Vernon Mayor Answers Chamber Questions
After the recent Local Leaders Lunch, Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming was asked to provide further detail on a number of matters important to Chamber members.
The Chamber provided a transcript below, which it edited for brevity.
Is Vernon prepared to work with the provincial and federal governments to resolve climate change issues?
The City of Vernon is currently preparing a climate change action plan for both the city's operations and to engage the wider community. Working with the provincial and federal governments will be key to making progress in our city and region.
As the city is running out of the ability to sprawl, what is the city doing to diversify the housing market within the downtown core to create an economic benefit to local businesses?
The city through its official community plan (2008), decided to limit the sprawl, focusing development within our existing, built-up and designated areas. The city provides reduced development cost charges for the centre neighbourhood (including the downtown core), refurbished infrastructure (lowering off-site costs), enhanced public transit primarily in the core and constructed (and constructing) a multi-use path network for ease of moving around the city without a vehicle. The city has also supported many private, public and not-for-profit residential projects that are focused on increasing the density (duplex or four-plex where previously there was a single home, plus small townhouse developments) to add affordable homes primarily in or near our centre neighbourhood.
If there is a new recreation facility next to Kal Tire Place, has the old recreation centre been considered for expanded cultural use such as the art gallery project?
There is a study currently underway to look at all our facilities that will inform us on the optimum use of the existing recreation centre. Planning and fundraising for the new art gallery, museum and presentation space is underway.
Mayor Cumming, what specifically will you do to address the impact of crime and vagrancy perpetrated by a segment of the street entrenched in order to mitigate the catastrophic impact on business?
As the vacancy rate declines, the homeless count (now standing at more than 160) rises. The city and many others, well before I was elected, have been working with the province to increase funding for supportive housing at the base level. Two new facilities have now been constructed, providing shelter and housing for 100-plus people. Additional housing is being built by not-for-profit societies in the community with the support of the provincial government.
The issue of crime is separate from homelessness, and the city has increased the number of RCMP, with annual additional cost of more than $1.2 million, with a full complement of 56 officers starting in January 2019. Our officer-in-charge is well aware of the city's concern and has directed specific resources to focus on the downtown core. The city has also increased the annual budget for bylaw officers and brought in specific programs to target clean-up.
The drug use issue is a Canada wide issue for all communities of Vernon's size and larger, particularly in the west. The Ministry of Health is pouring resources into this issue, primarily focused on treatment and rehabilitation including street level workers and therapists in our community. The city is in constant contact with our regional health agency (IHA), encouraging more focus on this issue locally.
Can you provide some insight as to why the cost of residential water is so high compared to other B.C. communities?
Each community, and in this case sub-region has its own water supply and treatment challenges. Greater Vernon Water (GVW) has had to face significant capital cost upgrades to treat the incoming water to meet the new drinking water standards enacted by the province. It is important for Chamber members to be in contact with other Okanagan communities, such as Kelowna, and West Kelowna, where water rates are expected to raise significantly as they address similar water quantity and quality issues. Domestic water costs in other Okanagan communities are expected to exceed Greater Vernon's over the next few years. GVW has also been successful at attracting funding from senior levels of government, minimizing the additional costs of meeting the upgraded drinking water standards.