This has definitely been a challenging year, and as we look forward to 2021 I hope and pray we see an end to the lockdowns and the upsets caused by the worldwide pandemic.
In addition to COVID response, 2020 has been very eventful, starting out with the high water and flooding in the Williams Lake River Valley. The City’s Emergency Operations Centre was activated and operated under a unified command structure including the City, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Williams Lake First Nation. Some access to the valley was restored, and we were able to save the City’s lagoon/sewer system as well as repair the outfall line to the Fraser River. The valley continues to erode and some property owners on Frizzi Road and residents of the Moore Mountain area are still at risk. The valley looks a lot different and there is still a lot of work to be done.
We were able to get more paving done this year with the contract coming in below what we had anticipated so the contract was expanded in an attempt to catch up on our road infrastructure. Although there is a lot more to be done, work is ongoing and we will increase the budget whenever we can.
Investments in our community have continued even with the uncertainty brought by the pandemic. Building permits held strong at 102 permits, totalling close to $20 million. We look forward to continued growth in the new year. Although many small businesses are struggling, we have been able to maintain 109 business licences this year. I encourage everyone to shop local – it is more important than ever to support our businesses.
We are in the early stages of the budget process for 2021, and the intent and direction to staff is no increase in staff or mil rates for this year while maintaining our current service levels. I know that is going to be a challenge even with the low inflation rates.
Most will know that we have a new CAO at the City. Gary Muraca has worked for the City for six years as the Director of Municipal Services, we were fortunate to find someone as qualified and knowledgeable as Gary to fill the position.
We were thankful to receive a COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant from the Province, and are using the monies to make up some funding shortfalls as well as support our valued local businesses, nonprofits and service clubs.
The City purchased a lake harvester and we have a permit to begin removing some of the weeds in and around the beach area and boat launches next year.
The housing study is in the works and hopefully will reinforce our bid for funding to provide housing in the area. There are a number of projects anticipated for next year, and in addition to the ongoing desperate need for general housing, there is also a high demand for housing for the workforce (particularly during the hospital expansion).
To help ensure public participation, access, and transparency, Council meetings are now live-streamed on our website. I encourage everyone to check the City’s website at www.williamslake.ca for links to the live streamed and recorded meetings.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy, Healthy New Year!
Walt Cobb is the mayor of Williams Lake. He was asked by Black Press Media to submit a year-end column for our readers.