Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers faced a relatively friendly crowd for the first “Breakfast with the Mayor” event of her term.
The May 8 breakfast, organized by the Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce, was billed as a state of the district address after the new council’s first six months on the job.
Siegers said she knew being mayor would take her out of her comfort zone, but would give her a chance to have “an impact far greater than any I’d ever had before.”
She told the audience that as well as taking responsibility for complaints, she gets to a take a little credit for compliments, including a recent comment she heard that the “mood in the community is upbeat and positive.”
During her speech, Siegers highlighted the strategic plan recently approved by council, and touched on what she hopes will be accomplished when new advisory committees on airport development, harbour expansion and development, water resources and economic development get down to work.
Talking about holding down future tax increases after approving a 2019 budget that included an 8.45 per cent increase, Siegers mentioned the importance of development adding to the tax rolls to take pressure off existing properties.
“We have had a number of projects on the books for a few years that haven’t been moving forward,” Siegers said. “How do we get them to move forward? One of the things we’ve done over the last month now is we’ve started to meet with developers to say you’ve proposed this, what’s holding you back?”
Siegers said “people buying land and then holding it” is pushing property prices up and slowing development.
Siegers also talked about airport expansion and the Water Resource Centre, two initiatives that were high on the priority list during her first term as a councillor under then-mayor John Henderson, who’s now a Chamber director.
She gave Powell River and Tofino as examples of communities benefitting from grant-funded airport expansions. “It’s had a huge impact on their communities. We have a lot of people here and more people moving here who work off-coast. They need a secure way to get out. Floatplanes are great, but they’re not something you can use if you don’t work in the Vancouver area.”
Siegers also said making better use of the Water Resource Centre will be one of the focuses of the water resource committee.
“[Coun.] Tom Lamb was on council two terms ago when we actually put in the [Water Resource Centre] and is going to be on that committee and that’s one of his priorities to move that forward… There are some grants that are available right now that we need to start look at applying for and doing to planning for the Water Resource Centre.”
A question about plans for a new building for the parks and public works department and whether it might include space for other operations or departments drew an answer that suggested the district could be looking at bigger changes to municipal facilities.
“We are entertaining a conversation about what it would look like to move municipal hall,” Siegers said. “There’ve been a couple of conversations over the years. Does the library move to a bigger facility or does municipal hall move? When we looked at the building itself, the building was designed for a library. Even the second floor was designed to be able to hold the extra weight of all those books. To replicate that in a new facility would be costly.”
Henderson, acting as emcee on behalf of the Chamber, wrapped up the event by reading a submitted comment he attributed to “a friend of the council.”
“You folks have taken on a big burden, you’ve initiated a lot of studies and assessments and committees, but please get on with it. Let’s see some action, let’s see some results. Be bold. Be decisive,” he read.
“I think as the Chamber [of Commerce] we would agree with that.”