At the city of Port Alberni’s annual organizational meeting on Monday, Dec. 4, Mayor Mike Ruttan stressed that the status quo is no longer a viable option.
The mayor delivered his annual address, first acknowledging city staff and his fellow council members for their work over the past three years.
“In a world where civility seems to be diminishing, especially in politics, this council has demonstrated the ability to deliberate, and disagree, on various issues while remaining respectful of one another,” he said.
He added that as this council moves into their fourth and final year, their goals are unchanged, although some of the strategies to achieve those goals have been adjusted.
“The city is undergoing an important transition now,” said Ruttan. “One that holds potential, but is also forcing some difficult decisions. Like cities across this country, we must find ways of dealing with aging infrastructure, challenging economic conditions, and the responsibility of creating and maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment.”
In their five-year budget plan, council has planned for an annual increase in funding that the city can direct towards infrastructure renewal, which will also help the city be less operationally dependent on taxation revenues from heavy industry.
“By being fiscally responsible today, we set the city up for success in the future,” he said.
Ruttan also brought up another emerging new priority in Port Alberni—the need to help people living at risk. “Issues such as drug addiction, crime and homelessness were previously regarded to be ‘big city problems,’” he said. “But these issues are at our doorstep.”
Council is making an effort to address these issues by looking for “new and progressive approaches,” and by supporting local agencies and advocacy groups.
By installing bike lanes along major corridors in 2017, the city hopes to foster a more pedestrian and cycle-friendly city that connects citizens. Ruttan said that council’s goal is to create a connected community.
Council also has plans to invest into solar-electric power generation. The city will be issuing an RFP over the next year to seek the best value solar generation project for one or more city-owned facilities.
“Such a project might be the first of several for the city,” said Ruttan.
The city will be seeing other changes over the coming years.
“For much of Port Alberni’s history, the recipe for our economic success was simple,” said Ruttan. “A strong forest industry, bolstered by healthy pulp and manufacturing sectors, once drove growth and prosperity for our city. But with these sectors now a fraction of their former size, we all recognize that one-dimensional focus must change.”
The city’s economic development department has identified six sectors of the economy within which Port Alberni is situated for growth: aerospace and air transport, agriculture (including in the marine environment), education, forestry with an emphasis on emerging maximized wood biomass technologies, ship-building and marine transportation and tourism.
Ruttan also wanted to note the progress the city has made on reconciliation.
“I am proud as a lifelong Alberni Valley resident that my community has taken steps forward to truth and reconciliation,” he said.
He finished his address by hinting, “This council has set our sights on some very ambitious projects for the city of Port Alberni over the next year, the last in our mandate.”
Seven city employees were awarded with 25 Year Recognition Awards during the organizational meeting: Herb Nadig, Ed Francoeur, Alan Loiselle, Shayla Britton, Rondi Shanks, Karina Kobus and Sandra Oickle. Janette Harrison was not present, but also received a 25 Year Employee Recognition Award.