Wireless internet at Exhibition Park, a new fire/rescue medical unit and a program that sees hackers try to break into the city’s internal network are among the dozens of initiatives included in the city’s proposed budget.
Staff have proposed a budget that increases spending by nearly $8 million. Some of that money will come from a three per cent tax increase; the rest is from an operating surplus and revenue from new development.
The largest single item in the budget is a proposed $10-million expansion of the Matsqui Recreation Centre. The city has applied for federal and provincial grants for the project. If those grants aren’t received, the project may return to council or be put on hold – as was the case two years ago. The budget, as written, includes the full cost of the MRC upgrade, so if grants are received, the city would be able to choose to either put that money back in its reserves, or use it for another project.
Much of the rest of new spending will go to items that the average person may not notice, including $4 million to replace some of the city’s 620 vehicles, and ongoing road, water and sewer work. There is also money for cheaper behind-the-scenes work like $90,000 to minimize the risk of a damaging cyber attack. As part of that security program, the city hires hackers to probe its network vulnerabilities and expose any weak points in its cyber defences.
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Some other initiatives may be more noticeable for the average person.
The parks department, for one, is set to start creating an urban forestry strategy in order to stop the continued loss of Abbotsford’s trees. And while the fruits of that planning work may be tough to see at first, other park work will not. The department also aims to spend $100,000 developing trails, $100,000 on washroom facilities, $100,000 enhancing the community park at Clayburn Village, and $250,000 on sports fields at Exhibition Park.
Mill Lake and Albert Dyck Park look to be the destination for the new park washrooms. The city is also looking at installing wireless internet at Exhibition Park.
The Abbotsford Fire/Rescue Service plans to hire two new firefighters to staff a new vehicle designated for medical calls. Nearly half of all calls fielded by the department are medical in nature, and don’t require the assistance of a full compliment of four firefighters in a large engine, chief Don Beer told council. The two-person unit will be able to use a smaller vehicle to address those calls more efficiently, while freeing up crews to respond to fires. The department eventually hopes to have 10 people on medical duty.