Local media were invited to a recent special meeting at City Council Chambers to sit down with Mayor Pratt and discuss the past year in Cranbrook.
The first point Pratt brought up was that a big target from day one was to change the culture in the city, something he feels that they’ve accomplished.
“There’s a lot of people that are a lot happier dealing with the city now then they ever were before so that was a big goal for us and I think it’s paid off for us for sure,” Pratt said.
Driving that, explained Pratt, was simplifying dealings between businesses and developers as well as changing bylaws and the rezoning the City has done.
The next important talking point was the $15 million worth of roadwork that was done over the past year, which included water and sewer replacement done to over 80 properties.
“A lot of houses and some areas were really rundown so it was a definite need,” Pratt said. The repairs included sidewalk work and infills in areas where they were missing. Also included were stretches of road that never had any sidewalks to begin with in the first place.
According to Pratt, this program will continue into next year, as they have saved some money this year on what they had wanted to spend.
Improvements were made at Baker Street and 11th Avenue with the traffic light replacement and repairs to the curbs for the handicapped stalls, making it more level. This is all part of an ongoing process to enhance the Baker Street experience.
“Of course we’re always looking to revitalize downtown so we’ve got a couple things in the works there,” Pratt said. Another important development in that regard was the sale of the old firehall, which is currently being developed into a new restaurant and tap house. Pratt said Cranbrook can expect a grand opening around March or April 2018.
Beyond downtown, the Idlewild Park project is ongoing, as is the Joseph Creek rehabilitation project, which is currently in phase one of a projected five-year project.
The Idlewild Dam received the Award of Excellence in the Civil category at the ninth annual Thompson Okanagan Kootenay Commercial Building Awards in September, and was not the only project to be recognized this year.
Pratt also mentioned the improvements to Western Financial Place, which this year, in addition to hosting numerous great acts, had its sound system and lighting replaced.
The aquatic centre underwent a dehumidification process, which will save $30,000 a year in energy costs and was also recognized with an award.
Renovations and equipment upgrades were also done at the Cranbrook Curling Club.
Other important highlights mentioned by the Mayor included the efforts of snow removal teams, the truck survey hoping to promote somebody setting up a truck stop in Cranbrook, the realtime reporting application put in at 311 and the wildfire interface proposal that is currently in front of the Ministry.
Pratt said that one of the main for 2018 is continuing with the roadwork and sidewalk repair, including the road maintenance program that has been put into place.
“Pretty well anything that comes up we’re looking at it, but the priorities are still I think spending our taxpayers dollars wisely and fixing the infrastructure,” Pratt said.
“And I think a couple more years on this infrastructure and we’ll have a good handle on it, so that could free up some money for some other things.”
One of the challenges facing the City, as it tries to attract new industry, innovation, technology and professionals is a lack of housing.
“We’re losing professionals that want to come in here but there’s nowhere for them to live,” said Pratt. “So we went through a couple of rezoning processes there and it’s all about that, we have to get some housing available, but there’s a few subdivisions coming on next year that will be done so that will help too.”
Pratt explained that with the $29 million worth of infrastructure and roadwork committed over the past three years, there is a change in the city with resulting jobs and money spent with local contractors.
“You can see that in the city. The city is busier because of that, for sure, that’s a big chunk of change. And we’re going to continue down that path for sure.”
Pratt added that in 2016 they had 55 per cent growth in building permits and currently we are 40 per cent over that, which is helping Cranbrook get recognized by developers from bigger cities.
“So it’s been a busy year for sure. Council’s looking forward to next year, we’ve got a lot of plans and we’re not letting any moss grow under our feet we’re trying to make Cranbrook a better place to live.”