Public airs views at city budget meeting
Several members of the public took the opportunity to speak during the public session at the first budget presentation meeting Feb. 15.
Potholes in sidewalks, the lack of curb cuts on corners and the build-up of ice during winter are all conditions that make accessibility difficult for people in wheelchairs, scooters or those pushing strollers in the City of Prince George according to members of the Advisory Committee on Accessibility.
Ken Biron and Heather Lamb spoke before council and discussed some of the challenges the sidewalks, particularly during winter months, present to those travelling along them in the city.
Biron said deteriorating driveways in some areas add to the problem, and are sometimes up to five c.m. lower than the sidewalk.
“Those areas have been ignored pretty much since they’ve been here,” he said.
Some areas of particular concern are along 17th Ave., from Spruce to Winnipeg. The worst, he said, are near the old Odeon theatre on Vancouver from Third. Ave. to Fifth Ave., with sloping narrow sidewalks and a lot of potholes.
Dave Bakker, vice-president of the Northern Bear Awareness Society, also took the opportunity to speak during the public session of the budget meeting.
His concern was with the city cuts to the environment department and how those cuts would affect the bear awareness program. He said three of the six required criteria to make Prince George a bear smart community have been fulfilled.
“The loss of the liaison with environmental services raises questions about the commitment of the city. NBAs will continue to provide education to the people of Prince George but we can only do this if the funding and sponsorships continue to support us. The final three requirements to become bear smart are beyond our abilities and now fall under the mandate of the city. A committed action plan to the amending of bylaws, the enacting of others and following the Assessment and Prevention plans is the responsibility of the City of Prince George,” Bakker read from a letter presented to council.
In conclusion he asked council to reconsider the elimination of the environmental division.
CUPE Local 1048 President, Janet Bigelow, addressed council on the recent city employee cut backs, which include nine people in various positions at the city plus another 19 vacancies that will not be filled.
Bigelow brought up a remark made by Coun. Cameron Stolz earlier in the meeting. He was discussing a motion to cut back on councillor’s travel budgets and asked how council would learn about things like a grant that saved the city $1 million?
The question referred to a grant Stolz found out about that helped reduce costs on the new RCMP building.
Bigelow said many grants, up to about $38 million, were generated by those who had been laid off at the city.
“I can’t help but wonder who is going to find those grants?” she asked, adding she wondered who would generate the business cases for grants now many of those staff members are gone.
Other speakers during the public session included a gentleman who asked council to keep tax increases as low as possible and a lady who spoke on several matters including curb-side recycling as well as Dr. Marie Hay and Terry Robert, who both spoke in favour of the city continuing to support PGAIR.
Towards the end of the budget meeting, council voted to continue supporting the organization with a $70,000 grant.