News Local

Rotary Place utility costs a 'concern'

By Sara Carson, Orillia Packet & Times

Ray Merkley, Orillia's director of parks and recreation, presents his departments budget during budget committee's first 2012 budget meeting in council chambers on Wednesday. Along with parks and recreation, city politicians heard from the planning and development department and from the fire department.

Ray Merkley, Orillia's director of parks and recreation, presents his departments budget during budget committee's first 2012 budget meeting in council chambers on Wednesday. Along with parks and recreation, city politicians heard from the planning and development department and from the fire department.

Orillia's Rotary Place is projected to add $150,000 to the 2012 operating budget.

Hydro in the new building is costing $130,000 each year with natural gas adding $20,000 more to the figure.

"My major concern with the parks and (recreation) budget is the utility cost at the new arena," Bob Ripley, the city's deputy CAO and chief financial officer said on Wednesday. "It's a fairly significant increase."

City politicians held their first budget committee meeting for 2012 in council chambers on Wednesday.

Budget committee heard overviews from three city departments during the three-hour meeting: parks and recreation, planning and development and fire.

Ripley pointed out the Rotary Place utility increase after Mayor Angelo Orsi asked, while going through the parks and recreation department's overview, if each city department could reduce its budget by 5%.

"I would like to see some kind of target for each department. Can we see any savings?" the mayor asked.

Staff are working with the consultants and the Orillia Power Corporation to identify operational methods for reducing energy charges. But, Ripley noted, it's costly trying to keep both the ice cold and the spectators warm inside each pad.

A concern for Orsi was the parks and recreation department going $37,000 over its $163,648 marketing initiatives budget, even though the cost resulted in increased revenue.

Ray Merkley, director of parks and recreation, explained that the $37,000 was used to attract a tournament that brought $50,000 into city coffers.

"That's not the point," Orsi responded. "The point is you're over-budget. That's my concern."

Ripley defended the decision, explaining that the money generated more than it cost.

"(The department) will do that recognizing there will be increased cost, but as long as they can generate at least that much revenue, they go ahead and do it."

Coun. Don Jenkins told staff that council is "very anxious" to market Orillia.

"It not only enhances this revenue side, the whole city benefits," he said. "It's to the benefit of the whole city that that be encouraged."

sross@orilliapacket.com



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