Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian has looked back at the year that was and forward at the year to come, with the proposed Kamloops Centre for the Arts looming as “the big issue.”
The beginning of 2019 brought the resurrection of plans for an arts centre in the city. Last January, the Fawcett family presented its vision to council for a performing-arts centre at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Seymour Street. In the final months of this year, council approved sending the proposal to referendum. That April 4 vote is what Christian is calling the “big issue” of 2020.
“That will be, if it’s approved, I think transformational for Kamloops,” Christian said. “Particularly for our hospitality and tourism, but plus the whole support for arts and culture, which I think is something we need to invest in.”
As for 2019 as a whole, Christian said he is pleased with the way in which council has come together.
Elected in late October of 2018, the past year has more or less marked the start of a new council term, which brought four new faces to city hall. Since that time, council put together a strategic plan, which identifies goals it hopes to achieve over the next few years.
“A highlight for me is the way that the new council has really come together and rolled up their sleeves and bring a very energetic and high-quality work ethic to the job,” Christian told KTW in a phone interview during the final days of 2019. “I’m pleased about the strategic plan and I’m pleased about the operational goals that we’ve have put in place around that.”
In those days leading to a calendar change, the city was on pace, for a third consecutive year, to set a record for building permit values. Significant development plans are in the works for the Tranquille Corridor in North Kamloops, downtown and along McGill Road near Thompson Rivers University, areas to which Christian has referred as the city’s three cores.
“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “I think we’re very close to breaking a record in terms of our building numbers.”
Council milestones in 2019, according to the mayor, included planning around recreation and downtown and support for social-housing projects, such as Spero House in North Kamloops.
“What I like about our approach is we diversify those around the city where there’s a need and it’s not just in one particular area,” he said.
Street issues continue to be on the mind of the mayor, who cited the opioid crisis, noting similar problems exist in communities outside of Kamloops.
Looking ahead, Christian pointed to the city’s plan to maintain the billions of dollars of assets in Kamloops, from buildings to streets to underground pipes. Projects this year will include sewer work from 12th Street to Desmond Street in Brocklehurst, Sandman Centre improvements and major maintenance at the Canada Games Aquatic Centre.
“We’ve got some big projects on the books and it’s all part of our reasoned five-year financial plan, that provides financial predictability for taxpayers of the city,” Christian said.