Despite economic challenges facing communities across the country, Cranbrook is making progress on a number of issues, according to Mayor Lee Pratt, in an annual State of the City address to the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce.
Pratt touched on a number of issues such as the housing market, business licenses, economic development, city budgeting, operations at the Canadian Rockies International Airport, tourism and the dredging of Idlewild Lake.
With figures provided by Jason Wheeldon, of Royal LePage East Kootenay Realty, Pratt noted that sales vary within the different price ranges of single-family dwellings.
“Currently there are 116 single-family dwellings offered for sale on Multiple Listings in Cranbrook and our local market, I have to say, is affected by commodity prices.
We do expect demand to erode slightly with the decline in consumer confidence and further layoffs in the commodity based sectors such as oil and gas and the coal and mining up north,” Pratt said.
There are currently 109 building permits between residential and commercial construction in Cranbrook, with year-to-date construction costs at $5.9 million. Last year’s YTD costs were $27.9 million, but that is mainly due to the ICU expansion up at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.
There is currently one 93-lot subdivision under construction with three housing developments pending in very early stages that have the potential to add 61 more units.
For business licenses, there are 83 new permits issued, while 112 have closed, with a rough total of 1,400 existing in the city.
“Some of that is businesses moving out of city limits. A lot of contractors that were working on the hospital—they took out business licenses; of course, they’re gone, so we won’t be seeing those renewals,” Pratt said.
Out at the Canadian Rockies International Airport, the city and partners have been in contact with WestJet and Alaska Airlines—among others—for route analysis meetings.
A parking lot and airport access road has also been repaved and come in under budget, Pratt reported.
On the subject of paving, Pratt also noted that the city spent $3 million repaving city roads this past year.
He noted a lot more roadwork was done this year than in years past, adding that there is now a complete catalogue detailing the state of each road and any underlying water or sewer infrastructure.
“I know in the past, a lot of the work wasn’t done because it was always, ‘Well, what if the water main breaks?'” Pratt asked. My question is always, ‘Well, what if it doesn’t?’
“Hopefully the water mains don’t break, but if they do, we’ll fix ’em.”
On Western Financial Place, Pratt teased that there are four big-name performers lined up in the near future that should generate a lot of buzz.
“We do have four other top-name performances slated, but cannot officially announce them yet as you can appreciate the ticket sales are dependent on how you announce it and bring it forward,” Pratt said.
“I can tell you that there’s four top names that are on the list and will be coming here and there’s about five or six other ones that we’re working on for probably next year.”
He added that the facility is getting a higher profile with more concerts as well as the potential upcoming Grand Slam of Curling in 2017. The city has also entered into discussions with the Kootenay Ice about their tenancy in the building.
On putting the old Fire Hall up for sale on the market, Pratt admitted it was a tough decision, but said it was the right one.
“We’ve had a couple individual parties looking at it, we haven’t had any offers on it yet, but with the amount of work that has to be done in there, I think they’re doing their due diligence to see how much it’s going to cost them before they come up with an offer,” he said.
“We believe it will sell and hopefully it will be something that’s an enhancement to downtown too.”
On a few other topics, Pratt touted Council’s ability to bring the tax rate to 2.58 per cent, down from a proposed 5.77 per cent, without cutting city services—with one per cent of that being a dedicated road improvement tax.
The city is also looking at extending the downtown revitalization tax bylaw to areas outside the downtown core.
“We all believe that if you own a business and you want to improve it, spend some money on it, why should you not share in the same benefit that somebody downtown is?” Pratt said.
Quick hits: Pratt also noted that a new family physician is in the process of selling her practice in Saskatchewan and moving to Cranbrook. While Idlewild Lake looks unsightly and there has been much concern from the public, he preached patience and encouraged citizens to give feedback to city hall as to what the park should look like in the future. Cranbrook and Kimberley has partnered up on a tourism venture to bring in government funding for infrastructure and marketing grants. A new building inspector is in the process of being hired to help deal with some backlog at city hall. A new solar-capturing facility is being explored out at the spray irrigation fields outside of town. Discussions are ongoing with a few resource-based companies to set up shop on the old Tembec Land out by Theatre Road.