace tables and expand the Civic Centre storage room; $380,000 for the final year to contract out valve repair and replacement and $20,000 for hydrant repairs.

Furthermore, capital budget highlights also include $850,000 for paving as a continuation of the Cochin and 6th Avenue storm sewer project and $100,000 for repairing the foundation at the Aquatic Centre.

The 2017 budget also includes a two per cent increase in tax revenue, while the city will borrow close to $1 million to put toward the water treatment project. How the tax increase will affect individual property owners will be determined when the tax rate is set in the spring.