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Welcome. That will cost $50k

More "Welcome to Coquitlam" signs will spring up at major entrances in the city after council this week voted to spend $50,000 on the project.

More "Welcome to Coquitlam" signs will spring up at major entrances in the city after council this week voted to spend $50,000 on the project.

The move comes after city council on Monday was presented with a list of seven high-priority items for which it could allocate last year's $3.4-million surplus. Also on the list:

$1 million for the city's vehicle replacement reserve;

$1 million for the city's tax appeal fund;

$800,000 to advance construction of Mackin Park amenities;

$75,000 for the winter light program;

$50,000 to update bylaws and other outdated rules;

and $50,000 to speed up replacement of Coquitlam Fire and Rescue's self-contained breathing units.

On the latter item, Fire Chief Tony Delmonico told council the department doesn't have enough money in its budget to buy spare units "so only our front-line units will be replaced with the newest version."

Coun. Brent Asmundson moved a motion to have the $50,000 slated for welcome signs instead rolled into the fire department's unit replacement program, saying, "I think it's important. It's a necessity for them."

But that motion failed, with a majority of councillors voting instead for the welcome signage.

"I think improved welcome signages are important," Coun. Neal Nicholson said. "There are lots of roads into our city. Every time I go to visit my daughter in Port Moody, I drive past a 'Welcome to Port Moody' sign on Falcon Drive and, when I come home, I drive past the back of the Port Moody sign and I don't see any other sign on the other side of the road.

"I think we need more," he added. "There's a lot of confusion about Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody: who's where, when?

"Our fire department is well managed, well run and has embarked on a program to replace that important equipment."

Coun. Mae Reid concurred and said she would like to see more landscaping around the existing welcome signs, as is done in New Westminster.

But Coun. Lou Sekora said he resents discussing budgetary items in the middle of the year.

"If this was so badly needed, how come it was not in the budget?" he asked city managers, shaking the priority list in his hand. "We wait until there's a surplus and we grab it and we're going to spend it... To me, it's the most ridiculous way of running a city."

Mayor Richard Stewart countered the $3.4-million savings that was placed in the city's infrastructure account was a result of prudent fiscal management by staff and council "in a year when we were really struggling to balance the budget."

Sheena MacLeod, Coquitlam's financial services manager, said the infrastructure fund now has a balance of about $2 million.