A small but mighty crowd of Chilliwack citizens showed up Tuesday at city hall to offer feedback and commentary on the 2019 budget.
The topics raised ranged from flood protection, bike lanes, transparency, tech, park space, affordable housing, street lighting, policing, electric cars and e-bikes.
The need for more cycling infrastructure dominated the discussion early on in the meeting.
Cycle Chilliwack co-chair Janice Balakshin was the first of several to praise the Cycle Vision plan, and the funding in place for future bike lanes, while advocating for more cycling infrastructure, especially segregated bike paths.
“But I also think Chilliwack is falling behind,” Balakshin said, adding she was worried that not enough city funds were being channeled to upgrading.
“Segregated lanes really matter. They are a necessity,” she said, adding that Chilliwack could become a cycling destination if it caught up.
Cycle Chilliwack co-chair Jennifer Douglas said residents in Chilliwack were “fortunate” to have the Cycle Vision document clearly outlining the improvements coming in the next decade.
“We also have a meaningful start to our cycling network, with sections of protected bike lanes, enhanced signage and pavement markings to increase safety in high conflict areas.
“But we have a long ways to go to normalize the use of bicycles in our city, as more than just a recreational pursuit.”
Douglas noted Chilliwack was actually already behind on the “quick wins” listed in the city plan, like the route mapping, and lack of bike racks, and end-of-trip facilities for bike security.
Gary Baker offered the nugget that more cycling infrastructure was the way to go, since “if they build it, they will come,” repeating it twice.
He emphasized that as an aging community, the advent of the E-bike spells “a revolution” in the cycling world, as they’re “an incredible” equalizer, especially for seniors and the mobility challenged.
Coun. Jeff Shields, chair of the Transportation Advisory Committee, said the newly appointed committee had a strong cycle-oriented contingent, and that cycling will “continue to be a priority.”
Resident Bryden Nelmes, asked about flood protection upgrading, wanting to know if Chilliwack’s funding would be sufficient to meet provincial upgrade requirements at just $2o million.
Coun. Jason Lum said that amount, accounting for a one-third share, was before the contributions of senior governments were factored in.
Resident Lee Phillipson asked when the downtown washrooms would be installed, and was told 2020 was the expected date of installation. She also said better lighting on downtown streets was desperately needed, and was told bright LED lighting was coming, which was not only decorative but functional.
Resident Eryne Croquet asked whether the city would look at purchasing E-bikes or bicycles for staff. She was told there were electric vehicles in the fleet, for which they hadn’t bought gas for four or five years. Also bylaw enforcement officers work their shifts while riding bikes.
Council approved the 2019 Financial Plan which comes with a 3.43 per cent tax increase this year. The emphasis was on beefing up policing services, with six new RCMP to be hired, and two support positions, along with increased bylaw personnel and added resources for cleaning up the downtown.
The road rehab line item is at $3.3 million.
Coun. Chris Kloot responded to a speaker who suggested the feedback from the public was not taken into account, countering that idea by saying the budget first started with a proposal for three additional RCMP officers, and when it was finalized that number became six new officers. Regarding the extra money devoted to downtown cleanups, Kloot said the extra money didn’t sit well with him, but he knew it was necessary.