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BEPPLE: Tempers could flare at Kamloops budget meeting this month

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
February 12, 2016 - 12:18 PM

Things are heating up leading up to City of Kamloops’ Feb. 23 budget meeting. That meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Parkside Lounge at the Sandman Centre. Budget meetings don’t necessarily make one think of drama and tension, but this meeting may be just that.

The format of the meeting is “round-table”, where one or two staff plus a city councillor sit down with a handful of the public to listen to their concerns about how Kamloops’ taxpayers’ money should or should not be spent. The budget meeting is where individuals and groups go to lobby for what they want. For example, the new water park out in Westsyde was lobbied for at a past budget meeting.

The mayor and all the city councillors, plus every senior manager from every department of the city will be there. Each department will have a different table. One for Parks and Recreation, another for Public Works, and so on. Every 10 to 15 minutes, people rotate tables. Something like speed dating with money.

This year, there are a number of groups who will be coming to the budget meeting who may not be so happy. Unhappy citizens can lead to conflict.

The Westsyde pool and Brocklehurst pool supports will likely show up in force. Both groups fear for the closure of their pools. The Westsyders are a well-organized group, having lobbied successfully in many past budget meetings for repeated upgrades to their pool and parks. They will be likely joined by the Brocklehurst supporters. The Brocklehurst group hasn’t come to budget meetings in the past but are getting well-organized with a petition and more.

Tell anyone that their park or pool may close, and there will be opposition. Westsyders and Brocklheists will want the ear of city council and staff. It may be difficult for other groups to be heard. Pickleballers, rugby players and BMXers are all looking for money in this year’s budget so are sure to show up. The different groups will be lobbying hard for their positions, and fighting to be heard above the other groups as well. Tempers may raise.

Another group which may show up is the Barnhartvale citizens who want improvements to Todd Road. They have been coming for a number of years. The current plan is to improve the road in 2018, but they want it done sooner. There has been frustration in past meetings, and there could be again for residents pushing to have the City spend money sooner than budgeted, and asking for improvements that meet residents’ needs. Some think things are going too slowly. Others aren’t convinced the City will follow through. Feedback was that some people were a bit heated at the recent community input meeting on Todd Road.

Budget meetings have groupies. It may seem hard to believe, but there are some people who show up at budget meetings year after year for pure enjoyment. They like to talk to all the city councillors and hear what the City has planned.

But most people don’t show up to a budget meeting unless they have a specific goal in mind. The tension rises as different people or groups vie for the attention of one mayor and eight councillor and a small group of senior staff. If someone doesn’t feel they’re being heard, they get frustrated.

My advice to all the groups going is to start with a thank you. Thank the City for what they’ve done so far. When tensions go up and points get heated, take a step back and tell the City what they’re doing right. It will make them more receptive to an individual or group’s ideas. A smile and laugh goes a long way in convincing someone else that you’re talking sense. Even if you’re group is not happy, stay positive. It will win more arguments in the end.

See you on budget night!

— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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