South Nelson elementary school Grade choir opened the annual City of Nelson's annual reception at the Prestige on Monday night.

City reception highlights Nelson priorities, accomplishments and longtime staff

Mayor John Dooley hosted city staff, dignitaries and special guests Monday night at the City of Nelson’s Annual Reception.

Welcomed by the angelic voices of the South Nelson elementary school Grade 4 choir, Mayor John Dooley hosted city staff, dignitaries and special guests Monday night at the City of Nelson’s Annual Reception.

Held at the Prestige Lakeside Hotel and Resort, Mayor Dooley provided an overview of the city’s accomplishments in 2013, its plans for 2014 and council’s priorities for this year and next.

“City staff have worked very hard to put us in a sustainable financial situation, like we are now,” the mayor told the crowd of over 150.

The Mayor highlighted council’s priorities for 2013, which included:

• ongoing infrastructure maintenance and improvement

• the success and vision of the publicly-consulted Downtown Waterfront Plan

• the city’s commitment to sustainability on all fronts

• benefits of shared services with the provincial government and the Regional District of Central Kootenay

• the aim for continued innovation in changing and challenging times

Mayor Dooley updated the festive crowd on the accomplishments of all the city’s departments this year, those include the core services of administration and finance, Nelson Hydro, development services, the Nelson Public Library, the Nelson Police Department, the sperations and engineering department, the Nelson and District Youth Centre, and Nelson Fire Rescue, which celebrated its 100 anniversary this year.

Dooley noted that while development in Nelson was slower than usual this past year, there are a number of exciting projects slated to start in 2014, including Nelson Commons and Shambhala’s restoration of the Savoy Hotel.

“And that’s a good thing,” the Mayor noted, “because if your city’s not growing, it’s dying.”

Stressing the importance of the dedication city staff and workers have shown throughout the year, the Mayor presented six City of Nelson employees with long service awards. Fire Chief Simon Grypma was honoured for his 35 years with the department.

“I think Simon was born at the fire hall,” the mayor laughed.

Building inspector Bernie Zimmer, Nelson Hydro’s Carl Olsson, Public Works employee Ron Van Zanden and Bill Reisterer have been with the city for 25 years. The library’s teen and literacy service coordinator, Joanna Harris, has been on staff for 20, as have fire fighters Rick Maida and Dirk Jonker.

The City of Nelson’s cultural ambassador was also named for 2014, by the city’s cultural development officer, Joy Barrett. Filmmaker and film instructor Amy Bohigan takes over the reigns from local theatre great Lucas Myers, 2013’s ambassador. Bohigan — who comically threw on a silk sash her Mom made when she learned of her daughter’s appointment — is in the midst of producing a 10-short film series for the Knowledge Network.

“I’m going to wear this every day next year,” Bohigan beamed, finagling the white and red printed sash into place. “But Lucas,” she added, “I guess you can where it for the rest of December.”

Beyond the priority highlights and staff awards, achievement recaps of the past year were ample. The mayor showed images and stats on some of the city’s numerous projects underway or completed, including:

• Nelson Hydro’s downtown conversion project and Rosement’s new sub station

• the installment of the city’s high speed broadband fibre optic system

• on-going water and sewer line conversion and storm water outfall improvements

• new parks on Davies Street and 7th Street

• public art installments throughout the city

• the new skate and bike park in Rosemont

• the Hall Street corridor plan and on-going Downtown Waterfront Plan efforts

• the Zoning Bylaw review and the drafting of the city’s new Official Community Plan

• the additions of the new Vicinity buses to Nelson Transit’s fleet

The mayor closed with thanks to dozens of Nelson volunteers who offer their time and expertise on the city’s numerous boards and committees, and city council — which he says stands out across Canada for its balance of women and men.

“We’ve got a terrific group of councilors,” the mayor said, “municipal governments across the country are trying to get more women involved in city government, and Nelson is way ahead of where other municipalities want to be.”

“We’re all really blessed to live here,” Dooley said, “it’s the best place in the world.”

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