Wet summer helped water county budget

A wet summer last year that stymied some road projects led to Lacombe County posted a $3.1-million surplus on its $42.2-million 2008 budget.

A wet summer last year that stymied some road projects led to Lacombe County posted a $3.1-million surplus on its $42.2-million 2008 budget.

“I think we’re very fortunate that we can say we have an unallocated surplus,” said County Reeve Terry Engen.

The county found most of its savings in an unwelcome bout of weather that “basically shut down” road building for a couple of months, he said after Thursday’s council meeting.

The total public works budget came in about $5 million below the budget of $27.9 million. The bottom line was also helped by lower-than-anticipated asphalt costs because of falling oil prices. The county also managed to save about $450,000 in labour costs because of rain.

Tim Timmons, the county’s manager of operations, said most of the surplus will be put in a series of reserve accounts set up to ensure there is money available for high-priority issues.

County council voted on Thursday to put $1 million into a water and waste water fund. That money has been put aside to fund expansion of regional water and sewer systems out into the county.

Another $1 million has been earmarked for the recreation capital assistance reserve, which is used to fund park and playground projects within the county.

There will also be $500,000 transferred to a fund for a future project to build remote public works shops in the west and east ends of the county. Those shops will be set up to make it easier for the county to get to problem areas quickly.

The lake access reserve fund is getting $350,000. This money will be put aside to help pay for future boat launches or other access points on Sylvan, Gull and Buffalo Lakes.

The county is also putting some money aside to have cash on hand for developing a regional trail network. A new reserve fund has been established and kick-started with $250,000.

The 2008 surplus represents 7.4 per cent of the budget, said Timmons. In 2001, the surplus was $2.1 million, or just under seven per cent of the budget.

Timmons is not expecting 2009 to produce as big a surplus as last year.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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