KELOWNA - Visitors to downtown should soon notice the place is a fair bit tidier and safer with a significant boost to the Downtown Kelowna Association’s cleaning and security budgets.
Kelowna city council approved this week an increase in the association’s annual levy to $804,000 from $781,000 last year. The levy is applied to all business and light industrial properties within the downtown area.
“We found in a survey of members that is what they valued the most,” says Peggy Athans, executive director of B.C.’s longest running business improvement area. “When membership is mandatory, you listen to what they have to say.”
Strategic priorities for the assocation are decided by the member-elected board of directors and this year the focus is on the clean team (the blue shirts) and the downtown on-call security team (the red shirts).
“With all the revitalization downtown, there's more and more people and that means more garbage,” Athans says. The clean team budget budget is going up $31,000 to $130,000 to help cover the cost of a second ATV, equipped with a pressure washer, leaf blower and industrial strength vacuum. Members can phone in requests for spot clean-ups.
“The members liked the service so much we bought another one,” Athans says, adding the vehicles have boosted productivity by a wide margin. “We used to have one seasonal worker and a part-timer with a broom and a dustpan."
The association last year bolstered its downtown security presence, known locally as the downtown ambassadors, and will be spending $227,000 this year, after adding Sundays and extending daytime hours to 9 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on the weekends.
“People want a safe, secure environment and that’s what we try to provide,” says Athans. She dismisses criticism that the ambassadors are just there to chase away the homeless, but instead says they will sometimes end up helping them by connecting them with social services.
“We have a good relationship with 99 per cent of the homeless downtown. We represent all business and property owners. We will ask people to move along if they are loitering or making people feel uncomfortable,” says Athans. “But we don’t use aggression. We will ask them three times and if they don’t want to go, we will just walk away.... As long as they are not doing anything illegal, they have a right to stay where they are and they have human rights, we all have human rights."
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