February 06, 2013 - 9:09 AM
The final round of public budget consultations held by the City of Kamloops ended Tuesday night with the lowest turn out, and the highest rate of pointed public input, of all three meetings.
With only 28 members of the public in attendance - down from the nearly 50 that attended both of the first two meetings – city staff far outnumbered the public but were still put to the test with almost 50 per cent offering up questions, concerns and comments, most of which were very direct and opinionated. Questions and comments also came through both online and Twitter (#kamloopsbudget) feeds, a process new to this year's budget meetings that was put in place to help engage more people.
A variety of issues were broached at the meeting, which focused on the Corporate Services & Community Safety and Development & Engineering Services departments. Among the hot topics was policing, which saw questions about costs as well as whether the city should consider a municipal force instead of the RCMP because the federally run program offers the city “no control, no say in budget.” Several citizens also brought up sidewalk safety in the downtown area - where sidewalks either cease to exist or are eroding dirt paths - while even more had comments for or against the city's transit service, as well as what should be done to improve - or remove - the service.
It seemed that for every person who said council should better control costs, another person had a suggestion that would cost the city funds that had not yet made it on council's radar. Among the most costly suggestions was one of the last of the night, when a downtown resident suggested the city look at planning to put all the hydro wires underground downtown – mostly so that the big, beautiful and old trees would no longer need to be pruned in an unsightly way.
The first meeting was focused on the Parks, Recreation and Culture department and the second saw the Public Works and Utilities department take the stage. Questions and concerns covering biking, walking and hiking trails shared the stage with the repaving of Overlander Bridge at the first meeting while Public Works fielded questions about flooding, drainage and snow clearing.
Overall council was happy with turnouts and input. Coun. Arjun Singh said after the final meeting he was impressed with the overall positivity the events seemed to bring out. While not everyone was polite in their feedback to the city, most were and that was what Singh most appreciated. He pointed out that in general it is easier to listen to positive people and when the overall feel is positive, more people are likely to get involved.
Council will now begin the process of sifting through the feedback they have received as they prepare to finalize the budget for the year. The final deliberations will take place in April.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013