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Annual report focuses on future of Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert's 2023 annual report is nothing if not forward-looking
With help from grants, the City of Prince Rupert renovated the former CN Rail Station on the waterfront and is leasing it to Wheelhouse Brewing, part of ongoing revitalization of the city's waterfront.

While an annual report is by definition is backward-looking, Prince Rupert's 2023 offering is nothing if not forward-looking.

The 2023 report, released last week, does highlight progress made in 2023, primarily securing $65 million in provincial funding and $45 million in loans to repair the city's ailing water and sewer infrastructure.

While the remaining $77 million in federal funding for that project, which the city has dubbed the "BIG Infrastructure Gap Project" didn't come in 2023, Mayor Herb Pond addressed that in his introductory message to the annual report.

"The BIG project will span [approximately] three years and replace as much as possible of the city's most critical water and sewer pipes — 26.5 km in all," Pond wrote. "While disruptive, future generations will inherit newer infrastructure, fewer potholes and tax dollars focused on upkeep instead of expensive emergency repairs."

Of course, having the ongoing revenue to do that maintenance, is contingent upon a strong economic foundation.

"In addition to infrastructure renewal, we are also working hard on securing funding and new revenues," wrote city manager Robert Buchan. "This includes securing new sustainable economic growth on Watson Island and Lot 444 that will diversify our local economy and contribute to employment and our tax base."

The report also pointed to 2023 and ongoing efforts to clean up downtown and streamline policies to make the downtown core more attractive for investment.

Numerical highlights in the report included 52 development-related permits issued, 720 metres of watermains replaced, 534 newsletter subscriptions to the city's engagement platform (and 8,600+ visits), 548 referrals to the victim services program, 295 building permits issued and 674 reservations booked at Cow Bay Marina.

Details of the city's strategic priorities were also included under the categories: economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being; housing; good governance; community renewal; infrastructure renewal; appropriate laws and services; and fiscal health.

The city identified 17 new action items within those categories. 

Under housing, the city will update and align its strategy, policies, bylaws, needs assessment and official community plan with the province's new Housing Acceleration Plan, short-term housing legislation and other directives. 

New priorities in good governance are also related to aligning with provincial objectives including Indigenous engagement, emergency disaster management, council/committee roles and responsibilities, restrictive covenants on city-held properties and advocating for quality local health care services.

With respect to community renewal the city wants to develop a renewal/maintenance strategy to complement infrastructure renewal, explore paid parking to aid in downtown renewal and complete a communities plan.

Under appropriate laws and services council will review developer incentives for effectiveness, update the solid waste management bylaw to improve waste disposal controls and update the fire protection bylaw.

Finally, to aid in improving fiscal health, council will pursue an amendment to its landfill authorization on Watson Island to allow it to accept soils, tipping fees from which the city will set aside to pay for the eventual closure of landfill units.

The full report is available on the city's website and will be presented at a public meeting on June 24.

Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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