After two days of deliberations, Lake Country Council approved the 2013 Budget at a Special meeting held on Thursday, February 7th. The good news is that, thanks to the recent reorganization and business systems review, the budget we have direct control over actually decreased. The not so good news is that the cost of contracted services with the RCMP and the recent transit service expansion impacted the budget by an equivalent 2.65% tax increase. In order to cover these increases and all other impacts, Council was able to limit the total tax increase to 3%. This is in line with other municipalities in the region and is impressive if we take into account inflation. The Business Systems Review allowed us to save quite a bit of money which helped keep the tax increase lower than it could have been.

Better yet, we were able to redirect a higher portion of property taxes to infrastructure projects. That portion has increased from $400,000 in 2012 to $700,000 in 2013. Additional funds coming from other sources, including federal and provincial grants and reserves set for specific capital projects, puts Lake Country total Capital Budget spending at almost $10 million. This is a huge step forward and speaks loudly to the visionary leadership of this Council which has worked hard in the last three years, together with staff, to proactively address an issue that the rest of Canada is now beginning to realize: decline and sustainability of municipal infrastructure.

This year, Lake Country will see the much needed expansion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant and Regional Septage facility (a total of $7 million, of which $750,000 was already spent in 2012). This will not only address current limitations in the system but will also provide much needed infrastructure capacity for future growth and expansion. In fact, once the project is completed, the capacity will double and will accommodate an additional 2000 homes, which is also in keeping with the projected growth identified in our Official Community Plan.

Water system improvements for "The Lakes" subdivision ($1.4 million) will also address capacity issues as new phases of that subdivision are built but it will also provide for much needed piping renewal to the system in the areas leading to the subdivision. In addition, the District will initiate the review of Universal Water Metering options, one of the main recommendations in the recently approved Water Master Plan, and will replace a water main on Glenmore Road.

Other relevant projects approved by Council are the Beasley Park Community Centre upgrades, the second phase of the Apex Drive Park at "The Lakes", the reconstruction of Camp Road from Bond to Jack Seaton Park, improvements to the Clement Road drainage system, and various other improvements to the irrigation system in parks and improvements to some swim areas. There will be some upgrades to the Seniors Centre and additional furniture and garbage cans in a number of parks. Finally, some work will be done to address safety issues on a few roads that are considered high priority, like Oceola Road at the intersection of Lake Hill Drive and the isthmus section of Oyama Road.

Staff are already busy working on some of these projects. The Beasley Park Community Centre project is ready to begin after the tender closed a week or so ago. The Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion will be ready for tender in early Spring and preliminary work on other projects will start soon.

There is additional good news for Lake Country, and specifically for Oyama Residents. The Kalamalka Lake Interconnect project is almost complete to the point that the mandatory Boil Water Notice was lifted on Friday, February 8. Although Oyama residents will still experience some turbidity, the installation and activation of the ultraviolet disinfection system on the Kalamalka Lake source water in March will move us towards achieving the vision of providing water that is safe to drink for the residents of Oyama.

It was an intense process but I believe that Council and staff have worked collegially to ensure that the quality of life we enjoy in Lake Country is protected in spite of many global and national concerns.