Community commits to council with re-election nod

Mayor Chris Pieper tells Armstrong councillors their re-election in November is a sign of commitment from the community

It’s a rarity in municipal politics to have an entire council re-elected.

So, when Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper, who retained his seat by acclamation, was welcoming back his six returning councillors, he told his council to take their re-election as an endorsement of its community commitment.

“I am confident that we will continue to listen, analyze the progress the city will be taking, and then make the correct decisions for the community as a whole,” said Pieper, who was rejoined at the council chamber by Councillors Paul Britton, Shirley Fowler, Ryan Nitchie, Sully O’Sullivan, Kelly Rowe and John Trainor.

The only real change Pieper made when making committee appointments was putting O’Sullivan in charge of public works, relieving Fowler who will be the city’s representative to the Regional District of North Okanagan.

It’s public works that generally draws the most complaints from the public, as the committee is responsible for everything that people use every day like water, sewer and roads.

“We will be starting on our new infrastructure long-term planning document after Christmas,” said Pieper. “That will plan for our next short-term projects, and set direction for the whole community infrastructure.”

Pieper plans to review the committee structures every Dec. 1 during the next three-year term to provide all councillors with the opportunity to become involved in all aspects of city hall and regional functions.

The next few months will be particularly busy for the finance committee as it sets a budget based on the city’s economic reality, as well as that of the country.

“Our budget planning will have to reflect careful and prudent spending, yet maintaining the services that residents expect and want,” said Pieper. “We currently enjoy one of the lowest tax rates of similar-sized communities, and that’s an objective we want to keep.”

One of the highlights of 2011 was the city winning the B.C. portion of the TSN Kraft Celebration Tour, resulting in the sports channel shooting a live version of its popular Sportscentre show from downtown Armstrong, and a $25,000 cheque for upgrades to the Hassen Arena.

It was a happy event that thrust Armstrong onto the national stage.

Unfortunately, months later, Armstrong was again in the news as the city dealt with the unsolved murder of teenager Taylor Van Diest, 18.

Her death came shortly after three other city youth died tragically in accidents, all in just over a month.

Pieper said the city is still trying to recover from the tragedies, particular Van Diest’s homicide.

“I know people are still talking about it, it’s the first thing they think of,” said Pieper. “We all want to get to the bottom of this. I have pretty good confidence in the RCMP that they will break this case. I know they are working hard on all of the tip.

“We’ve changed as a city, changed in that we’re a lot more cautious. If I said everything is getting back to normal, that’s just not true.”