Championing Salmon Arm’s assets to attract young families who can help the community grow was a key focus for the city’s mayor in a speech delivered to the chamber of commerce.
Mayor Alan Harrison delivered his annual state of the city address to the local chamber and its president, Mark Thio, in a virtual meeting held Wednesday, Feb. 17. He began by stating he would not be talking about the pandemic. Instead, he centred his presentation on a hypothetical young professional Surrey couple considering Salmon Arm as their future home.
The mayor talked about Salmon Arm’s population approaching 20,000, explaining when you reach that number there are industries and commercial ventures that start to take a serious look at your city. He also noted Salmon Arm’s positive community rankings by MacLean’s and BC Business magazines. He considered them part of the city’s resume, with the interview being the opportunity to win over prospective future residents.
“The story you tell is important because that is where the impression is made,” urged Harrison.
The mayor touched base on several current or future project that will add to the city’s allure, including the Salmon Arm West Project and the Ross Street Underpass, noting the latter would be going to tender by the end of the week. He said the city is working towards a Class C estimate for upgrading the recreation centre/swimming pool, explaining the city cannot undertake such a project alone and will need financial support from other levels of government.
Part of Harrison’s presentation included an image of the city’s urban containment boundary and a related graph showing only 3.4 per cent of the land within has potential for development. Because of this, the mayor said the city is going to see taller buildings, more apartments – more housing options that meet the wide range of needs in the community.
Harrison did give a nod to the importance of seniors in the community.
“Just think about everything they do: They come here and then they volunteer and they contribute to our economy,” said Harrison. “But they’re easy to attract. So that’s why our target is families.”
Asked what the biggest challenges are facing the city, Harrison said for him it is being able to house the city’s most vulnerable individuals, particularly those who might have addiction or mental health issues, who have been difficult to accommodate.
“There is a minority and it’s very difficult for them to find housing that suits them,” responded Harrison to another question regarding the presence in the city’s downtown of individuals experiencing homelessness. The mayor said the decision to fence off Ross Street Plaza stage was a difficult one, and that the city is looking at redesigning the washrooms there so instead of there being one door that locks, there will be locking stalls within.
Harrison was also asked about the sewage treatment plant, the decision by the city to keep it where it is and if the city would be doing anything to address the odour. He explained the decision to keep the facility at its current location at 121 Narcisse St. SW was made after studying options for relocation. He said it would have cost more than $100 million to move the facility inland (as opposed to an estimated $50 million to upgrade the existing site), and that treated effluent would still be pumped into the lake. Regarding odour, he said the city will be spending money to deal with it.
“If we’re going to leave it there, we cannot have that odour,” said Harrison.
The mayor mentioned a series of coming events to attract and support businesses and entrepreneurs, including The Big Welcome, a program to support workers in the hospitality sector in welcoming visitors to the community. More information can be found on the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society website.