Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick put out another update on Monday, April 6, detailing what’s going on behind the scenes at the city, saying that although it feels that another week has passed and we are essentially where we were last week, this is not the case.
Going back to last week’s discouraging of non-essential travel, McCormick said that despite direction from Public Health Officer Bonnie Henry, and warnings of the negative consequences of ignoring her directive, people are continuing to travel to Kimberley and the East Kootenay.
“These are people who just don’t understand that the largest risk to all of us is transmission, and not whether you are sick or not,” McCormick said.
He added that he’s taken numerous calls from Albertans and other residents from around B.C. who own homes in Kimberley and are upset that he’s asked them to stay home until told it is safe to travel again.
“Ownership and paying taxes does not make it acceptable to travel here at a time when that travel puts our community at a higher level of risk. No matter where you live in the country, the message is ‘stay home’. I am not picking on any one.”
He added that the fact that our community has a lesser population density does not mean we are at less risk of contagion.
The release also detailed the operations of the City of Kimberley amid this crisis, stating that their emergency operations centre (EOC) is at Level 2, meaning EOC staff has been expanded to include a Risk Management Officer and additional section chiefs may be added as needed.
City CAO Scott Sommerville, who along with his managers are also tasked with maintaining core city services, is the EOC director with Fire Chief Rick Prasad assuming the role of Planning Chief and Corporate Officer Maryse Leroux the Risk Management Officer.
“We are fortunate to have this team looking out for the community. Council fully supports their actions.”
McCormick reiterated that though City hall is closed to the public, the City of Kimberley remains open, with Sommerville’s number-one priority being staff saftey, followed by the continuance of core services.
In addition to the previously announced deferral of utility payments, the City is also temporarily terminating fees associated with property owners who temporarily terminate their water, sewer and other utilities while they’re away for the winter or their commercial or residential properties are vacant.
“That may sound like a small thing but again, as a municipality, because of legislation, we’re only able to do so much,” McCormick told the Bulletin.
Another big thing they’re waiting for is legislation to change at the provincial level that would allow the City to defer property for residents who would qualify, for example those living on a fixed income who are experiencing a strain due to the taxes.
“The idea is if they’re putting a strain, if you’re retired, on fix income and the taxes are putting a strain on your fixed income, you can build up a deferral and when your home eventually sells, your city would then be paid those taxes,” McCormick explained. “So it’s a tax deferral program and the province is now looking at expanding that tax deferral program and at such time that they allow that, we’ll be able to look at implementing that as well.”
All of these things have implications on the City’s budget. City Council is meeting on Monday, April 6 to discuss the budget for the balance of 2020 and the potential implication, not only in terms of short-term relief, but other short-term implications or risks that might be posed to property tax and utility revenue as well as grants.
About two thirds of the revenue the City gets comes from property taxes and utility fees with the remaining third coming from grants from the provincial and federal governments.
“With a potential risk to payment of either utilities or property taxes, plus a potential risk to grants that may or may not be there, it could have a significant impact on our budget for 2020 and even 2021,” McCormick said. “So we need to review what that impact might be and what that might mean for city services and level of services that we’re providing today.”
The City needs to ensure that there is money in place for capital projects to go forward both this year and next.
“Those are some of the considerations that council will be looking at and as soon as we’ve got an understanding of what those implications are we’ll be communicating that to the community,” McCormick explained.
McCormick also told the Bulletin that he’d like to give his most genuine cudos to the health authorities, from the Provincial Health Authorities down for the way they’ve been getting organized and dealing with this crisis and working with the fear of not reacting quickly enough.
“Between our clinic here in Kimberley and the Cranbrook Hospital, spaces have been freed up in the event that we see a spike in hospitalized cases, heaven forbid ICU, but certainly hospitalized cases and they’ve done an awesome job of preparing.”
He also commended the actions of groups like Rob Davidson’s Socially Distant Cooking Class who are providing an incredible source of humour and inspiration in these tough times. He said that he and his wife have gone back and taken up some of the recipes for their dinners at home.
“I am one of those who is very critical of social media for the noise that’s out there, but I will say that social media during this time has been an incredible source of humour and of ideas and things that are being done by people that are not only interesting but inspiring.”