I realize that there are many aspects of Oak Bay’s governance requiring immediate attention (a housing strategy and necessary bylaws, review of the 2014 Official Community Plan, improved public engagement, rework of the terms of reference of our commissions and Advisory Design Panel, asset management, implementing development cost charges, etc.)
Superseding all these priorities is the need to address Oak Bay’s crumbling infrastructure. To do so will require approximately $283 million (2015 estimate) over the next few decades. Below are three suggestions to begin the process – information, a sign of Council’s commitment and a realistic first step.
Information: Hold a financial rather than a budget information open house on March 28, 2019. Adding consolidated financial and reserve statements information gives the context in which to set budget priorities. (The 2017 financial statement lists reserve funds of $649,139 for infrastructure renewal. There are no unallocated reserves.)
Commitment: Council needs to show the community it is serious. This requires Council to set aside a significant amount ($1 million?) for infrastructure renewal before examining the other 2019 budget items.
First step: Many communities are also struggling with aging infrastructure, including Kelowna. Their 2030 infrastructure planning documents can be found at kelowna.ca/city-hall/budget-taxes/infrastructure-planning.
I suggest a small task force of about half a dozen, composed of staff, councillors and community members, be set up. Their mandate would be to look at Kelowna and other communities’ approach to infrastructure renewal. Their report and an information open house would be an excellent method to inform us all of what lies ahead.