Reflecting on 2020, the mayor of Kamloops says the city got some big projects done this year.
Among the highlights is the completion of the $13-million Victoria Street West Improvement Project, says Ken Christian, which officially wrapped up in August. The contractor, Extreme Excavating, replaced underground utilities, rebuilt the road and improved pedestrian access.
Another construction project touted by the mayor is the Tranquille Road sanitary main upgrade, which is "almost complete."
"We've developed a climate action plan, advanced our asset management project and worked hard on our relationships," he tells Castanet, pointing to the city's close contact with the school district, Thompson Rivers University and Tk'emlups te Secwepemc.
"We've always said as a council it's about partnerships."
The biggest challenge the city faced this year was COVID-19, Christian says. Like other municipalities, staff adapted to the pandemic; from closing down city facilities in March to pivoting to a work-from-home model.
"We've done the Plexiglas and the Lysol wipes. We've also had to change the way we respond to some calls, using one person per vehicle," he explains.
Financially, Christian says the city is in a good place. However, there will be challenges ahead; most notably, passenger numbers and flights at YKA are "dismal," he says.
"Transit is in bad shape. Our partnership with the university, enrolling students. We need to get all those cylinders firing again... the drivers of our gross domestic product. Once we do that, I think we'll be back in stride."
By and large, Christian says residents should be proud of the city and how it performed "in the face of what is a historic event."
A silver lining of 2020, according to the mayor, is that many people are remembering why they love living in the Tournament Capital. Christian says many of the city's surveys show it's the liveability.
"We've seen a huge uptake in terms of nature parks, the outdoors," he says. "I think other people from British Columbia are starting to discover our secret and that if you can work from home, the pandemic has proven that many people can, then you're not necessarily tied to the Lower Mainland and you could come here for half the cost of living. You're not going to be caught in traffic jams."
Christian notes one of the lowlights of 2020 was the Canadian Forces Snowbirds crash on May 17, which claimed the life of Captain Jennifer Casey and seriously injured Captain Richard MacDougall.
"That was a dark day," he says.
The mayor reiterates that he's been in contact with 15 Wing Moose Jaw to have a permanent memorial built at Kamloops Airport, in honour of Casey.
The community also lost Katherine McParland earlier this month. The executive director of A Way Home Kamloops and youth advocate died on Dec. 4 of undisclosed causes.