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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Mayor Lori Ackerman says she is looking forward to tackling next year’s budget, which she believes is one of the biggest challenges the City will face to start 2022.

“I’m looking forward to a real opportunity to battle out what our budget is going to look like and how we’re going to manage it and maintain it,” said Ackerman during an episode of Moose Talks.

“We have to have our budget into Victoria by May 15th. But, we can at least internally get that capital budget approved so that our staff can start working on it.”

Ackerman also wants to continue to keep the Province’s “feet to the fire” when it comes to issues such as the royalty review.

The City had also just got the terms of reference for the North Peace Leisure pool replacement finalized, which outlines the scope and limitations of the project.

“Oh, my heavens, that needs to be replaced or a complete overhaul.”

Another feather in the City’s cap is the Festival Plaza that opened in July. Council approved the project in 2019, and Kalmar Construction started building the plaza last summer. The total cost of the plaza was approximately $3.2 million, with $1.9 million coming from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Grant.

Ackerman says the plaza is an example of the City taking a planned and principled approach over the years. The City stashed away cash received from the Peace River Agreement signing bonus in 2015 for the project.

“There were a lot of shiny bobbles that we could have spent that money on. But Council, we kept our feet to the fire on that one, and through some further funding and agreements with our neighbours and the Northern development Trust, we were able to enhance it and what a spectacular building we have.”

The City marked another milestone with the completion of the second phase of work on 100th Street. The project started in May and opened to traffic in October after it was hit with a few delays due to supply chain constraints related to materials ordered in February.

Similar to many projects across Canada, Ackerman says there may be some supply issues moving into the next phase of work next summer as well.

The summer months were spent replacing the entire infrastructure from 96th Avenue to 99th Avenue, including sewer, water, and electrical.

Ackerman says there were a lot of concerns from residents about what to expect with the 100 Street rebuild, including possible angle parking or bike lanes.

“You’ll notice that there’s no angle parking, there are no bike lanes, and people, for the most part, are doing really well.”

Ackerman believes the rebuild will provide businesses owners along 100th Street, and eventually, 100th Avenue will be able to utilize their outdoor space more.

“I think it’s remarkable. I think what it’s really going to do is provide an opportunity for the businesses along 100 Street and eventually part of 100 Avenue to really use their outdoor space and to enjoy the summers that we have, and maybe even a little bit of wintertime.”

Ackerman says she can’t wait for life to eventually get back to a sense of normality amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Until that time comes, the City has had to abide by provincial health order, which Ackerman says some residents don’t quite understand.

“I get so many calls from people that live even outside of the City that think that it’s the City of Fort St. John that is doing all of this stuff and it’s not. We are incorporated as a government within the Province of British Columbia.”

“We follow the legislation of the Local Government Act and the community charter. Now you just go right ahead and try not to follow those and see how far you get.”

Once restrictions are placed, affected organizations get together to see what that means for City facilities and activities.

“For example, our recreational facilities. The BC recreation associations have a connection with the public health office staff. When the public health orders come out, they get together, they determine how they’re going to manage, how they do their sports within those health orders, and then they send that out to the local leagues and the local minor hockey associations and stuff like that. That’s how things are managed. The staff have done an absolutely tremendous job adapting our events and trying to work with these associations to manage things.”

Moving into 2022, Ackerman says it’s important the community takes care of each other as the pandemic continues.

“It’s going to be really tough.”

Watch the complete 2021 wrap-up with Ackerman on Moose Talks below:

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