Mayor Lee Pratt reflects on 2016

Idlewild Park, cutting red tape, and enticing business and industry to Cranbrook the top focus: Pratt.

Mayor Lee Pratt reflects on a busy year for Cranbrook city council.

Mayor Lee Pratt reflects on a busy year for Cranbrook city council.

It was a year of change in Cranbrook as Mayor Lee Pratt and city councillors got the chance to put their stamp on the municipal landscape.

From building a budget with their own vision to making a decision to rebuild the dam at Idlewild Lake to beefing up the road rehabilitation program, council had its hands busy.

“It’s been a busy year for us,” said Pratt. “We have a number of highlights that that myself and the council we feel pretty good about,” said Pratt.

“…This was our second full year in play and it was all on us, there was no carry over from previous [mayor and council].”

Rebuilding the dam on Idlewild Lake was one of Pratt’s most satisfying decisions, he said. The dam was decommissioned in February 2015 and the lake was drawn down to relieve stress on the earthen structure, which had the potential of failing, according to a city staff report.

In August, the lake was dredged to allow construction of a new dam structure and spillway that is currently in the process of wrapping up and budgeted at $2.6 million, which was covered by a grant from the federal government.

“That’s been a great project and it’s finally coming to an end for the spillway,” Pratt said. “Then we’ve done a number of open houses to see what the public wants for the park around it, so next year will be a big project starting on the enhancement of the park, so we’re looking quite forward to that.”

In addition to the infrastructure work through the Idlewild Lake dam, the city was also busy with infrastructure work on roads, with three projects tackled over the summer.

Those included road and infrastructure work on 11th Ave., from 3rd St. to 11th St., 4th St. from 11th Ave to 14th Ave., and 6th St., from 11th Ave. to 14th Ave. Additional paving also took place on 4th Ave., 8th Ave., 17th Ave, and 29th Ave.

“Lots of roadwork there so we’re pretty happy with that,” Pratt said. “It’s one of the things we promised during the election, so we’re fulfilling our promises.”

Pratt acknowledged some hard feelings in the community that arose over a plan to borrow $10 million for future road and infrastructure projects, but added that his election mandate is to tackle the ever-growing infrastructure deficit.

The plan to borrow $10 million was determined through an Alternative Approval Process (AAP) which required provincial and elector assent. The money will be paid back over a 20-year period with small increases to residential and business property and frontage taxes.

“It had to be done, and the timing was perfect,” said Pratt. “We’ll rebuild 2nd Street South right from Highway 3 to 14th Avenue and a lot of that includes sewer and water and there’s a big storm drain system under that street that has to be repaired.

That’s going to be costly, we’re thinking between $6-6.5 million for that, but then that leaves us $3.5 million, plus the normal $5 million annually, so I think the public’s going to be pretty happy with what they see with that roadwork over the next year and three years.”

Pratt also touted a new bylaw that will allow council to delegate some authority to city staff and allow them to make decisions on technical and procedural matters.

“We implemented a new development approval process for new subdivision and major construction projects,” said Pratt. “So what that does, is it simplifies dealing with the city and a cuts a lot of the red tape, making it easier to do business in the city and expedites the permitting a lot quicker.”

Pratt notes that the city has been getting more interest from developers, as construction values jumped from $9 million to over $20 million this year. He also teased that there are a few projects in the works that, if they go through, could surpass this past year’s numbers.

Looking ahead, Pratt says MGX Minerals is still on track to set up a processing plant on the old Tembec lands off Theatre Rd, while talks are ongoing to get a few other companies set up in the same area.

The city is also talking with the provincial government, the Vancouver Port Authority and Canadian Pacific about setting up an intermodal transfer station in Cranbrook.

“We’re quite optimistic about something coming together there,” said Pratt.

The city also conducted a survey of truck drivers, with help from the College of the Rockies, to determine what kind of cargo was being hauled through Cranbrook and where the trucks were headed, including the final cargo destination.

Pratt says truckers tend to drive right through Cranbrook instead of stopping because there aren’t any accessible parking areas for semitrailers. That data will be compiled to hopefully lure investment into some kind of truck stop facility.