Committee asked City of Kamloops staff to develop program supporting businesses impacted by vandalism

New business grant floated

City staff are looking into developing a program that would financially assist Kamloops businesses struck by vandals.

In city hall’s finance committee meeting Wednesday, Coun. Mike O’Reilly, the committee chair, introduced a motion to have staff create a framework for the program with funding options for council to consider.

The motion was unanimously passed by committee members.

O’Reilly said he wants to help businesses struggling with the costs of fixing acts of vandalism, such as broken windows or damage done by break-and-enters, especially as many owners are also dealing with financial impacts stemming from the pandemic.

O’Reilly had initially introduced the idea at a Feb. 9 city council meeting, asking the council’s support for the finance committee to discuss it further.

In the meeting, O’Reilly referenced statistics presented by Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky in a December council meeting, showing that businesses suffered a 51 per cent increase in property crimes when comparing data from 2019 to 2020.

“[This] is substantial, and it very much lines up from what we are hearing from business owners and commercial building owners throughout the city,” O’Reilly said to council.

“There is a significant problem — and I'm not afraid to say that.”

Discussions on what the funding program might look like were kept high-level during Wednesday's finance committee meeting, as staff will be responsible for determining the specific parameters of the program and how it might be administered.

“This is to help businesses bridge the gap to get through [the] COVID crisis,” O’Reilly said, adding he hoped it would be a finite instead of an ongoing program, but city council would have the final say.

“This is early stages. I look forward to staff coming back and we can have more discussions on the finite details."

He suggested a program where businesses, located in any Kamloops neighbourhood, could apply for funds specifically when they needed the help.

“I’d like staff to try and find a way for businesses to pay for businesses, rather than tap into a general fund,” O’Reilly said.

He suggested businesses could be reimbursed for either a maximum of $500 per broken window or vandalism incident, or a maximum of 50 per cent of the cost of a repair.

“By all means, this isn’t going to save every business, but it is going to help us through, to help businesses stay open, to continue paying taxes, to continue to be part of the social fabric of our neighbourhood and our community,” he said.

At the Feb. 9 council meeting, Mayor Ken Christian said he understood the need among Kamloops businesses, but questioned if a city-run support program might conflict with insurance claims for vandalism.

However, Christian said he supported the idea of the finance committee taking on further discussion.

“I think the notion of the finance committee exploring ways to support businesses within the limitation of the charter, which says we can’t support specific business, we have to do something across the board, is certainly within the mandate of the committee.”

Staff said they would create a recommendation for the proposed program in time for discussion at the next finance committee meeting on April 7.

After that, the final recommendation would be passed to city council for a vote.

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