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Strategic plan for city moves forward with ‘inflationary’ increases

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
July 30th, 2017

The City of Nelson rarely sleeps.

And when it comes to the business of running the city, sleep is definitely in short supply as the city continues to operate in high gear in 2017 with several projects gaining momentum.

With so much going on in the city, it’s nice to have a program detailing the latest accomplishments and targets for the city for the coming year — such as they were laid out in the Strategic Plan delivered to city council recently by city manager Kevin Cormack.

The plan is an annual measuring stick and roadmap for citizens to get a glimpse under the hood of the municipal machine.

And the engine is healthy and purring. The municipal theme on the financial end will be stuck in the rate-of-inflation gear for the city, with the continued renewal of water, sanitary sewer and electric utilities, as well as roads, all conducted with inflationary or near inflationary increases.

The city continues to be successful in generating non-tax revenues including higher rentals revenues, said Cormack, with a $4.5-million grant for the Hall Street Phase two project, a $300,000 grant for the Civic Centre upgrade and $100,000 for the 610 Railway Building.

Collective agreements have been negotiated with key employee groups at or near inflationary levels, said Cormack, while the use of technology to deliver services is expanding, including homeowner grants, payment options, dog licensing and the new PayStation.

“Although it is challenging to manage the cost of all the services we provide, I believe by focusing on sound planning, we are making cost effective investments which have allowed us to attract grants from senior levels of government and CBT,” said Mayor Deb Kozak.

On the power end of the city spectrum, energy use in city operations is on target to be 25 per cent below the 2009 base, while a corporate greenhouse gas plan is under review.

One of the bright lights of 2016 — Nelson Hydro’s solar garden — was completed and within budget and recently became operational.

“District energy, hydro-electric generation or co-generation are all in progress but under resourced,” the plan noted.

The master and capital replacement plans for the city’s major utilities — water, sanitary sewer and Nelson Hydro — will continue over the next four years, with another $24 million being targeted for the budget.

Although utility rates are expected to increase, said Cormack, the bump is predicted to be “near inflationary increases,” as replacement costs are targeted at 50 per cent of those forecasted in the master plans for water and sanitary sewer.

In delving into the Water Master Plan, the city will be measuring the potential impact of climate change on the water supply and analyzing further options of developing a secondary source. Cormack noted that a water license has been applied for and testing of water quality is in progress — a move which will inform design. Testing and design will be completed in 2017.

In addition, through a combination of water main replacements, removing parks from the potable water supply and conservation, the city is using 10 per cent less water than in 2011.

The plan noted that the UV Treatment Plant project has now been commissioned, while the water main projects are being delivered at approximately 50 per cent of the cost identified in Water Master Plan.

As well, the relining of sanitary lines is also being delivered under projections, the Water Master Plan is being updated and Nelson Hydro voltage conversion work and forebay work at the power plant has commenced.

The Sustainable Neighbourhood Plan for Railtown has been completed, with Cottonwood Plaza completed this summer and new parking was created in the area.

“The city is working with the private sector on proposed new developments in the downtown and Railtown,” said Cormack in a press release from the city.

Although two larger developments have stalled in the city smaller projects are proceeding, he added.

A $4.5 million grant to complete the Hall Street corridor to the waterfront was received and, with planning completed, the first part of the work has been awarded and scheduled to be completed by October.

The city is expected to do something about the housing shortage this year. A report on progress on the short-term recommendations in the city’s Housing Strategy will be presented to council in September, while the city continues to work with the Columbia Basin Trust in exploring a housing project at the Youth Centre.

There is a “healthy investment” in new housing projects in the city — including three proposed rental projects — said Cormack, while Nelson Cares was successful in receiving a provincial grant to renew the old Lakeside Motel site.

IODE park redevelopment and Cottonwood Park plaza are both to be completed by end of July.

The city presence has moved online as well, with the introduction of Facebook as one of its communication tools. The site has developed a solid following.

“We have used advertising which has increased views from approximately 3,400 to 5,200,” said Cormack. “We are considering one other social media platform for 2017.”

Views for media releases, council meetings and job postings are between 1,500 to 2,000.

The details of achievements can be found in the 2015-18 strategic plan update report. The full report can be found at www.nelson.ca under Publications and Reports.

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