Climate action plan, Lorne Street train whistle dominate public city budget meeting

City hears climate support

Dozens of residents voiced their support for funding the City of Kamloops’ climate action plan at the city’s public budget meeting Thursday evening.

The budget meeting, held at the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre on Thursday evening, drew about 100 attendees. Kathy Humphrey, the city’s corporate services director, presented a summary of a dozen proposed supplemental budget items being considered by council.

Residents had the opportunity to discuss budget items with a number of city staff members, councillors and Mayor Ken Christian.

Kamloops resident Ken Gray said he attended to support funding for the city’s Community Climate Action Plan, a document outlining a set of strategies, actions and targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We now have a very narrow window of opportunity to change things globally, nationally, and locally,” Gray said.

“I think municipalities, arguably, can do the most to change the way they do business, and government and live as a society.”

The climate change plan was adopted by council in June 2021, on the hottest day of the year. City staff have proposed increasing taxation by 0.35 per cent annually — accumulating $444,000 per year — setting funds aside in a specific reserve to implement the plan.

Gray said he was impressed with the plan, but was concerned as the city had considered a larger 0.5 per cent taxation increase, but had settled on a lesser 0.35 per cent. He said he felt more money should be put into funding climate action.

“The main reason I'm concerned is, of course, the recent extreme events here in B.C.,” Gray said.

Hank and Eileen Hackett said they also attended to support funding the climate plan.

"We see the pollution, the environmental damage that's going on, the use of fossil fuels, and it's got to be stopped," Eileen said.

"What a mess we're leaving behind, it’s heartbreaking. And so we've got to do something."

Dylan Sherrard and Chaun Gassner said they also had come to support the climate plan.

Sherrard said it was interesting to see how the city budget was structured and what was being evaluated, adding he was also interested to see if cycling infrastructure was on the city’s radar.

“With some of the neighbourhoods expanding so far, it's actually kind of shocking to think that if you live in a certain part of town, you literally can't bike to town without being on the highway, with semi trucks,” Sherrard said.

A group of residents attended to show support for a proposed budget item addressing train whistle cessation along Lorne Street. When the budget item was announced by Humphrey, members of the group raised their phones in the air and played an array of train whistle sounds.

Downtown resident Klare Radloff said in the past, there has been two or three trains per day travelling near the property, but since CN recently received a coal train contract, traffic has increased.

“Since then, 50 per cent of the trains that are running run at nighttime. What we played here was this much of the noise that we get. From each train, we got four long whistles and they happen about every two hours. So basically, your sleep has gone for the night,” Radloff said.

Radloff said the group has a petition signed by more than 140 people asking for the city to help stop the noise.

Fred Baxter said within his strata complex, 95 per cent of owners have said their sleep has been disrupted substantially.

“It’s a well-known fact that if you have critical fatigue, lack of sleep, it impacts your overall health. Our position is this is not an issue about inconveniencing people, or a nuisance whistle. This is about an impact on a large percentage of the population of Kamloops’ health,” Baxter said.

The city has said the train whistle cessation process will require the implementation of safety improvements and crossing upgrades which would require buy-in from other agencies. The project is estimated to cost $1.2 million, with $33,000 in ongoing operating costs.

Nicholas Adams said he attended to see what residents' thoughts were on the proposed budget items.

Adams said he has run for council twice in the past, and is planning to run again in this year’s election.

“What's really important, I think, especially running, is listening to the public,” Adams said.

Mayor Ken Christian said he felt the meeting — the first in-person budget meeting in years due to the pandemic — drew well because residents missed the opportunity to interact face-to-face with council and staff.

Christian said the supplemental budget list also “piqued the interest” of some resident groups.

“The climate action people are here, the train cessation people are here, the tennis club is here, so people that are advocating for a particular project,” he said.

Christian said he heard from over a dozen people about the climate action plan.

“They are in favour of it, and want to make sure that it's maintained in continuity. So it shouldn't be a one-and-done thing, it’s got to be something that we're going to commit to over a longer period of time,” he said.

“There's been a couple of people said it's not enough, but nobody has said ‘What are you doing.’ That, to me, says we’re on the right track with that, we just need to commit to it. ... If we have a fund that we can build up, and we can start to draw down and set priorities over a period of time, then we will get to where we need to be. And we need to get there.”

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