The $25-million city budget question
A water park for Westsyde, better trails and sidewalks and more mountain-biking trails were on the public’s wishlist as Kamloops kicked off its first round of community budget consultations at Interior Savings Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
The session, which covered the parks, recreation and cultural services budget for 2013, is the first of three evening meetings at which the public can ask questions of staff and council and share suggestions for projects they would like to see.
About 50 people showed up for the meeting, not counting media and city staff. The turnout is down from last year, when just over 70 people attended the first information session.
Parks, recreation and cultural services director Byron McCorkell told the crowd his department is asking for an extra $4.65 per household in property taxes this year — or about $500,000. The parks budget is more than $25 million overall, $18 million of which comes from property taxes.
Projects for the year include the development of Aberdeen’s West Highlands Park, a park in Mount Dufferin and new playground equipment in Prince Charles Park in downtown Kamloops.
A $300,000 water park in Westsyde is also on the list — but, it’s one of the items council will have to sign off on or axe in April.
Several Westsyders used the meeting to make a pitch for the project.
“It’s been talked about for about three years now,” said Robert Kelly, former president of the Westsyde Community Development Society, which has committed to paying for 10 per cent of the project.
If the price tag for the full park is too much this year, Kelly suggested the city consider going ahead with only the first phase — installing washrooms and change rooms in the park.
“That would carve that budget almost by half,” he said.
Scott Redgrove said the water park would keep Westsyders in their community, cutting down on car travel and greenhouse-gas emissions from the neighbourhood.
“I think it should be seen as an investment, rather than a cost,” he said.
Twenty-year-old Cody Chambers, the youngest person to lob a question at council, said he wants to see the city put more energy into mountain biking.
“Kamloops should embrace it because it’s getting really big and Kamloops is really renowned for it,” he said. “I’ve met riders that come from France and South American to ride here.”
But, he added, the sport’s boom is leading to environmental damage as riders venture onto private property or head into sensitive areas. He wants to see the city fund more trail creation and management.
McCorkell said the city is looking to create more mountain-biking trails in the new West Highlands Park.
He said the city also has an extensive network mapped out, but as yet uncreated, in the Lac Le Jeune area, but will need to see the mountain-biking community rally around the project if it wants to get it off the ground.
Other ideas pitched at the meeting included: Better connections between city trails, partnering with the Tk’emlups Indian Band to create a new skating arena on band land, a pedestrian bridge between Westsyde and Rayleigh and selling Interior Savings Centre to fund the creation of a new performing-arts centre.
Public consultation on the 2013 budget continues on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. at ISC, with the public-works department on the agenda.
Tournament Capital by the Numbers:
Parks and Recreation as a percentage of the city budget: 17
City parks: 84
Playing fields: 70
Tournament Capital Centre users: 2,000 per day
Flowers planted by city: 55,000
Trees under city care: 14,500
Services in city-owned cemeteries: 234 in 2012
Average tax contribution for parks and fields: $106.67 per household
Source: City of Kamloops