Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick gave his state of the City address to a full house last night at Centre 64. He says the City continues to grow and progress, however not without some challenges.
This was the third year that the Chamber of Commerce has hosted the event. Chamber board members, City Councillors and staff, and many residents filled the theatre at Centre 64 curious about the future of Kimberley.
McCormick gave a one hour speech followed by a question and answer period. He touched on the fact that the City has made a large dent in their infrastructure deficit, that tourism continues to be a success and how diversifying the tax base can help the economy.
He says that focus areas for 2019 include infrastructure renewal, financial accountability, facilitating a diverse economy, core services and reducing the environmental impact.
Infrastructure renewal continues to be a huge priority and undertaking for the City and McCormick says that fleet and equipment are a critical part of that focus.
“How can we expect our staff to do their job properly if they don’t have the proper equipment,” he said, referencing the fact that much of the City’s equipment and fleet are on their last legs. “Over the next five years we are going to make a significant investment into our fleet and equipment with a budget of over $3 million.”
Looking ahead to 2019, there are six major projects that are budgeted at a total of just under $5 million. The projects include the planning and design of the new Waste Water Treatment Facility ($1,864,564), 4th avenue construction – paving, storm, sewer and water from Boundary St. to Trail St. ($1,573,179), roof and truss repairs to the roof at Centre 64 ($480,000), the annual road rehabilitation ($366,176), replacement of the motor grader ($360,000) and the second galvanized waterline replacement ($250,000).
Other projects of note, says McCormick, are the arena upgrade and planning (which is dependent on grant funding), wayfaring signage, a sprinkler trailer for the Kimberley Fire Department and a charging station for electric vehicles.
McCormick says that the sprinkler trailer for the Fire Department is a major purchase that will help to protect Kimberley in the event that we have a summer similar to, or worse than, last year. He adds that the sprinkler trailer will also be available for other municipalities to rent when it is not in use here.
On the wildfire note, McCormick says that despite the fact that tourism drives Kimberley’s economy, it cannot be the only option for jobs.
“We need to maintain and enhance that tourism product. We have proven to have a strong retail economy, especially in the past three years, but tourism cannot be the only option for jobs,” he said. “We saw first hand last August how the wildfires directly affected business here in Kimberley. Those 18 days that we were on evacuation alert, and for many weeks after, hugely affected summer tourism.”
Tourism Kimberley ran some numbers on tourism data, and Manager Jesse Ferguson says that there were approximately 116,000 tourism visits in 2018, accounting for $6 million in accommodation revenue and $16 million in tourist spending. All of these numbers, McCormick says, have been steadily trending upward since 2009.
Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) is by far the largest corporate taxpayer at around $247,331 per year. Teck is not far behind at $123,197. There are only eight other corporate taxpayers in Kimberley.
Residential (both variable and flat) taxes are the highest forms of variable taxation in Kimberley at a combined $8,875,889 in 2018. Business is the second highest at just over $1 million, while light industry brought in just over $12,000 in taxes to Kimberley last year and recreation came in at $94,057.
Important to note, says McCormick, is that despite the fact that Kimberley’s assessed value of homes went up 18 per cent in 2018, it does not mean that everyone’s taxes will rise.
He explained that if your property’s value is lower than the average change, your taxes likely decrease. Conversely, if your home is valued similarly to the average your taxes will likely not change. Only if your home is valued higher than the average will your taxes increase.
In terms of housing, McCormick says that over 60 new residences are in the works for the coming year. This includes 14 new dwellings on Mark Street (Tyee), 26 in the Mark Creek Landing (Tyee), four in Blarchmont (Leiman), eight in the Sullivan Landing (LINQ) and 12 in the Lions Support Housing. There is also a $25,000 grant in the works for a community needs assessment for daycare spaces.
Wildfire strategy, urban deer management, watershed management and environmental certifications are all part of provincial advocacy, which McCormick says will be a strong focus between himself, MLA Doug Clovechok and the province this year.
“We also continue to work with Teck on the SunMine sale and expansion,” he said. “CEO of Teck (Donald Lindsay) has said to me he that envisions expanding the SunMine to the entire brownfield… This could be a huge step in the right direction.”
During the question and answer period there were many questions surrounding infrastructure (roads and sidewalks), and other projects that are in the works. One resident asked for an update on the proposed international school.
McCormick says that he cannot provide an update at this time, however Duncan MacLeod of Purcell International Education hopes to host another community information session at the end of February/beginning of March.
“Residents say we are in a good place,” said McCormick. “There is a culture being created that is attracting young families and with them, more use of our facilities. Entrepreneurs and residents are investing in the community.
“Our main goal is incremental change. We want to focus on facilitating a diverse economy and making sure that Kimberley continues to be such a great place to live.”