Affordable Bricks and Mortar
Council has been very cautious about embarking on major capital projects. The city's RCMP building was completed soon after incorporation on budget and on time, thanks to some excellent stewardship by staff.
We hope to continue that with future projects.
Our municipal offices are still temporary, and must eventually become permanent, at a location and cost still to be determined.
In a 2016 referendum, voters very narrowly defeated a proposal to construct a $12 million civic centre on Elliott Road in Westbank Centre.
Council and staff have continued to explore opportunities for property acquisition in Westbank Centre for a city hall and remain determined to ensure that the facility would be built with no tax increase. We have continued to build reserve funds for this purpose and to return the existing administrative structure to its original purpose: the Mount Boucherie Community Centre.
With a significant financial contribution from the Westside Youth Soccer Association, we will be erecting a $ 3million-plus Multi-Sports Dome on newly-acquired property near Mar Jok Elementary School in the Rose Valley Area. With plenty of parking and easy access to the nearby Rosewood Sports Field, the dome will provide the community with a much-needed indoor place to practice and play.
Now in the planning stages is another much-needed facility, a public works yard on property acquired from the provincial government at the corner of Bartley and Stevens Roads. It will include storage and mechanical areas as well as office space.
With these and many other projects that are bound to arise during the next few years, we will need to continue balancing the most efficient use of your tax dollars with providing facilties that are pleasing architecturally and practical for the long term.
One project I have helped get on council's radar is an artificial turf field. I facilitated formation of a committee comprised of interested user groups — high school and community football, youth and senior soccer and baseball, to put a serious proposal together.
They did so, but more polanning and number-crunching needs to be done, including acquisition of a suitable site.
While the initial cost of the facility could range between $1.5 and $2.5 million, the tab for ongoing maintenance would likely be a lot lower than those for grass fields — providing extended seasons for hundreds, perhaps thousands of users, of all ages.
The City of West Kelowna remains on sound financial footing. About 45 percent of its current revenues come from property taxes, which have risen quite modestly since incorporation. (Council has consistently approved tax increases of 3 percent or less, some of which has been earmaked for reserves to ensure budget stability. Our taxes and staffing levels compare very favorably — in some cases much better — with communities of similar size. Every effort must be made to ensure they stay that way.
A Long and Winding Road
An essential component of our approach to growth management process is the Transportation Master Plan. Without this, and a long-term strategy to improve the road network, our community will continue to develop piecemeal, with inadequate access and egress. We must be able to accommodate modes of travel other than the private motor vehicle.
Build It Before They Come
It may be an impossible dream, but eventually we may be able to stop playing catch-up with our infrastructure requirements.
The Central Okanagan has seen decades of residential and commercial development, which, despite its promises of jobs and a broadened tax base, places a persistent strain on the taxpayer's ability to deliver basic services. Mechanisms must be in place to make sure growth is orderly and in the community's best interest.
Development Cost Charges (DCCs) are aimed at making developers pay a fair share of infrastructure costs.These must be subject to constant review and updating where necessary, as must the Official Community Plan, which many citizens expect, quite rightly, should be something whose spirit and intent must be respected. At the same time, the development community deserves to have its applications dealt with fairly and efficiently.
A Unified Community
The decision to establish a municipality was a close one, with a very slim majority of voters favouring the option to incorporate, rather than amalgamate with the City of Kelowna.
I believe a solid majority of residents have now accepted the decision and want to move forward, not become embroiled in an endless feud between neighbourhoods. We have had our differences in the past, but there has been a healing of the wounds. Many facilities and services are shared by residents in all areas of the community, without complaint. Our children attend the same senior secondary school, our sports teams use the same fields and arena. Our homes are protected by a single, highly-efficient and well-equipped fire department.
The healing must continue. We can do that by proving we have a municipality that is just as efficient and no more expensive to operate than Kelowna.
Health, Safety and Security
Homelessness. Drug abuse. Vandalism. Robbery. Traffic hazards. These are just a few negative symptoms of our community's increased urbanization. A growing population has meant an increase in social problems, and rising concern among residents.
Council must continue a constructive process whereby those concerns can be aired and residents given an opportunity to understand what is (or is not) being done, and suggest possible solutions.
A good step in that direction was completion this summer of the 'Point in Time' survey, a snapshot of the homelessness situation in West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation. The survey was aimed at determining how many people in the area experience
housing challenges and providing basic demographic information and
community needs that will help direct future
programs, policy changes and other support.
There has also been clear indication from residents that they want more than what the Interior Health Authority has proposed for a medical care facility for Westside. While this matter is not within the city's jurisdiction, Council must continue doing what it can to ensure the community's wishes are given the strongest voice possible.
How Green is Our Valley?
We'll never have enough parkland. Whether it's active — a place for athletes of all ages to play their favourite games — or passive, where visitors simply commune with our region's natural beauty, we must plan for long-term acquisition and development of public green space and waterfront access.
Closely tied with the above is the need to protect the reasons many people moved here in the first place. The Okanagan Valley, and our part of it, is largely semi-arid and dependent on water supply systems that were designed originally for agriculture. Our municipality can take a leadership role in improving how the Okanagan's most previous resource is managed — and we must take a more proactive approach to preserving ecologically sensitive areas and endangered species.