Skip to content

Cranbrook mayor ‘optimistic’ for the future

Mayor Wayne Price provided an update on the state of the city during a recent event
Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Price provided an update on the state of the City of Cranbrook during a joint lunch meeting with the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce and the Cranbrook Rotary Club on March 28th at the Heritage Inn. Trevor Crawley photo.

Cranbrook mayor Wayne Price said he remains optimistic for the future during a recent presentation to Chamber of Commerce and Cranbrook Rotary Club members, where he provided an update on the state of the city and the myriad of challenges faced by local governments.

Price ran through a powerpoint presentation that touched on subjects such as the 2024 8.32 per cent tax levy increase, the local government context of responding to challenges such as homelessness and substance use, and efforts to develop more housing options and tackle aging infrastructure.

“We understand that much more needs to be done and I can guarantee you that with the team we have at city hall and direction from council, it will be done,” said Price, during a lunch address at the Heritage Inn on March 28. “I can assure you, that we are committed to being a council and administration of action and accountability.

“I’m very optimistic about the future of Cranbrook.”

A common thread through all those challenges was money — specifically the limitations of revenue sources for local governments, plus the need for additional funding support from more senior levels of government.

Price provided a few examples of how cost increases have impacted industrial-scale goods and services, particularly for specialized equipment.

For example, a street sweeper in 2019 cost $325,000. Now, that same sweeper is estimated at $490,000.

In 2017, a new fire truck was $740,000. That same truck now costs $1.4 million.

Those cost increases are also impacting capital projects.

To simply resurface 300 metres of road, at 11 metres wide, the 2017 cost was $250,000. Now, that cost has jumped up to $450,000.

Costs to fully replace and rebuild one city block — including road, curbs, sidewalk, underlying water and sewer infrastructure — has gone from roughly $700,000 in 2017, to current estimated costs of $1.3 million.

“That’s what municipal governments are dealing with,” Price said. “And revenues, we have no ability to increase our revenues at that scale.”

Addressing the 8.32 per cent tax increase, Price noted that the city’s tax base is mainly commercial and residential, while noting the challenges that come without having any industrial taxes, such as the Elk Valley tax-sharing agreement that Sparwood, Elkford and Fernie receive from the Teck coal mines.

Price also said the city is subsidizing services that are being accessed by rural residents living outside Cranbrook in the RDEK.

He said approximately 20 per cent of the users of the city’s recreation and culture facilities are from Area C of the RDEK. Considering that the city’s operating budget for recreation is $5 million, plus $1 million in debt-servicing, that 20 per cent subsidy translates into $1.2 million of revenue that the city isn’t getting, Price said.

Price added that a two-tier pricing system for city and rural residents didn’t work in the past, but noted the city has met with the RDEK and expressed confidence in finding solutions.

A similar example can be made for the Cranbrook RCMP detachment calls for service.

Last year, approximately 19 per cent of calls for service were for areas in the regional district outside Cranbrook.

Given that this year’s RCMP budget was nearly $6 million, Price said the city will be examining the policing contract to see if there’s any form of cost-recovery from the province.

Price also said that tax levy increases in recent years were kept low by relying on reserve funds, and deferring large capital projects into the future.

The mayor touted the work being done through two separate task forces on homelessness and housing that were set up early in the year.

He hailed efforts from city staff and local non-profits to address homelessness challenges, which are amplified as the city is a regional hub of services, particularly through the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

Price pushed back against the so-called narrative that unhoused folks are being bused into the community, noting that most of those identified as homeless are from Cranbrook or the East Kootenay.

“I view this as more of a regional issue, and council does as well,” Price said. “That’s something we’ll be dealing with the province with going forward, is you have to look at us as a regional entity, not just the City of Cranbrook here.”

On crime and community safety, Price said the RCMP have added four watch clerks, which have significantly eased the administrative burden for RCMP members, allowing them to be out on the streets and being visible in the community.

Further, the detachment is currently fully staffed for the first time in a decade, he added.

On the housing front, Price said the city’s housing task force is producing a report that the city can take to the province, while also potentially providing oversight of the proposed recommendations.

The city recently completed an inventory of city-owned land that could be used for potential development sites.

He added that developer projects on privately owned vacant lots, particularly multi-storey apartment buildings on 4th St N (behind Save-On-Foods) and 10th St N (Kootenay St.) are moving forward.

“High density development has been identified as one of the means of addressing our [housing] shortage,” Price said. “We’ve got a lot of pushback on this, I know a lot of people are opposed to high density, but consider that each door in a high density development brings approximately $1,400 a door in annual taxes.”

Additionally, the completion of a sewer line out to the Shadow Mountain neighbourhood is expected to jump start further residential development out in that area, Price said.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
Read more