Ucluelet’s municipal council has asked to see CoastSmart’s budget after seemingly agreeing to install signage CoastSmart intends to buy.
CoastSmart received roughly $810,000 from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat of Canada to create an ocean-safety program on the West Coast that could develop into a national template. From that budget, $200,000 was earmarked for clear and consistent signage across Ucluelet, Tofino, and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
During a Jan. 24 meeting, Parks Canada visitor safety specialist and CoastSmart representative Randy Mercer told Ucluelet’s council that $200,000 could only go so far and suggested CoastSmart could buy more signs if each of the three parties involved paid to install them. A projected cost for the installation was not provided.
Coun. Randy Oliwa expressed support for the idea immediately after Mercer’s presentation, but has since soured on it and, during the new business portion of council’s Feb. 14 meeting, convinced his fellow councillors to ask for CoastSmart’s entire budget.
“I’d like to see where this money’s gone and, I think, we do have a right to see it in the fact that we are now being asked to burden the installation costs of all those signs,” he said.
“I fully supported the program, with the intent that there would be the funds to not just supply the signs, but install them.”
Oliwa told the Westerly News he still supports the idea of CoastSmart buying as many signs as possible, but he wants to see where the rest of the $810,000 went.
“It’s not going to solve anything. It’s not going to change anything. But, there was some questions from the community to me saying, ‘That was a sizeable grant. How was it that there wasn’t budget for signage and installation,’” he said. “You need to be fiscally responsible with that grant funding, and I’m sure they have been, but I was a little shocked.”
He hopes CoastSmart will install the signs.
“If they could sharpen their pencils and come back and say, ‘You know what? It wasn’t a slam dunk that we’re just going to buy a whole bunch of signs and everybody is just going to be happy with installing them and adding that cost to the community,’” Oliwa said. “We’re a small community and we haven’t budgeted for this. We don’t really know where it’s going to come from.”
Oliwa added the district would also be on the hook for the signs’ maintenance, but he does not intend to request additional funds for that.
“Every time you add something, you have to maintain it,” he said. “Once we’ve accepted it, it’s ours.”
It is unclear when council expects to hear back from CoastSmart, but the budget did not appear on Ucluelet’s Feb. 28 meeting agenda.