City looking for feedback on 2010 Annual Report

Some of the highlights and challenges of last year are included in the City of Dawson Creek's 2010 Annual Report that was released recently. The report is a detailed summary of the corporation's operations in 2010, including the goals and objectives set by city council and each of the city's departments and the performance standards by which those goals were measured, and the goals and objectives going into this year. It also includes audited financial statements for 2010.

The report will be presented to council for approval at its annual meeting on July 18, but council is seeking input from residents prior to the report being approved.

“We put out this annual report so people can learn more about the community they live in, and we encourage everybody to go online and read it – or if you want a hard copy, you can come down to City Hall – and take a few minutes to see how great your community really is,” said Mayor Mike Bernier.

He said one of the highlights for him in the report is the amount of private investment and new construction that happened last year – 276 new business licences were issued and the value of building permits totaled a record-setting $59 million.

“When most of the country was still trying to get out of an economic downturn, it was one of our busiest year's on record,” said the mayor.

He said it also encouraging to see all the new houses going up and the new residents moving into them – new residential housing starts totalled 76 units in 2010.

“We're seeing a lot of new families move in, and it's really great to get out and meet them and start to hear their issues and concerns and get them involved in the community,” said Bernier.

Of course, a prolonged drought caused the City to implement Stage 4 water restrictions – the highest level possible – last August. The mayor said while the city can`t control the weather, the water shortage did emphasize the need for a new water reservoir to increase the city`s stored capacity, and for the council to implement changes to the city`s water and sewer rate structure.

Those changes were approved late last year and implemented at the beginning of this year, and they have caused quite a bit of controversy, as many residents and business owners are irate over substantial increases to their water bills. City council has maintained the new rate structure is necessary to ensure the physical and financial sustainability of the city`s water and sewer systems, and Bernier said he is not worried about the political consequences of that decision heading into a civil election later this year.

“I don't make my decisions based on if it's going to be popular in the community and get me re-elected – it's is this going to be the right thing for the citizens of Dawson Creek and to make sure the city runs properly. We worked for three years to get all of the information and come up with a plan to have our water fund sustainable so we can continue running the water system.”

Preliminary work begun in 2010 on the new Calvin Kruk Centre for the Arts, being constructed inside in the old post office building downtown. The project hit a snag last October after bids for construction came in substantially over the approved budget, forcing council to seek voter consent to borrow up to $4 million to cover any shortfalls once the project was re-tendered.

Bernier said it was clear from the town hall meetings held and the counter-petition process that the majority of the community supported the project and wanted to see it move forward.

“The arts community is a big part of Dawson Creek, and obviously they were 100 per cent behind this. If you look at any community, they need to have an arts centre, it's kind of an anchor and all part of our well-being of life.”

Council also pursued another ambitious project last year, finalizing a deal with Shell Canada in September that would see the company fund the majority of the construction cost for a facility to treat the citys effluent water in exchange for a large proportion of that treated product over 10 years to use in its natural gas operations. Councils goal was to provide local oil and gas companies with an alternative to using potable water in their operations.

That project was also met with controversy, as some residents questioned whether it was the best deal the city could have got to build the facility, some business owners expressed concerns about there not being enough product available to them once Shell took its portion, and even local pilots were concerned about the resulting reduction to their floatplane base at the airport.

Bernier said council remains firmly behind the agreement.

“It just makes sense when you're trying to save water in your community and trying to reduce the amount of water industry is using to do something like this. Somebody else is paying for it, it's going to save our water, it's keeping the industry in town – there's just so many positives with it that it made sense from council's perspective that we had to pursue this.”

For those interested in providing feedback on the annual report, written comments received before July 12 will be included in the agenda for the July 18 annual meeting, though comments will still be received at the meeting prior to the final approval of council. For enquiries about the report, contact Brenda Ginter, director of corporate administration, by fax at 250-782-3202, by email at bginter@dawsoncreek.ca or by mail at Box 150, Dawson Creek, B.C., V1g 4G4.

The full annual report has been attached here for your convenience.