By Mayor Lisa Pasin
City of Trail
As the clock moves forward to a new year, it brings opportunity to evaluate, reset and move ahead with promise and determination.
2020 was expected to be one of those great years.
Our family jokingly referred to 2020 as the year of the optometrist – a year of perfect vision, 2020 of course, with a clear and positive outlook!
Much to our surprise, 2020 did not turn out as expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans rapidly changed for many of us, and what was once considered normal, became improbable or impossible. The stresses and strains of the pandemic have had a multitude of impacts on all of us, but collectively, we have weathered 2020 with a strong and adaptable spirit.
We are a community that looks after its neighbours and each other as we are full of promise and determination, despite significant obstacles.
As 2020 closes, we reflect on the City of Trail’s achievements over the year, and highlight the priorities for 2021.
None of the successes would be possible without City of Trail employees.
On behalf of myself and all of council, I wish to extend my sincerest gratitude to all employees of the City of Trail for their amazing work during 2020. Diligently continuing your work, all the while adapting to and implementing COVID-19 safety protocols so that everyone could stay safe, has shown how capable and resilient you are.
Despite the many challenges that COVID-19 presented, the city continued to deliver the extensive portfolio of services that our citizens are accustomed to and rely on, while also achieving many successes.
Early in the pandemic, it was deemed important to recognize the hardship that would be felt by our community.
As a result, council approved a zero per cent tax increase across all rate classes.
This decision had significant financial impacts for the city, but it was felt critical to extend immediate assistance to our citizens and businesses. Along with this, and in order to balance the budget, over $1 million of capital projects were deferred and operational spending was curtailed as much as possible while trying to still provide a reasonable level of service.
These proactive measures, along with the recently announced COVID-19 funding provided by the province, have resulted in the city coming through the fiscal year in a strong financial position.
Despite this, the following major objectives were undertaken in the administration and finance departments:
– The Collective Agreement with the city’s 100 unionized CUPE employees that expired early in 2020 has been successfully renewed for a four-year term. The agreement is positive for both parties and provides cost certainty during these challenging times as we continue to deal with the impacts of COVID-19;
– A three-year contract for Economic Development services has been secured with the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society. Jumpstarting our economy will be integral to pandemic recovery. We look forward to all the work that will be done by the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation to improve the economic outlook in the Kootenay Boundary. Coupled with this commitment, the city completed the Downtown Wayfinding Signage Project. These signs showcase businesses in the downtown core and create a welcoming and vibrant environment to passing motorists. We look forward to highlighting other interested businesses throughout the years;
– The Organizational Review and Official Community Plan commenced, but were temporarily paused due to COVID-19 restrictions. The city remains committed to seeing both of these projects move forward in 2021;
– A five-year agreement was ratified with the Village of Warfield for library and recreation services. This agreement provides Warfield and Trail residents reciprocal and unfettered access to library and recreation facilities. We are thankful for the strong and supportive relationship that Trail and Warfield have with each other, resulting in shared services; and
– The city’s 2019 Annual Report, which provides comprehensive reporting to the public across all aspects of operations, was completed by city staff. The city submitted the report for consideration of the Canadian Award for Financial Reporting (CAnFR). If awarded, this will be the fourth consecutive award, which speaks to the quality of publication. I congratulate staff on their work on this yearly document, and encourage members of the public to access the reports on the city’s website if interested. Staff will complete and submit the 2020 Annual Report in May 2021.
In response to curbing the spread of COVID-19, all major public recreation spaces temporarily closed to the public in mid-March.
Since that time, the Parks and Recreation Department has been implementing re-opening plans for all areas of service to align with Provincial Health Orders and WorkSafeBC guidelines.
This has often resulted in a reinvention of how services are delivered and used by the public, and we appreciate everyone’s patience as we continue to navigate through the challenges.
By the end of 2020, all major recreation infrastructure will have some level of service restored to the community.
In addition to the critical work to restart recreation programs and facilities, the following amenities and access capital projects have been completed:
– The Gyro Park Playground installation – valued at $450,000, this new playground provides families with a safe and fun place to play outdoors. We thank Columbia Basin Trust and the Murphy Family Foundation for their support of this project;
– Park improvements – the dugouts and concession piers at Haley Park were repaired and new bleachers will arrive in 2021;
– The Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre – phase 2 of the security system upgrade, waterslide repairs, and a facility infrastructure audit were completed. Annual repairs, which typically occur in August, were conducted during the early stages of the pandemic shutdown, with the intention that once the facility was able to reopen, it did so without interruption due to annual maintenance and repairs;
– The Trail Memorial Centre – improvements to the air conditioning compressor, plant heat room recovery system, and HVAC system were completed. These are all key projects to modernize and maximize the efficiency of this significant and important recreational complex; and
– Automated Weather Observation Station (AWOS) at the Trail Regional Airport – this newly installed system provides real-time weather data, including cloud ceiling height to pilots and commercial dispatch centres. This information is critical for determining whether flights are viable during inclement weather conditions. The back-up runway sweeper was also upgraded, which will enable operators to clear the runway in less time.
