Armstrong council gets down to business

For the first time in six years, Chris Pieper has some new councillors to work with.

Mayor Chris Pieper says the City of Armstrong has many plans on the 2015 agenda.

Mayor Chris Pieper says the City of Armstrong has many plans on the 2015 agenda.

For the first time in six years, Chris Pieper has some new councillors to work with.

Armstrong’s mayor, voted in for a second consecutive term by acclamation in November’s municipal election, has Steven Drapala, Lance McGregor and Linda Werner sitting at the table with incumbents Paul Britton, Shirley Fowler and Ron (Sully) O’Sullivan.

The trio of newcomers won their seats in the election (as did the incumbents) to replace seats vacated by Ryan Nitchie, Kelly Rowe and John Trainor who all chose not to seek re-election.

“It definitely will be different,” said Pieper.

“We’d been together six years and in the last election in 2011 there were no changes whatsoever. In the years I’ve been mayor, it’s been the same six councillors and  you do get comfortable with a good council.”

None of the three newcomers have any prior political experience.

Still, they’ve made quite an impression on Armstrong’s longtime councillor and mayor.

“My first impressions of them are very positive,” said Pieper. “They’re all very keen, very interested, very eager to learn. Between myself and the three incumbents,we’re excited about the new team. “

Pieper will rely on his experience as well as the incumbents’ to help the newcomers get up to speed with the inner workings of the city.

Pieper has named the incumbents as the head of the city’s major committees, with the newcomers involved in learning how the committees work.

“I’m fully confident that the three will get up to a very qualified level within a year,” said Pieper, who will review the committee appointments next December.

“Next year, hopefully, I’ll put them as chair of  the committees to help lead us for the next four years.”

All council members will roll up their sleeves and get right to work on the city’s budget for 2015.

As has been the custom, council and staff will try to keep any tax hike to a minimum.

The city has been recognized by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business as the second-best spending control community in the province, behind Lake Cowichan. North Okanagan communities Coldstream (seventh) and Armstrong’s neighbour, Spallumcheen (eighth) also made the list.

One of the first things the new council did as a team was pass the city’s approval to upgrade the joint fire hall it shares with Spallumcheen.

“Both councils are unanimous in supporting this,” said Pieper, with fire hall expansion likely to start in the spring.

“It needs to meet the new realisms of fire halls of today. Fire trucks are bigger than they were 35 years ago (when the current hall opened). Training is a lot more diligent so they need more training space.”

The fire hall is just one example of how well the city and township have been working together.

Both communities share parks and recreation and the cemetery, and Armstrong is looking at helping provide water to some Spallumcheen residents.

“Our relationship with the township is extremely positive,” said Pieper.

“Both of us have been able to sit down and work to common programs, and we’re getting things done.

“We don’t always agree but we don’t let that hold us back.”