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Cumberland council weighs COVID-19 funding priorities

Some priorities for COVID-19 funds including improve IT and adapting work spaces
The Village of Cumberland office is one of the targets for some grant funding work. Photo by Mike Chouinard

The Village of Cumberland is considering how best to use some funding related to helping communities respond to COVID-19 challenges.

The agenda for the Dec. 14 meeting had two separate items related to the topic. The first surrounded Safe Restart Grant for Local Communities funding worth more than $1.3 million. The money comes from a joint federal and provincial funding initiative.

“It’s funding to help Cumberland to help address the impact of COVID-19,” chief financial officer Michelle Mason told council.

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Staff had looked at some of the priorities to make the best use of the funds, including improving IT infrastructure or adapting work spaces for working remotely or spaced apart to meet public health restrictions. A staff report outlines what costs would be eligible: addressing revenues shortfalls; facility reopening and operating costs; emergency planning and response costs; bylaw enforcement and protective services such as fire protection and police; computer and other electronic technology costs to improve interconnectivity and virtual communications); services for vulnerable persons; and other related costs.

“You can spend it on quite a few eligible costs,” Mason said.

Projects the village has in mind that are already in the current five-year financial plan are:

  • Council chamber digital screen display, $3,500
  • Two benches on South Wellington Colliery Trail (accessibility improvements), $4,200
  • Two picnic tables in Village Park family area, $10,000
  • Five in-ground garbage receptacles in various parks within Village, $13,000
  • Bike racks within Cumberland Lake Park, $2,000
  • Lake Park entrance information sign, $3,000

These total $35,700. Staff also has two projects that could be funded with the grant instead of using village reserve funds. These are the first phase of Village Office renovations (front office and staff areas) for $120,000, and a council chambers video camera system for $25,000.

Finally, there is a list of projects, most with estimates, recommend as priorities for COVID restart and recovery:

  • Fibre connection (an ongoing operating cost in 2022), $22,200
  • Village Office server and communication upgrades for staffing spaces in water treatment plant and new fire hall, $27,100
  • Municipal building upgrades, $150,000
  • IT infrastructure improvement (confirming estimates)

All together, these three categories add up to $380,000, which would leave $932,000 for other COVID recovery activities or contingency funds. Council passed the staff recommendation for these projects.

Other COVID-related funding

Following the Restart funding discussion, Cumberland’s economic development officer, Kaelin Chambers, outlined ideas for a potential Resilience Infrastructure Stream grant application.

In his report to council, he notes the federal and provincial governments committed up to $80.29 million towards the intake of COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream (CVRIS) to support infrastructure projects in communities in B.C. These include projects that:

  • provide retrofits, repairs and upgrades to local government and Indigenous government buildings, health infrastructure and educational infrastructure;
  • support development of active transportation networks;
  • allow communities to improve their infrastructure to increase the resiliency and efficiency in preventing the spread of COVID-19;
  • complete disaster mitigation and adaptation infrastructure projects.

The top priority identified by staff is a Path to Recreation project, with a maximum budget of $200,000. This partnership with Rotary Club of Cumberland Centennial would see a one-kilometre extension of the existing South Wellington Colliery Trail in Coal Creek Historic Park, adjacent to Comox Lake Road.

Chambers said the priority was to find a CVRIS project that was manageable in the near future.

“They have to be completed by this time next year,” he said. “We need to have a project that’s fairly well-defined.”

Coun. Jesse Ketler wondered whether the village should opt for something like a generator for the new fire hall, estimated to be between $30,000 and $35,000, while Coun. Sean Sullivan suggested investing in ways to tackle parking issues in the community.

“We’re looking at things that were shovel-ready,” Chambers responded, adding that the village would be responsible for any costs beyond a year from now.

He also said they would look into the generator idea to see if it would be eligible for funding and added it might be something that could be combined with another project.

Council passed the resolution to apply for funding for the Path to Recreation project. The deadline to apply is Jan. 27.

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