Kelowna city hall implements cuts and co-ordinates plans for COVID-19 - InfoNews

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Kelowna city hall implements cuts and co-ordinates plans for COVID-19

March 30, 2020 - 2:26 PM

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran announced Monday that the City is tightening its belt in preparation for the economic fallout of COVID-19, by doing everything from lay-offs of part time staff to halting expansion plans to the airport.

"Every dollar we spend has a direct economic impact (on) our community," Basran said in a speech today, March 30. "We're aware that anything we cancel or postpone has an impact on someone or some business locally."

That said, the immediate focus is on costs reductions considering revenue is projected to decrease and effective immediately staff have been directed to reduce operating budgets through reducing base budgets for non-essential and new spending – this includes things like professional consulting, materials and supplies, purchasing and contract services along with other specific area reductions.

A hold had been placed on hiring except for critical positions approved by City Manager; currently approximately 90 positions are being held vacant and 64 part-time positions were laid off.

There's also a hold on all non-essential travel and training for staff, a review of capital projects to look at potential deferrals and minimizing capital expansion at the Kelowna International Airport and reduce operations reflective of current airline traffic

"In addition, City Council has directed staff to review the provisional budget presented to Council in December 2019 and look at what might be eliminated or deferred. Council’s expectation is the final budget, slated to be presented to Council on April 27, will look different than the one approved in late 2019," Basran said.

"Local governments cannot run a deficit and must continue to provide many essential services the community relies on including but not limited to police services, fire, water, roads and transportation and solid waste."

The City is also working on an approach to co-ordinate efforts of Central Okanagan business community, both public and private, to overcome the immediate economic challenges of the pandemic and to proactively deal with the impacted sectors of the local economy.

"We are encouraged that the measures senior levels of government have taken to date and their signal that more announcements are ahead (that) will help to mitigate the impact (on) our citizens and businesses," he said. "We’ll have more detail on the regional approach in the days ahead as that plan comes together."

On the public health front, the City is following provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders for City operations – closing buildings to the public, keeping a safe physical distance, working from home, enhancing remote services and maintaining clean workplaces.

"City staff have been in conversations with their provincial counterparts in light of the new provincial order announcement on Friday. In general, the City will comply with whatever the province requires, and in fact is already doing much of what was announced," Basran said.

"For now, the provincial order mandates local Bylaw Enforcement Officers to act as educators to anyone not complying with the B.C. Medical Health Officer’s orders for things like physical distancing in parks or businesses. They can also report situations of continued non-compliance to Provincial public health authorities for their enforcement if needed."

The RCMP has been handling the majority of these complaints as they have both the jurisdiction and the authority to do so. The City is working with the RCMP to assume the first response duties, and is working with Interior Health to ensure responsive processes are in place.

"We have also worked with our regional government neighbours to formulate a list of possible public buildings that might be needed for a variety of uses if the pandemic overwhelms existing services, such as food warehouses, care homes, isolation areas and hospitals," he said.

Basran said the province’s suspension of local states of emergencies for municipalities in B.C. aligns with the City's decision not to declare one. The provincial state of emergency provides all the necessary powers to address the immediate needs in the community for safety and compliance with the provincial medical health officer's orders.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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