- Our Town
Looking at 2013 from the mayor’s office
Although a municipal election won’t be held in B.C. until November, Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper is already clear about her intentions.
“I feel I have a lot to do even though we have done a lot. I’m here for the long haul. When I heard Colin (Mayes) might be running, I thought that was very interesting. There was a time I wanted to run against him and then he stepped out… I thought that would be very interesting if I finally get to run against him,” she said, referring to MP Mayes’ statement to the Observer that he has neither ruled out nor decided on another run for mayor or for MP.
“I have every respect for him,” Cooper added.
Asked to reflect on her past year as mayor, she mentions a long list of highlights. Under economic development, Walmart comes up first.
“The opening of Walmart was really important to the city,” she says. “People were phoning me, saying there’s no place to buy socks and underwear. So it was exciting for people.”
Her list also includes the opening of the credit union building uptown, the new store fronts at Shuswap Park Mall downtown and the new liquor store to replace the government store.
“That was a worry for downtown; it’s now looking like it’s really good.”
Cooper mentions the city’s purchase of property to add to Little Mountain Park, the parcel near Buckerfield’s to accommodate highway changes, the addition of the coffee company in Canoe, work on signage that the Economic Development Society has been doing with owners in the industrial park, the addition of fibre optics in Salmon Arm and work that’s being done on an industrial tax incentive.
“Fibre optics gives us a competitive advantage and, combine it with an industrial tax, that’s something Lana (Fitt, economic development manager) can use (to attract industry).”
She said gas prices continue to be an issue, one which the local owners tell her they don’t have control over.
Regarding the environment, Cooper pointed to the completion of the Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping (SHIM) and Wetland Inventory and Mapping (WIM) studies. She also mentioned SLIPP and the latest initiative to work towards a watershed-wide water quality program.
Cooper referred to the city’s $20,000 this year towards a much- requested flood hazard assessment.
“It will probably take a couple of years to save up for, but we’re looking for grants.”
She added that the newly completed strategic plan was a lot of work but provides the city with a road map for moving forward.
Cooper pointed to the recycling contract with MMBC (Multi-Material British Columbia). She said all of staff’s concerns weren’t met, but there would be additional costs if the city hadn’t signed.
She notes Salmon Arm won the Communities in Bloom award, which is more than flowers but also about other elements such as recycling and restrictions on pesticide use.
Under low-lights, Cooper points to three lawsuits, one versus the Neskonlith band regarding the SmartCentres development, one regarding a marina in Canoe and one regarding a Canoe lease agreement.
“Those are the ones for me, lawsuits are ones I feel bad about. They’re certainly a lowlight.
She said she and Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson are working towards an agreement to govern relations between the two political entities. Because Enderby council and the Splatsin band work well together, Enderby has been asked to come talk to the city about their keys to success.
Asked about her leadership style, Cooper said she’s not the type to be out front making big proclamations, but she works hard behind the scenes to make things happen.
The hardest part can be the time involved, Cooper says.
“It really is a 24-7 job… I love the challenge, sitting in this chair and working with people. You’re never on personal time. I’ve had phone calls in the middle of the night, and they’re phoning the mayor.”
The top of Cooper’s priority list remains upgrades to the Salmon River Bridge but she said council has not yet heard or seen any plans, timelines, or other pertinent information.
“Council has worked on this for years, lobbying MOTI at each UBCM and I have made this a priority and have done whatever I could since I was elected,” she said.
She’s pleased about the donation of land for the downtown campus of Okanagan College.
Cooper said the Ross Street underpass is also at the top of council’s priority list.
“The underpass itself will be down the road,” she said, noting that all the councillors she’s spoken to would like to have a referendum on the issue. “People need to have the choice.”