Bathurst council begins annual budget exercise

City Hall

Bathurst Council began its annual budget exercise this week.

On Monday council heard from several committees about their capital project plans and budgets for the upcoming year.

Bathurst Aquatic Centre director EeVe Stever told council that increasing costs along with measures to deal with COVID-19 and a continual deficit make keeping the doors of the 38-year-old facility open a challenge.

Stever is asking the city to increase its annual contribution to $250,000 as well as forgive its $100,000 deficit.

She says Bathurst residents make up the lion's share of the aquatic centre's usage at around 63 per cent.

She says the city's contribution and deficit forgiveness would allow the centre to break even, adding the goal is not to 'play catch-up' with the deficit any longer.

Mayor Paolo Fongemie says the pool is an important piece of regional infrastructure and that its committee should explore building a new facility.

Fongemie says the cost of such a facility should be shared between all the region's municipalities and service commissions.

Though its programming was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bathurst Public Library says it served more than 4,200 city residents last year along with 2,500 people from neighbouring communities.

The library is asking for a city contribution of $55,190 for 2021 which will include computer upgrades and software licensing, new shelving, and new flooring.

With approximately one-third of the library-users coming form outside the city limits, Fongemie suggested the provincial government be approached for funding as well.

Bathurst Trails is asking the city to chip in on a 700 metre connection between the Bathurst and Beresford trail systems.

Group's Sam Daigle says the city's portion of the approximately $90K project would be around $5,000.

Daigle says the funds are already in the city's trail account and just need council approval to be accessed.

Diagle is also proposing the city help establish a new, official ATV access trail from Miramichi Ave. to Bass River as well as a parallel cycling trail to salmon beach.

Coronation Park's committee is asking the city for $150,000 for 2021.

Committee chair Scott Ferguson says the park is the city's 'crown jewel', noting it's a centre for several activities.

But Ferguson says, after years of steady budget cuts, the park had its funding cut last year.

He says the committee needs the money to upgrade the playground, noting the play area and splash pad are the park's most frequently used infrastructure.

Bathurst's Arts & Culture Committee is asking the city for an annual contribution of $3,000.

Committee's Chris Daigle says the money will help his group move forward with having murals painted in the downtown area.

Daigle says a call for artists will likely take place in October with the working beginning in May so the murals are ready for tourist season.

He says the Frenette Building, next to the city's Canada 150 park, has been chosen for the inaugural mural.

Daigle says the murals would help add a splash of colour to downtown as well as showcase artists from the region.

Meanwhile, the Downtown Bathurst Revitalization Corporation is asking the city to help pay for year-round garbage cans for the downtown area.

Daigle says 30 units sell for approximately  $10,000 and that the corporation is gauging interest in cost-sharing for the project.

Youghall Beach is asking the city for $140K.

The money would go towards chip sealing the parking lot, paving a section of road, as well as work to breakwaters and beach nourishment.

Mayor Fongemie stressed that no funding decisions were being made, but that council was only gathering information and understanding to move along in the budget process over the next two months.