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Kimberley mayor says 2020 had its positives, despite pandemic

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Kimberley’s Mayor, Don McCormick said 2020 had its ups and downs in the community, going over a number of new projects and staffing changes throughout the year.

“2020, as challenging as this has been, has been a good year for Kimberley, it’s been a good year for our residents. If you look at the broader picture, given that we are in a pandemic, this is probably the best place on the planet that we would want to be. We’re very fortunate that life is going on in many respects, albeit a little more cautiously,” said McCormick.

McCormick said City staff has worked hard to maintain operations through the challenging year.

“Despite all of the uncertainty that was thrust upon us in March, the City of Kimberely, and our managers and staff, have managed to keep our service levels at the usually high levels that the public has come to expect,” explained McCormick. “The impact in the background on how work has been conducted has been significant, it’s put quite a burden on staff throughout the city. It’s kudos to staff that they’ve managed to make things happen the way they have. I’m incredibly proud of the work that staff has done this year.”

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The year started out fairly ordinary for the City, but as the pandemic spread across the world, Kimberley, like many other municipalities, had to make some quick adjustments to its operations.

“As we hit March, it had seemed like an ordinary year, but boy did things change. I think the biggest change hasn’t been that things stopped, but all of the face-to-face we were having did indeed stop,” said McCormick. “I think one of the biggest impacts that we’ve had over the course of the year is just things have slowed down because of COVID, but thankfully they haven’t stopped”

The community had a number of significant projects throughout the year, including the completion of New Pioneer Lodges, a 12-unit affordable housing complex, opened in January.

“The Kimberley Seniors Society put together this project, they were attempting to get it done for about 10 years and finally the money from BC Housing and all of the other places came together,” explained McCormick. “It was such an important project for Kimberley and we’re thrilled to have seen the year kick off with this project completed.”

McCormick added that the old Watkins School property was rezoned in 2020 to allow construction of a 42-unit housing complex with several business spaces included.

More: New 12 Unit Affordable Housing Building Unveiled in Kimberley (Jan. 31, 2020)

More: Kimberley approves rezoning for planned development in old Watkins School property (June 10, 2020)

The City also sold both Kimberley Riverside Campground and Bootleg Gap Golf Course for $3-million each. Mayor McCormick said the money will be used to cover infrastructure projects.

“We now have, in excess of $6-million in a reserve to be able to do matching grants, do projects without grants associated with them, or take advantage of opportunities as they come up,” said McCormick. “We’re pretty excited about it, to see that strategy that we embarked on all those years ago paid off. I think the most important thing for the community is that these are still community assets that are providing high value for the benefit of the community.”

The sale of the campground and golf course represents part of a strategy the City has employed to sell non-core assets, to help give more money for projects around Kimberley.

“We don’t talk about that deficit a lot anymore, but four to four and half years ago when we had the asset management study done, I think it was a shock to a lot of people that the infrastructure deficit that was sitting in front of us was daunting. I think, if I remember correctly, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $72 or $74-million. For a community our size, that’s a pretty big hole,” explained McCormick.

More: City of Kimberley successfully sells Kimberley Riverside Campground (June 16, 2020)

More: Kimberley sells Bootleg Gap Golf Course for $3-million (Dec. 3, 2020)

In November, Brett Clark, Kimberley’s Manager of Parks and Facilities resigned, prompting the City to issue a letter about “bullying” faced by City staff.

“It’s truly unfortunate that the situation unfolded the way it did, we lost an awesome manager with the city. I think there was a silver lining, and that was a wake-up call that things aren’t exactly normal, and we need to be more patient and understanding, and we have certainly achieved that,” said McCormick.

More: Staff resignation prompts CAO letter to Kimberley community about public’s “bullying” of City employees (Nov. 2, 2020)

In the local RCMP, Sgt. Chris Newel retired in November, following a 30-year career. Later in the month, Sgt. Steve Woodcox was welcomed as the new detachment commander.

“Chris (Newel) provided awesome service to the community, not only in terms of RCMP responsibilities but as a community ambassador, he did a truly awesome job,” said McCormick. “I had an opportunity to meet with Sgt. Woodcox a couple of times, he’s a community guy as well. He’s well versed in not just community policing, but some of the other aspects of policing that would expect to pay dividends in how we’re managing policing in our community. I think we’ve found a good one, and I’m looking forward to working with Steve over the next several years.

Newel officially retired on November 4th, and Woodcox took over on November 23rd.

More: Kimberley RCMP Sgt. Chris Newel retires following 30-year career (Nov. 4, 2020)

More: New commander steps into Kimberley RCMP (Nov. 26, 2020)

McCormick said he is optimistic about what 2021 has in store for the community. He said Kimberley’s growth has been met with a low vacancy rate for the community’s houses.

“2021 will be a continuation of growth for the City, and as positive as all that growth has been, it has caused some major issues with our housing inventory,” said McCormick. “We have a lot of projects underway or in the planning stages, but these are big projects, and it’ll probably be 12 to 18 months before we see significant inventory coming in. I think 2021 is going to have a really strong focus on bringing in housing inventory.”

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