I would like to wish everyone the best in 2012 as we get down to business at City Hall. We are starting off with two new city councillors who will bring a fresh viewpoint on some of the ongoing issues.
Initially, we will be reviewing last year’s budget as compared to 2012 budget. If last year is any indicator, we will not have a lot of wiggle room to fund any new programs or projects. From all indications the majority of citizens want the city to maintain the current public service levels, but at the same time, do not want an increase in property taxes. This is going to be difficult as the inflation rate for 2011 is approximately 2.2 per cent which affects most of the city services and projects.
We are lucky that Nelson Hydro is able assist by putting approximately $2 million into the city budget. As well, Nelson Hydro is in the process of developing a system of loaning property owners a fixed amount of funds to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes. The loan would be paid off monthly on their hydro bill. This will aid in the city’s goal to improve the energy efficiency of private homes, similar to the city buildings, which will lower the overall carbon footprint in Nelson.
Unfortunately with high cost of Nelson Transit service, it could be difficult to convince the rest of council to restore Sunday bus services with the new city buses. On the other hand, having Sunday bus service provided with an older bus run by a non-profit society will not work for a number of reasons. While it is promised by BC Transit to have public input into future transit changes, it is unfortunate that public meetings did not occur last summer before any changes to the bus service were made.
Furthermore, council will continue to upgrade the bylaws to make them current to the changing conditions. As well, there could be contentious issues involved with any changes to the animal control bylaw in dealing with dogs on Baker and Vernon Streets and allowing backyard chickens, etc. The biggest problem with dogs all around the city is some owners do not respect or adhere to the current by-laws, ruining it for all dog owners. Over the holidays, for example, there was dog do-do on the sidewalk in front of Valhalla Pure store on Baker Street, go figure?
With council support, The City has applied for the Provincial Community Recreation Program funding for the skateboard park project. Optimistically, if successful, the skatepark society may be able to begin construction in 2012.
So as we start the new three-year term, there is still a lot to work to keep all of council and our city staff quite busy. Going into the Year of the Dragon and as we continue to live in interesting times, I do wish everyone a happy, healthy new year.
Robin Cherbo is a Nelson city councillor who shares this Wednesday space with his colleagues around the table