The speed and extent of the measures that the Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments have taken to this point have surprised us all. The world looked a lot different just a month ago.
It has been inspiring to watch our community come together at this challenging time. I have always known Colwood residents were supportive of each other, and to watch it in action is heartening. There are so many examples, from neighbours shopping for those unable to leave their homes, parents supporting each other and children while working from home, to the amazing work of our essential service providers. The flexibility and understanding Colwood residents have shown as changes occur within our community is essential to keeping everyone safe and healthy.
Please understand, this pandemic is new to all of us. This includes Colwood Council and staff. The learning curve is exponential. We make decisions, monitor the impacts, then moderate and adapt as necessary, while responding to ever-developing direction from our Provincial and Federal governments.
Why did the City close garbage cans?
As we shifted to respond to the pending COVID-19 pandemic, the City made a conscious choice to begin to free up our public works teams so that they would be available to address critical infrastructure needs as the pandemic progressed.
On March 27th, public garbage bins were closed to limit the spread of COVID-19 through common points of contact on public surfaces and to allow City crews to focus on critical infrastructure needs. This temporary measure is being monitored daily.
While the vast majority of people handled their litter responsibly despite bins being closed, it has become clear that bins in strategic areas will need to be re-opened to deal with litter left by others.
People are asked to take their litter away with them - a necessary practice anytime a public bin is not available.
Why is Ocean Boulevard closed?
As I said in my previous message to residents, the closure of Ocean Blvd is a temporary measure to discourage large group gatherings and encourage social distancing.
Other regional parks have experienced some real stressors as many people look for opportunities to use free time to explore our parks systems within the region.
The fact is, no matter how much messaging we put in place, as the weather continues to improve and cabin fever increases, visits to Ocean Boulevard and the Lagoon Beach will increase. Closing the road and limiting access is for the good of our citizens to prevent further transmission of COVID-19. Please understand, it is just the parking that is closed. All of Colwood’s parks and beaches remain open for residents to get their daily exercise.
I have been asked if road repairs will continue during the closure and I can tell you they will, as part of the City's ongoing road maintenance program. Any larger road construction projects will need to be reviewed as part of the City's overall budget deliberations.
Branch Drop Off and Spring Clean Up Programs
The City will continue to offer the Branch Drop Off program on the first and third Saturday of the month with strict modifications to require physical distancing and ensure COVID-19 safety measures are followed. Note that this may change as necessary. Check www.colwood.ca for updates.
The annual Spring Clean Up has been postponed until later in the year. Although the fees help to offset the cost of the program, I will be asking Council to consider waiving the fees for our residents (for this year). I believe it is a small acknowledgment from the City that we understand the financial constraints all households are experiencing presently.
Property tax rates and due dates
The municipal property tax payment due date is July 1st. This date is mandated by the Province and the City has no ability to change this date independently. However, in discussions with the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Minister Robinson has expressed that the Province is looking at possibly extending that deadline. I am seeking further information from the Province in regards to that.
As a Council (before COVID-19) our budget was based on a strong regional and national economy. Due to this pandemic, many Colwood residents have either lost their jobs or have been laid off for an indeterminate period of time. It’s time for Colwood families to tighten their household budgets and I think the responsible thing for the city is to mirror the importance of financial constraint. In this vein, as one voice on Council, as we finalize our budget, I will be advocating for a 0% tax lift for the 2020 fiscal year.
I don’t take this recommendation lightly. However, Colwood residents need to be able to keep their household finances afloat and I hope we are able to implement this small measure to help.
Again, I would like to thank each of you as we continue to support each other. If you are looking for the most up-to-date information about the city, please visit www.colwood.ca.
Mayor Rob Martin
City of Colwood