City Council held its annual organizational meeting on Monday night, where Mayor Mike Ruttan presented his annual address.
Ruttan acknowledged Port Alberni City Council and the city staff for their progress and achievements over the years. He also acknowledged that the city is undergoing an important transition, rising to face challenges like aging infrastructure, economic conditions and the responsibility of creating a healthy and sustainable environment.
“The status quo is not a viable option,” he said. “It’s time for action and for solutions.”
Ruttan said council will be working on a 12-year budget plan that provides for a gradual redirection of heavy industrial tax revenue to infrastructure renewal and capital reserve funds.
“Heavy industry and manufacturing have a long and proud history in Port Alberni, but the boom and bust cycles have challenged our community,” Ruttan said.
The budget is intended to reduce reliance on these revenues to ensure the city remains fiscally sound going forward.
Living within our means, Ruttan went on, is not just about cost reductions; it’s also about strategic investment. He provided an example with the streetlight project that saw the conversion of 525 streetlight bulbs from HPS to LED.
This required a $150,000 initial investment, but the efficiency and life expectancy of the new lights is projected to result in approximately $45,000 in annual savings, as well as a reduce in greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is the type of smart investment that aligns with our goal to live within our means,” said Ruttan.
Some of the other achievements Ruttan commended were the expansion to the Alberni Valley Regional Airport, which has been identified as a key sector for growth in the BC Jobs Plan, and the implementation of the Active Transportation Plan which led to the installation of bike lanes along major roads.
This was undertaken with the support of a $50,000 grant from BikeBC, and it “improves the livability and long-term sustainability of the Alberni Valley,” said Ruttan.
Ruttan also noted the proposals from citizens, community groups, and businesses that helped lead some successes this year.
“A responsive government is a responsible government and we are committed to being open and transparent,” he said. “Hearing directly from citizens helps us make better decisions.”
Ruttan finished by outlining some of the projects in consideration for the next two years, including a new wastewater treatment facility, development of a plan to replace the aging Echo Aquatic Centre, and the development of a comprehensive asset management plan.