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Cranbrook Mayor gives State of the City speech

Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Price gave a State of the City speech to members of the local Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, providing updates on homelessness, crime, municipal expenses and projects within the community.

Budget

Cranbrook residents are faced with an 8.5 per cent municipal tax hike this year, and Mayor Price said there are reasons behind that jump.

“The cost of services has outpaced the financial ability to provide the same level of services,” said Price. “The current municipal government funding model needs to change in order for municipalities to control our taxes.”

Price said municipalities get 12 cents for every dollar of taxes paid in Canada.

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The city has also been hit hard by inflationary costs, just as residents.

“In 2017/2018, one block of roads with curb and gutter, sidewalk water main and services – the whole thing- would cost between $675,000 and $750,000,” said Price. “With current estimates, for 2023, we’re looking at $1.3 million for 300 metres of city block. That’s what municipal governments are dealing with.”

Price said Cranbrook has a further disadvantage, as the city lacks industrial lands, which can be a big player in the city’s tax base.

“We are out of industrial lands right now. Developing new industrial lands is essential and staff has been working with senior government to make the development of a new industrial area a priority,” said Price.

To expand that tax base and reduce future tax increases, Price said the city needs to work on attracting development.

“I know some people are opposed to high-density, but consider that each door in a high-density development brings in about $1,400 in taxes,” said Price. “Building new revenue sources through building and economic development must be a priority of Cranbrook going forward.”

Homelessness & crime

Price said the city has been taking serious steps toward addressing Cranbrook’s social issues as much as they can.

“Most of the responsibility with issues relating to homelessness is on the senior level of government, but recognizing that one of the purposes of a municipality – if you look at the Community Charter – is to foster the social wellbeing of the community,” said Price. “We have some form of mandated and moral responsibility to deal with homelessness because it’s impacting the community in general, businesses and the average citizen.”

Price said most of the city’s unhoused population is made up of Cranbrook and East Kootenay locals.

“We’re a regional centre, we have the hospital and all the regional services,” said Price. “I view this as more of a regional issue, and so does council.”

The RDEK has chipped in and provided $85,000 to help set up the social development coordinator positions.

“That position has, I think, done wonders,” said Price. “You might not see it out in the community yet, but we believe in building the base and getting the groundwork done, then you develop action items and move forward.”

Mayor Price said Cranbrook has been working with the RCMP to develop a local policing model.

“A lot of the time, police get their directions out of Ottawa or Kelowna,” said Price. “We’re trying to drive towards a City of Cranbrook model for community policing.”

The city has approved funding to expand the local detachment with four new watch clerks and two more RCMP officers.

“Our detachment currently has a full complement of staffing for the first time in over a decade, that’s commendable,” said Price.

Wildfire

Price said wildfire is the greatest natural disaster threat the community faces.

“We’re pretty fortunate where we’re at. We don’t get the major ice storms, floods, hurricanes or anything, so wildfires are probably our biggest concern,” said Price.

Price said Cranbrook began wildfire risk reduction projects in 2005.

“All we could do was take advantage of the amount of money Victoria had available for us,” said Price. “Since 2005, I don’t think we’ve missed any opportunities for a grant. With half a million dollars, you’re getting something done and it’s making a difference.”

Price emphasized the importance of emergency preparedness.

“You can have all the aircraft and all the machinery in the world and you’re not going to be able to stop these wildfires anymore,” said Price. “What we have to do is be ready here, with our emergency program, to react to that and take care of the citizens.”

Cranbrook has merged its Emergency Operations Centre services with the RDEK.

“I’ve been in probably hundreds of EOCs through my career, and this is as good as it gets,” said Price. “This program the RDEK, City of Cranbrook and East Kootenay has, is recognized throughout the province as being one of the elite.”

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