Service review meetings have Colwood council evaluating everything the city does
What does it take to run a city? What does “corporate services” even mean? How expensive is it to have 50 parks in Colwood? Are the sewers working like they should?
These are the kinds of things Colwood council will know after four “service review” meetings this month where each department will give a report to council. Mayor Doug Kobayashi knows the process might be tedious, but is determined to make sure the city is run efficiently.
Over four meetings this month, council will hear reports about the state of the city covering everything from roads to policing, from parks and recreation to storm sewers. They’ll hear from the IT department, engineering, planning, and the fire crew, and corporate services.
Through it all, council will refine the direction and priority for each department and service. Following this review, deciding the annual budget should be a smoother process, since the mostly new council will be more familiar with the needs, purpose, and challenges for each budget line item.
The 6:30pm meetings are open to the public. The first meeting tonight will cover public works, parks, trails & recreation, boulevards, roads, storm sewers, and sewer utility. January 12 has fire, building and bylaw, administration and corporate services, HR, and communications and engagement. January 17, council will focus on finance, IT, geographic information system, and engineering, and the last meeting, on Jan. 19, will cover policing, development, and planning.
Park improvements on the docket
Havenwood Park’s trails need some work. Half of them are informal paths that pass through sensitive ecosystems, like riparian areas and delicate meadows. Not all the trails are accessible for people with physical limitations, and there is barely any signage to inform visitors how accessible or difficult trials are. Some trails are prone to seasonal flooding, and some of the stairs have irregular spacing.
Landscape architect consultants, who wrote a park management plan after a few rounds of public consultation, recommend the main trails be made accessible with standard widths and reasonable slopes and grades.
The high areas of Havenwood are rocky bluff outcroppings covered in the familiar, yellow grassy meadows endemic to the coast. That ecosystem is sensitive, and in Havenwood, the area is criss-crossed with informal trails. So the plan is to add fencing, designate paths, and use signage to help protect the area while still giving access to park visitors.
The landscape architects also want to designate certain areas as on-leash to keep dogs from interfering with wild habitat. Their wish list for the first two years comes to $112,000 at a minimum, plus a fair amount of staff time and a few ideas that haven’t been priced out yet. Medium and long-term plans for park improvement add another $388,000.
The Latoria Park plan’s budget is smaller—about $250,000 over five years—but has a similar overall goal of improving the trail network, signage, and environmental protection for areas in the park. Consultants also recommended establishing a Friends of Latoria Park group to facilitate community involvement. Council’s endorsement will allow those plans to go to the final step: public consultation.
Parks Canada is working on a national urban park strategy, and Colwood’s Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse is one of the six national candidates. A Parks Canada representative is working with Colwood staff and the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations to draft a proposal for Parks Canada, due in a few months. Their plan so far centers around restoring the natural ecosystem on those sites, and building active transportation (planner-speak for walking, cycling, rolling, etc.). An interim report was submitted to Colwood council last night.