West Kelowna  

West Kelowna look at ways to help residents and businesses

City trying to help

As businesses close and employees find themselves laid off in massive numbers due to COVID-19, governments are looking at ways of softening the blow.

In West Kelowna, at the request of Coun. Rick deJong, staff are being asked to look at ways the city can assist local businesses and residents through these turbulent times and beyond.

His motion, tabled at the end of Tuesday's meeting, suggests council is just making official what is already being brainstormed within the walls of city hall.

DeJong says we'll all get through this crisis. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we just don't know exactly when that will be.

"We need to make sure there are economic stimulus present that we are here to support local businesses and residents that we are here for them.

"Near-term, we need to survive. When we emerge, we need to rebuild the economy and move forward."

Coun. Doug Findlater says there are already people in the community in dire straits, with many more to come.

As the city is currently in the middle of its 2020 budget process, Findlater urged staff to look at ways the current tax increase could be lowered.

"There could be tax reductions, and I think that should be on the table. Our friends across the lake are looking at that," said Findlater.

"I think we should look at whether there is an area where we can come down from 4.8. This is affecting a lot of wage earners and down the line this is going to affect pension earners."

A report could be forthcoming as early as the next council meeting scheduled in two weeks.

Council did take one measure to, at least temporarily soften the economic blow by delaying a decision on increasing water rates.

Instead of adopting the third phase of water rate increases for residents of the Powers Creek and Rose Valley water systems, council decided to delay a decision until its next meeting.

There was talk around the table of deferring the increase for three months as residents struggle through COVID-19.

However, Coun. Jason Friesen said deferring until the summer would mean people would face a double payment.

"Because we don't know how long this will , we don't know what their situation will be. I don't know if deferring is the best option," he said.

The planned increases were put in place to help pay for construction of the Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant. The new rates, which increase between $13 and $17 per quarter, will raise about $250,000 every three months.

Coun. Findlater said he was OK with tinkering with the increase, but reminded council clean water delivery remains the city's top priority.

"We have $41 million applied to this, and the deadline is no longer endless," said Findlater.

"I don't want to see the whole project delayed. We won't get another chance the way we have now to move on this. If we have to tinker fine, but I don't think we want to throw the whole financing of the project into jeopardy."

A condition of the federal-provincial grant is the project must be complete by 2022. Construction is expected to begin later this year.

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