OP/ED: Mayor looks back on 2013
I believe that 2013 was a great year for Castlegar. City council, composed of dedicated re-elected veterans with extensive experience and a profound understanding of city operations, and others serving their first term, worked together to begin new initiatives while maintaining our efficient service delivery to our residents and businesses.
Castlegar remains the second-fastest growing city in the West Kootenay, and continues to serve as the commercial and transportation hub for the region. Our City’s growth potential was recognized this past year in a RE/MAX Network and Verico Financial Group report that placed our city on a list of the top 100 neighbourhoods set to lead growth in Canada and one of 8 communities in British Columbia. The list, which was compiled by the Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine, is based on statistics including population, average home price, capital growth and vacancy rate.
The City’s growth potential is assisted by Council’s careful attention to the City’s budget and our tax rates. Council continues to set competitive tax rates that are the envy of other West Kootenay municipalities. The City has maintained a tax incentive program for existing and new businesses to re-invest in their City properties without paying extra tax on their improvements.The City also values and works closely with our Chamber of Commerce to operate the Visitors Information Centre and further the City’s economic development.
At the same time Council continues to invest in important infrastructure. In 2013, Council undertook extensive paving as the first year of a three-year, million dollar program. New sidewalk was installed on Columbia Avenue from 13th avenue to 6th Street. Phase 3 of the south Castlegar storm project was completed. The City’s Water Treatment center was retrofitted and upgraded including the installation of UV reactors for water treatment. The City also rehabilitated the Mike’s Pressure Reducing Valve Station to create better operational efficiencies. Other infrastructure improvements included installation of new flow monitor at the North Lagoon and replacement of the South Sewer Treatment Plant aeration system in the equalization basin. Other capital projects in 2013 include the replacement of approx. 800 streetlights with dimmable LED heads which now provide better lighting for our residents at reduced energy costs. The City proceeded with the installation of the 2012 People’s Choice Award winning Heron Sculpture at Highway 3.
The City lighted the Cobra Climb in the Kinnaird area, rehabilitated the Zuckerberg Island Bridge approach and began construction of the Millennium Ponds Project. I believe that, when completed in this coming year, the Millennium Ponds project – a project of three large pond areas, will serve to showcase Millennium Park, with its stunning river views, garden landscapes, new outdoor gym and playing fields. This project will be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike for decades to come.
Council supported the many volunteer groups and special activities in our City. Council budgeted over $27,000 for special events such as the Winter Skate party and the Canada Day celebrations with the big outdoor movie screen. Council gave out $15,000 in direct grants to our community’s clubs, sports teams and cultural groups. Council also recommended the disbursement of approximately $95,000 to individuals and groups through the Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives program. In 2013, Council provided financial revenues of over $420,000 for the operation and capital improvements to our library, the Castlegar Museum and Zuckerberg Island buildings, the Art Gallery and the Doukhobor Discovery Centre. Council supported – both financially and operationally, the very successful Communities In Bloom program that placed well in winning 5 Blooms in the its first year of competing internationally through the C.I.B. program. I was pleased to participate in the Sculpture Walk Gala which recognized the artistic excellence of many local and international artists who participated in the Castlegar Sculpture Walk program this. In a very short time, this program has expanded to provide over 30 public art pieces throughout our downtown and through the City.
Once again, Council was pleased to recognize our community’s many volunteers through the Volunteer appreciation celebration in November.
In 2013, the City operatedthe West Kootenay Regional Airport on a financial break-even basis and continues to work hard to increase the airport’s business by improving its reliability through new landing and takeoff procedures and technology.We hope to see new developments in navigation systems be approved in this coming year.
Itisa credit to the innovation, creativity and hard work of City Council and staff and our community’s many volunteers that we were able to do all this while still maintaining aggressively low tax rates, with a 2013increase significantly lower than most other communities in the region.I would like to specifically thank our staff, who have managed to achieve these many projects and initiatives while doing their daily jobs of operating and running the City’s many services. I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to City Council and the many volunteers who all work so hard to make our Castlegar “Happily Ever After”.
Mayor Lawrence D. Chernoff
City of Castlegar