Mayor Walt Cobb. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Williams Lake mayor reflects on challenges, successes of 2021

Council continues to advocate for physician recruitment in Williams Lake

By Mayor Walt Cobb

Year in review

As the year draws to a close, I am pleased to take this opportunity to reflect on the challenges and successes of 2021.

As I have said often – our business community is the heart of Williams Lake. The city committed to supporting our businesses with a 50 per cent reduction in business license fees for 2021, which will continue for 2022.

Despite the interruptions of COVID-19, our community continues to be a bustling business hub for our region. We have kept the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex operational, our airport has been able to offer flights, and we have new business license applications and development and building permits coming in at a solid pace. In 2021, over 132 building permits were issued, and 119 new business licenses, for a total of 1,106 business licenses. It is a great testament to the strength and resiliency of our community that we have fared so well. Not all communities in B.C. have done as well, and I am proud of our business community and their ability to get through the tough times.

The city was grateful to receive a COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant from the province to help offset revenue losses and provide support throughout our community. The city distributed over $16,000 in Grants in Aid to non-profit organizations to allow them to be able to continue their good work in the city. Council allocated funding to provide organizations that serve our vulnerable populations with funding, including the Seniors Activity Centre, Legion, Canadian Mental Health Association (Cariboo Chilcotin Branch), as well as others.

COVID hardship grants totalling more than $78,000 were provided to just under 20 local community organizations, and the intake for 2022 has now opened.

A big shout out to Massimo Calabrese for working with Interior Health to promote pop up vaccination clinics at Paradise Cinemas. The clinics were very successful, and we are thankful to our community champions and health care workers for helping keep our community healthy.

The Bike Wash Station was installed at the TDC in June, and we have had a positive response to this option that will help local and visiting bikers keep their bikes clean while they enjoy our amazing trails and amenities.

This May, the city of Williams Lake and Williams Lake First Nation conducted a naming ceremony for the Nekw7usem Bridge that connects the RC Cotton trail to Scout Island. The 200-foot pedestrian bridge was completed in 2020, with the support of grants obtained from the Rural Dividend program and the Canada Recreation Program. With 83% of the project funding from government grants, the remainder was funded by the City of Williams Lake. The bridge is a wonderful addition to our community and is well-used and photographed!

With the Stampede on hold for the second year in a row, the City proclaimed June as “Stampede Spirit Month” and encouraged the community to show its Stampede spirit. The Museum set up a great Stampede display in the city hall lobby. I know we all miss the Stampede, and have our fingers crossed that 2022 sees us kicking up some dirt again!

Thanks to our emergency support services volunteers, the Cariboo Community Church, Cariboo Friendship Society and Salvation Army who rallied to help our vulnerable population to shelter from the heat during the extreme temperatures in June and July.

Council continues to advocate for physician recruitment in Williams Lake. While there are shortages throughout the province, we have ongoing dialogue with Interior Health and other related organizations. Housing is a key issue, and we are hopeful that developments such as the Boitanio Mall redevelopment will assist with attraction and retention.

This year’s Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) Business Façade Improvement Program was another success. The City is excited to see the increasing interest and investments in Williams Lake’s downtown and highway commercial areas.

We are excited to have new livestream cameras installed at the complex. This service is available to all user groups, who have the ability to schedule their own content to go live. This is particularly welcome during COVID restrictions, as well as for those who would like to watch games but cannot attend in person.

The city continues to advocate for provincial funding for rehabilitation works for Dog Creek Road from Highway 20 to the municipal boundary to address the ongoing deterioration of the city-maintained portion of Dog Creek Road.

The city was pleased with the lake harvester’s “Maiden Voyage” on Oct. 18 in Williams Lake. We are pressing the province to expand the permit area so we can collect more meaningful data on the aquatic vegetation with aquatic wildlife protection.

The City’s Emergency Operations Centre was activated on March 30, 2021 in response to landslide activity in the vicinity of Frizzi Road and Mackenzie Avenue North. We are pleased that the Evacuation Order and Alert have now been lifted, and that all Green Acres Mobile Home Park residents are expected to be back in their homes by Christmas.

As we come to the end of another year overshadowed by the pandemic, I would like to thank our staff and community for working together to help keep everyone safe and healthy. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our volunteers, essential service providers, non-profit organizations, and businesses for continuing to support our community through these challenging times. I wish everyone a restful and joyful Christmas season, and look forward to a bright 2022.

Walt Cobb is the mayor of Williams Lake.

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