Kimberley gears up for growth
Kimberley’s city administration is creating an environment that supports growth and improvements
At city hall in Kimberley, B.C., customer service is a priority and a yardstick for measuring progress. The city’s administration, including mayor Don McCormick, the city council and CAO Scott Sommerville, agree that it’s their job to make their customers—Kimberley’s taxpayers—happy with the way tax dollars are being spent.
“Our focus on customer service is about making sure that the taxpayers feel their money is in good hands and they are getting good value,” said McCormick. “Our role is to provide the environment and support required for change to happen.”
McCormick believes that when people have a high level of confidence in city hall, they tend to be willing to invest within their community, and that builds dynamic change and momentum. McCormick is proud to see that in Kimberley, new businesses and expansions are happening in abundance.
In addition to customer service and communication strategy, City administration and staff are focused on three priorities: finding new sources of revenue in order to avoid imposing large tax increases; financial accountability; and infrastructure renewal.
For years Kimberley has hoped to attract new industrial ventures to provide better paying jobs than those available in the tourism industry. However, the city is sadly lacking in appropriately zoned land to accommodate new industry. McCormick hopes to begin to alleviate the situation within a couple of years. To that end, the City is having discussions with Teck regarding lands that might be available for an industrial park.
In the short term, Kimberley is about to get environmental certification on about 10 hectares of property that has been under environmental reclamation for many years. Also, a five-hectare industrial parcel in Marysville, owned by Tyee Homes, will be developed as a light industrial park.
Converting its assets
The sale of unproductive assets has generated some new revenue for the City of Kimberley. Several City-owned properties have been sold and the money has been put into the Kimberley Reserve Fund to be used for unbudgeted projects. The properties will now generate tax income, and taxes will be levied on future improvements as well.
“Sale of the properties—particularly the residential lots—has also helped to fuel the construction industry,” McCormick said. “This year, to the end of September, we issued in excess of $9 million in building permits, including permits for 24 single-family homes. This is the strongest construction year we’ve had since the height of the condominium boom in 2007.”
Working with the facts
The current administration has quickly and decisively addressed the spending deficits in Kimberley’s infrastructure renewal. After obtaining a quantitative assessment to learn the hard facts about the state of the infrastructure, the City has managed to stop the bleeding of water and sewer funds and has money in place to deal with possible future issues.
“The place where we still have significant work to do is with our general fund, which is primarily roads and facilities,” McCormick said. “A year ago the spending deficit there was about $1 million, and it’s now at about $600,000, so we’re still bleeding. Within the next year we hope to find further efficiencies and savings that will take care of that deficit, and once that bleeding has stopped we can begin to build reserves.”
A four-year political term goes by very quickly, but it does allow for projects to progress further and have more continuity than a three-year term did.
“The whole thing is about results,” McCormick said, “and that takes time.”