Bridge, higher enrolment listed as highlights

Reviewing 2016: Mayor Nancy Cooper pleased with number of people making city home

  • Jan. 11, 2017 7:00 a.m.
Nancy Cooper

Nancy Cooper

Two of Nancy Cooper’s earliest wishes as mayor of Salmon Arm may be fulfilled – or at least are closer to coming true.

In a year-end interview with the Observer, Cooper talked about highlights.

“When I first started, I wanted to be the mayor to open a school. It’s pretty exciting when, this year, enrolment was up… That was satisfying, at least we’re on the way.”

The other, she said, is the planned replacement of the Salmon River Bridge and four-laning of the Trans-Canada Highway.

“I’m excited for us but also for the First Nations bands,” she said, noting it will provide more access to land for economic development.

She said the city’s role in increasing enrolment at schools is to provide amenities that families look for, such as parks, playing fields and other recreation facilities.

Asked about stores closing downtown, Cooper said she has talked with Downtown Salmon Arm, developer Bill Laird and others. While it’s hoped they will fill up soon, she said the city has to create the environment where businesses can flourish. However, “we’re not the landlords so we can encourage all we want.”

She noted that the decline in the oil industry changed things for everyone, although fibre optics throughout town mean people can come here and work remotely.

She pointed to the plan to have a tech centre and maker space in the city, where people can work on projects, together or separately.

One thing that would help downtown, she added, is having more people living there.

Another highlight Cooper mentions is all the residential building permits the city processed in 2016, worth more than $40 million.

“I think if someone had said, we want to invest $40 million, we’d be going ‘woo hoo.’ That’s a huge investment in Salmon Arm.”

She added that the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Association reports the top 20 per cent of home buyers in the region are younger couples with or without children. Then come retirees.

“I know everybody says there are no jobs in Salmon Arm, but obviously there is – people are buying homes and (school) enrolment is up.”

Another indicator of confidence in the community is expansion by non-profits, Cooper said. She lists as examples Haney Heritage Museum, the Salmon Arm Tennis Club, Larch Hills Nordic Society and the Salmon Arm Fish and Game Club.

One disappointment for the mayor was the denial of the plan to move the city’s public works yard to the former site of the South Canoe school.

“I was actually surprised there was so much opposition to it. I kind of blame myself,” she said, explaining that a detailed visual should have been presented so people knew better what to expect.

“I’ve never heard any complaints about the public works yard here,” she said of its current location on 30th Street. “I was a little taken aback.”

The search continues for another location, but “it will be a little while now before we can add on to Little Mountain park and a running track.”

Cooper speaks with enthusiasm about the city’s young people.

“When school tours come to city hall, that’s probably the highlight of everything. They bring such a vibrance, it’s really great to see them.”

Looking to the future, Cooper says 2017 will include: a housing strategy that will encompass affordable housing as well as short-term vacation rentals; a plan for dealing with marijuana dispensaries; and Canada 150 events.