The 2018-2022 District of Kent Council (left to right): Councillor Stan Watchorn, Councillor Kerstin Schwichtenberg, Mayor Sylvia Pranger, Councillor Duane Post, Councillor Susan Spaeti (contributed photo/District of Kent)

District of Kent highlights accomplishments in 2019 report

District staff have been busy and are getting busier

This article is a follow-up on the July 17 story ‘Harrison Hot Springs releases 2019 report.’

Although 2020 was a chaotic year for the District of Kent and the world as a whole, local officials took time to look back on all the accomplishments in 2019.

The following is a rundown of the highlights of the District of Kent’s 101-page 2019 annual report.

Mayor’s Statement

District Mayor Sylvia Pranger said she, the council and district staff are extremely proud of achievements of 2020.

RELATED: Harrison Hot Springs releases 2019 report

The mayor highlighted the installation of all-inclusive play equipment and rubberized surfacing at Pioneer Park, which celebrated its grand opening in 2019. She further lauded the Hammersley Pump Station project, where two fish-friendly pumps were installed to better support the environment and drain local agricultural land.

Financial Services

District revenue went up by approximately $1.3 million from 2018 to 2019, the bulk of which came through additional government grants. The financial report, as prepared by Mike Veenbaas, director of financial services, indicated much of the grant money from the government from 2019 went toward the Hammersley Pump Station project.

Expenses took a dive from 2018 to 2019, dropping by almost $50,000. Veenbaas attributed this at least in part to lowered operating and recoverable costs in police, firefighting and emergency services.

Prior to the pandemic, potential for increased police costs were among the top concerns going into the future. Though no new officers have been hired as of the writing of the report, the increased office hours and demand have put pressure on the district’s bottom line.

READ ALSO: District of Kent Council delivers COVID-19 updates

For the larger projects throughout the district, grant funding remains vital.

“The District is committed to fiscal responsibility and will seek out grants as they become available for specific eligible and relevant projects,” Veenbaas wrote.

While agriculture is more or less the top industry in the district, district staff continue to encourage diverse economic growth, including the tourism and logging industries. In terms of the scale of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the district remains watchful as further details for future outlooks begin to gradually take shape. However, staff seemed to be optimistic.

“The district is in a strong financial position and is not expected to experience significant financial loss,” district staff wrote.

Financial Services

This department added two bus shelters to the downtown core and helped council secure $1.4 million in grant funding in 2019. Additionally, this department won the Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 2019 Annual Report.

Protective Services

2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the Agassiz fire department, starting with a gas-powered water pump mounted to a trailer in 1945. Currently, there are 27 active firefighters and two training officers. The fire department responded to 306 alarms in 2019.

Engineering Services

The district’s engineering department replaced approximately five kilometres of road lines, 42 stop bars and four crosswalks in 2019. They further upgraded and improved the Bridge Road Trail and installed additional streetlights along the Agassiz-Rosedale Highway.

READ ALSO: District of Kent Council: Additional Notes

Development Services

The district received $100,000 in grant funding from the Rural Dividend Program to help complete the community industrial sustainability plan.

Community Services

Together with the B.C. Recreation and Parks Association and Active Aging Society, this department now offers ActivAge and Choose to Move fitness programs in an effort to provide a safe, fun environment for exercise for all ages. This department is also responsible for many traditional events district residents enjoy, including Canada Day and the Halloween Spooktacular.

This department also had a hand in installing 2,500 square feet of play equipment and rubberized surfacing, improving parks throughout the district.

District Outcomes

There are a number of goals the district completed in 2019. Two of the free pumps at the Vimy Sanitary Lift Station have been replaced. As mentioned, a number of parks throughout the district saw improvements, including a gazebo installed at Schep Park; improvements for Centennial Spray Park and Mount Woodside Park remain in development as of the publication of the report.

District Objectives

The District of Kent has a number of irons in the proverbial fire for the next two years ahead. This includes the continued development of new bylaws from 2020 such as urban beekeeping and regulations on secondary suites. There are also planned improvements for the district parks, the cemeteries and trails.

Statistics

Agriculture remains the largest industry in the district in terms of people employed at 300, followed close behind by the accommodation and food industries at 295.

District expenses remained largely the same from 2018 to 2019. Broken down by services, general government services remains responsible for a bulk of the expenses at $2.18 million, which was the only service listed that actually shrank in expenses from 2018 to 2019. Engineering services was close behind at $2.08 million with parks, recreation and cultural services just behind that at approximately $2.06 million.

As with years prior, municipal taxes and grants in lieu of taxes remained the biggest sources of income for the district at $7.66 million in 2019.

See the entire District of Kent Annual Report online at www.kentbc.ca.


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