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QUESNEL Attendees to this Tuesdays finance committee meeting on the proposed budget heard that Billy Barker Days are among the community events and services that may be cancelled as a result of city councils plans to cut $1 million in city services.

City workers were there to speak out against the cuts and present their submission to council. They argued that councils financial woes are a direct result of plans to invest in the overpriced new city hall.

This new city hall will drain the lifeblood out of our city. Its already drained the brains out of council, said Dan Weiman, president of CUPE 1050, the union that represents Quesnel city workers. I dont know of any other explanation for cutting city services when they are sitting on a $2 million tax surplus.

The Billy Barker Days Festival spokesperson admitted to council that more cuts to city services spells the eventual death of the event. Council plans to eliminate extra weeding and mowing of grass prior to the event, cancel extra cleanup and setting up barricades for Reid Street mall. They also want to cut extra litter pick-up on Friday and have volunteers pick up the tab for any other litter pick-up and detour signage. Council saves $7,800.

Council has got to get their priorities straight. The festival is a great source of pride and revenue for our community. Why jeopardize that for a few thousand dollars? Weiman said.

This is what council calls efficiency. If council wants to be efficient, they should walk away from the white elephant city hall and go back to taking care of our city.

Council also passed a motion to reduce ball-park maintenance by eliminating the job of a city worker that maintains Quesnels dozen ball parks and shifted this responsibility to ball associations.

Who will be dragging infields, filling in holes, trimming grass, cleaning washrooms, repairing bleachers, taking care of fencing, sprinkler systems and painting? Ball associations. We pay taxes and council cuts services. Its wrong, Weiman said.

This is the future of Quesnel if we dont pull together and stop these cuts. In one meeting they cut a half dozen good jobs and a range of city services. If this budget passes and Council proceeds with their core services review, our fate is sealed.

In addition to an existing 25 per cent reduction in overtime which has caused the loss of many services, the finance committee announced the:

Layoff of bylaw enforcement officers for the winter to save $15,000 and a building inspector to save $5,880,
Closure of landfill on weekend shifts when the regular attendant is sick or on holidays,
20 per cent reduction in clerical staff levels at fire hall,
20 per cent cut to janitorial services at the RCMP and city hall,
Closure of a full-time city worker position through non-replacement,
Elimination of seasonal workers to save $100,000.

These cuts will have an effect on weeding, grass cutting and pothole filling in the summer and snow removal in the winter, Weiman said. The reductions in overtime at the landfill have already produced garbage overflows on to the streets on weekends, forcing the city to bring in loader men on overtime to push the garbage through the gates to the dump. What a fiasco!

The city manager has hired an outside consultant to look at ways of further reducing city services through contracting out and privatization. Consultant fees to Urban Systems last year added up to over $265,000 for five months of work.

CUPE 1050 and CUPE 3176 have launched a campaign to stop the cuts to city services and demand that Quesnel residents have an opportunity to decide, through referendum, whether or not the city should invest in the most expensive city hall in the central and northern interior.

The 150 Quesnel city workers are CUPE members who provide quality community public services to the residents of Quesnel and the surrounding community. They work at the RCMP, airport, arena and recreation centre facilities, museum and fire hall, city hall and the public works and landfill.

For more information, please contact:

Dan Weiman, president, CUPE 1050
c: (250) 991-9195

Diane Kalen, CUPE Communications
c: (647)224-0662