January 01, 2014 - 8:28 AM
VERNON – For Vernon city council this year, it was all about policy creating plans and policies to spend taxpayer’s money sustainably.
Mayor Rob Sawatzky took a moment as 2013 winds down to have a look back and reflect.
The mayor has been in office for 2 years now and is no longer a political rookie.
Sawatzky said one of the biggest projects council finished was the Master Water Plan in conjunction with Greater Vernon Services.
“It’s a $100 million plan imposed upon us by Interior Health,” he said. “We had to come up with the details of the plan this year. It’s the biggest single capital project the community’s ever undertaken.”
The money will be spent in chunks of $5 million to $10 million over the next several years to bring the quality of Greater Vernon’s water supply up to a higher standard.
Council also tackled a core services review with the help of business consultants KPMG. It was over a year in the making and includes over 140 recommendations. Although the mayor prefers the word ‘opportunities’ instead of ‘recommendations.’
Council also re-worked their strategic plan. It’s a road map for how they’d like to see things unfold over a five-year period.
A major part of that is the Strategic Infrastructure Maintenance and Investment plan.
“That’s another very large project to make sure all the community’s assets are maintained in a financially sustainable manner,” Sawatzky said. “It hasn’t been done for the last number of decades.”
Sawatzky pointed out the more roads, sewers, water lines and facilities the city builds the more it costs to maintain them.
The city will complete the final stages early in the new year.
Infrastructure maintenance originally cost the city about $18 million a year. Sawatzky said council’s major goal was to bring that cost down and to raise the revenue so the two meet at a sustainable level.
The city also struck a deal with the Regional District of the North Okanagan to take care of the maintenance of the recreational facilities shared by Vernon, Areas B and C, and Coldstream. Vernon city staff will do the work for the next 5 years.
Sawatzky admits it’s been a year of hard work for city council because of the large public policy projects they bit off.
There is all the routine work a civic politician does every day to keep things working, “and then you take on these large, long-term plans and projects - it’s an awful lot of extra work.”
He said he has a feeling of “satisfaction that all of the elected officials and staffs worked together cooperatively to accomplish this.”
He’s also a little fatigued.
The councilors have become a team according to Sawatzky.
“Everyone works constructively and positively.”
He said it’s impressive considering they aren’t well paid.
“Nobody is in it for the money. They are just there to give their time and interest for the good of the community.”
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014