Progressive improvements to the city’s infrastructure are essential, as council is committed to the multiple aspects of community health and safety. Several infrastructure improvement projects were completed this year, despite the COVID-19 budgetary reductions:
– The $316,000 Munter Street watermain replacement project, which improved the water system between Daniel and Topping Streets;
– $300,000 in pavement restoration, which focused on the areas of most need throughout the city, including 2,900 meters of asphalt replacement in West Trail and 6,600 meters of roadway repairs;
– The RCMP station cell retrofit completed major safety improvements to the detachment’s cell block. Foot patrols, by the RCMP and a private security firm, were funded to address the challenges of crime, the opioid crisis, homelessness and vagrancy in our city; and
– The city and the Community Safety Task Force continue to work collaboratively with multiple agencies and levels of government to address the significant impacts of the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic on our city.
The issues surrounding our most vulnerable citizens remain complex and are comprised of indicators such as homelessness, poverty, mental health and substance use.
Many groups of citizens have voiced their concerns to council. Please know that you have been heard and the city shares your concerns.
Vulnerability and crime are complex problems.
We are committed to the work that needs to be done to ensure the safety of our community and we thank our citizens for your tolerance, patience, and participation as we collectively work to ensure the safety and security of every citizen in our city.
As we round the curve to 2021, council and staff will continue to address the many and varied priorities in the city. Of utmost importance will be continued management of the financial impacts of the lower than usual revenue, due to the pandemic, while maintaining operational capacity to deliver a full suite of municipal services.
Council will begin budget deliberations in early 2021 with an eye to deliver a balanced, comprehensive and fair budget. Budget deliberations will consider the inclusion of a reasonable level of property tax increase to not only maintain existing infrastructure and services, but also consider future, high priority needs such as supporting multiple levels of housing development, investing in basic and fundamental infrastructure improvements such as water/sewer/road projects, and demolition of aging infrastructure such as the old medical clinic and the Old Trail Bridge.
The Organizational Review is well underway with the intention to implement a plan in spring of 2021. Several senior and long serving administrative staff will leave the service of the city over the next few years and the review will assist in determining the future structure and human resources needs of the city.
It is critical to consider the operational needs of the city and the appropriate number of staff in terms of managing in an increasingly complex environment.
It is expected that the Official Community Plan (OCP) review process will start up again in 2021 and we are excited to be re-engaging the planning consultants retained to continue on with the OCP review process.
Further public engagement can be expected in early 2021 and we look forward to your valuable input as we forge ahead. Despite a pause in both these projects due to COVID-19, the city is committed to their timely conclusion as they are both cornerstone projects that will guide the city for years to come.
When considering service provision and the associated regional benefits, the Beaver Valley Parts Recreation agreement expires in the fall of 2021 and we hope to renegotiate a fair and reasonable agreement prior to the end of the year so that access to recreation services can continue for residents of the Beaver Valley.
As we look to continually lessen our environmental impact, we are excited to be working with the RDKB to expand curbside organics collection.
The city is also hopeful to sell the Union Hotel Lot for development, and we look forward to seeing the private developer complete construction on the Old Esso Lot as planned.
As we look ahead to the first quarter of 2021, our patience will continue to be tested.
Despite future challenges, there is also much to be optimistic about.
To date, our region has fared well during the pandemic and I encourage everyone to continue compliance with the Provincial Health Orders. It is only through our individual vigilance that we will collectively succeed and minimize the impacts of COVID-19.
I am so proud of our community and how we have risen to this challenging situation and stayed the course.
I ask that you persevere as there is now a light at the end of what has felt like a very long tunnel.
As the vaccine is distributed locally and globally, life will slowly return to a state of normal that we will very much appreciate.
Until then, I leave you with the following wishes for our New Year:
– Stay local to keep our community safe;
– Shop local to support our local businesses. Their viability is dependent on our collective commitment to rebuilding the economy in our community;
– Say thank you to all the frontline and healthcare workers that you encounter;
– Stay safe by respecting and adhering to all the Public Health Orders, including socializing with your household members, continuing to sanitize your hands and spaces, wearing a mask and social distancing; and
– Support each other through this challenging time. We are all in this together.
Happy holidays everyone and all the best for 2021.
Stay positive and stay safe.