It was a brisk council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, as council had a light agenda for its last meeting of the year.
Mayor Dick Richards and Deputy Mayor Karen Sernecky were both absent from the meeting, so assistant CAO Steven Gerlitz called the meeting to order and directed councillors to elect a chairman for the meeting. Council unanimously selected Councillor Sean Nolls, to Nolls’ jesting dismay.
Most of the discussion at the meeting revolved around the budget process, which is now underway and will continue until nearly the end of May.
The Stettler Town and Country Museum budget was addressed at the meeting, with the staff recommendation that the museum’s budget be increased to $30,000 for 2016 unanimously passed. The increase of $2,000 to the $30,000 continues a trend of an annual $2,000 raise that has taken place since 2010, when the budget was only $18,000.
The museum had asked the increase of both the town and the County of Stettler, as the funds were needed to address the need for repair on several of the historical buildings located in the village-like museum setting. The money also helps support the museum’s operating costs, renewal projects and other site improvents.
Last year, the museum completed exterior painting on the red pole barn, caboose, Felix House, speeder shed, the courthouse eaves and upper window, started restoration of the Estonian log house, completed a new walkway to the train station, and held several fundraising events including Light the Night and the inaugural Night at the Booseum.
This year, the museum wants to finish the caboose renovations, replace the roof and ramp of the Ransom School, replace the floor in the pole barn, paint the interior of the courthouse, complete refurbishment of the Estonian house, stabilize the Felix House, fix the sidewalks around the main building as well as update the bathrooms, hot water tank and heating, replace the deck and ramps on several buildings, and build the gazebo for the Wilda Gibbon memorial — plus other minor things.
Council heard from CAO Greg Switenky that the requested increase was not a surprise and the $2,000 had been worked into the interim budget, meaning that there’s no financial implication to the budget if council approved the museum’s budget request.
Council also entertained a delegation from the Stettler Public Library, which presented its budget for 2016 and discussed some of the programs offered by the library as well as some of the financial hurdles.
The delegation was headed by library’s manager, Mary Zazelenchuk. The presentation revealed that the budget for 2016 is estimated at just shy of $450,000. Of that budget, the town is being asked to foot $232,961 this year.
Zazelenchuk spoke about some of the library’s sources of income, including invigilating for distance education students. Students who take college courses or distance education courses can take their tests in the exam room in the library, and the educational institution pays the library for each test.
Use of the 3D printer is slowly increasing as members of the community continue to experiment with the machine, with prints costing anywhere from $0.50 to $10, usually, Zazelenchuk said. When asked by councillor Al Campbell what sort of things people could use a 3D printer for, she explained that the range was wide. However, one library user, confined to a wheelchair, used the printer to make himself a set of unique handgrips, which helped him move himself around easier because of the increased traction.
Programs at the library continue to be well attended, attracting a wide range of ages, Zazelenchuk reported. From tots to great-grand-parents, to fifth-generation Canadians to brand new immigrants, programs at the library are rarely empty. Circulation is also at a five-year-high, Zazelenchuk noted, with more physical books remaining more popular than the digital eBook.
One factor in the increased costs on the operating side are those eBooks, Zazelenchuk reported. For the library, those digital editions cost them roughly 50 per cent more than the hardcover books, a “cash grab” that is painful for book budgets. However, those books aren’t lost or damaged, so that’s one factor likely considered in the higher cost. However, unlike traditional books, those books can’t be sold off when their time with the library is done.
The library also loans out more than books, having an extensive DVD collection of movies and television series.
Council had previously approved the numbers for the library, but showed their support for the organization by approving the budget as presented, essentially ratifying a previous decision.