It was a night of civic engagement — at least for those who weren’t at Sandman Centre to watch the Blazers play or cozily bundled up at home in the face of freezing temperatures.
In all, about 70 people attended Wednesday evening’s public budget meeting, with ideas running the gamut of how the city spends its citizens’ dough.
One way the city put its ear to the ground was with a sticky note board. And it got an earful.
Ideas ranged from the inventive — city-wide Wi-Fi or gravity-driven power generation — to the austere — selling off the Tournament Capital Centre or reducing the amount of city staff.
Other suggestions were common refrains or more middle-of-the-road — add transit to the airport, relocate the downtown CP railyard, improve traffic safety, add more class-based recreation activities and more actively develop the city’s industrial land base, to name a few.
(And some were downright tongue-in-cheek — “Bigger sticky notes.”)
Aberdeen resident Tony Ryan spotted the meeting notice in the newspaper and decided to drop by without any particular issue in mind. He’s lived in Kamloops for 20 years and prefers its tax situation to his former residence, where he was paying much higher property taxes.
“You look at our projections of $67 or $100 increase, and I think that’s manageable. As long as we’re getting value for it,” he said.
Ryan said he’s happy with how his money is being spent, except when it goes to beautification projects.
“I am not the world’s biggest fan of flowers,” he said.
As for where he thought the city could improve?
“I think there’s some simple changes we can make on roads. Just changing the way we get on, mostly the highway approaches.
“And I think we need a performing arts centre. I supported it last time around, and I think this is a better proposal. It can’t be all be about curling rinks and arenas and baseball diamonds,” Ryan said.
Although the performing arts centre was not up for discussion, as it is not part of the budget process, the city did provide a table in the back of the room where people could ask questions and chat with communications staff.
Bryan Strome came to the meeting to discuss ongoing issues in his neighbourhood of Sagebrush in South Kamloops.
Most notably, he’s worried about congestion along Sixth Avenue, Fraser Street and Ninth Avenue. He was able to voice those concerns, but is worried about whether or not they are landing on deaf ears.
“They’re aware of it, but they keep putting in projects on the Ninth Avenue/Fraser Street area. It’s getting congested,” he said.
Mayor Ken Christian said he was pleased with the quality of discussion and said he’d chatted with about 15 people.
He said among the issues he encountered were concerns from seniors on a fixed income now facing tax increases (which he called “a very valid point”), additional recreation services, transit and how the city’s various sectors share the collective tax burden.
Christian said the more immediately solvable issues — like a Cadet hall or more pickleball courts — will be addressed in February at the supplemental budget item meeting.