As the city assesses the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak on its budget, the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce is calling for it to proceed with infrastructure projects.
In a letter to the city released on Thursday afternoon, the chamber urged the city to continue with as many scheduled projects as possible.
“In this time of crisis for the local economy, it is critical that public bodies do what they can to generate economic activity,” the letter stated. “And in a time of lower public activity, it is an ideal time to do these projects with minimum disruption to the public and maximum efficiency.”
Capital projects planned, but not yet started, are on hold — including the Canada Games Pool maintenance job and Tranquille sewer main upgrade, both $13.5-million endeavours — as they await direction from city council.
This week, council directed staff to return with a report later this month that will identify a hybrid approach to cost-cutting, as the city works to balance its budget in anticipation of millions of dollars worth of lost revenue in coming months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That report will include projects that cannot or should not proceed this year and will be deferred to a future time. A report on the preliminary financial impacts of COVID-19 on the city’s budget notes capital projects underway that will continue and four projects deemed “essential”: the Mission Flats landfill berm, installing standby power for southwest one and two zones, Aberdeen groundwater wells and groundwater well commissioning.
Another issue raised by the city has been access to materials.
Kamloops Chamber of Commerce president Tyson Andrykew said the board discussed the issue as deliberations occur at city hall and wanted to provide a business perspective
He said if money is available and crews can follow physical-distancing guidelines, the city should continue projects during this time for both economic stimulation and because of the lack of disturbance to conduct such projects, with people staying home. Various contractors and myriad workers are involved in city capital projects.
Andrykew said that instead of postponing the Canada Games Pool project, for example, this may be the right time to do it, if money is available, as the community experiences down time.
The Canada Games Pool is not currently being utilized as all city recreation centres remain closed.
Work on the pool building was scheduled to begin at the end of June and be completed at the end of December, during which time all amenities inside the aquatic centre would be closed to the public.
Continuing with the project as planned, while people are already at home, Andrykew said, would be more efficient.
“You’re just kind of prolonging the hurt right now,” he said.