Castlegar News recently spent some time with Mayor Lawrence Chernoff to get his thoughts on 2016 and his hopes for 2017.
Castlegar News: 2016 was a busy year for the City of Castlegar. Of everything that happened in Castlegar last year, what were you the most excited about?
Lawrence Chernoff: I was really excited about the volunteers in the community, I look at what they have done — it doesn't matter which group they are — when we ask for volunteers, they come out. Without volunteers, our community isn't what it is today. It's beautiful, it's an ideal place to live and it is due to the volunteers.
When I look at the Fortis infrastructure coming to the community, that to me is a huge boost.
Millennium Park Phase 2 — to me, you have to be excited about [the park]. The Millennium is just a ball of excitement, it is such an attractive place. We are adding to a huge asset. Whether you are a senior or a tot, you have something to do down there.
CN: What was the biggest challenge?
LC: The airport comes into it, but also the number of changes we have made — whether we are talking about garbage, new programming ... the water metres. The uptake is a little slow, but people need to realize these are long-term benefits. It is trying to get the right information out there so people have a clear understanding of what we are doing, how we are doing it. We are doing it relatively well, but there are questions out there. We are trying to solve them, but that is the challenge — to get enough information out there.
Everything we do is to look to the future. You can't be stagnant, you need to move on. We are very progressive in what we do and we take some great initiatives. We are doing all of these things because we are trying to make it better.
CN: Were there any hopes for 2016 that didn't work out?
LC: Probably the Columbia Ave. redevelopment, I think we had some thoughts that that would come about. It is a huge project and we need to go back to what are we going to do for the future. What are we going to do about that corridor?
The airport — I have been at this for such a long time. In 2016 we finally got Jeppsen [the avionics company that is studying ways to improve the West Kootenay Regional Airport] on side. I know what the expectations are. It is a long process, but people need to know we will get there. We are hoping 2017 is really going to be a huge part of this.
CN: What projects or initiatives are you most excited about for 2017?
LC: The Jeppsen report. It is a key initiative. Once this airport reliability comes through, I just see the future for the West Kootenays is just huge. We've kind of taken a giant leap here with Jeppsen to find a solution.
Sculpture Walk, Communities in Bloom —they are such dedicated volunteer groups. I'll see what new stuff they come up with for 2017.
We are building a lifestyle .... We do that because we are progressive and we take the initiative.
CN: What are your hopes for Castlegar in 2017?
LC: For 2017, I have grandeur hopes that we have growth in prosperity. There are still some great projects out there — the Chamber building ... another bike path to Selkirk College ... the big country music [festival] coming to town.
It is a viable community, it is an attractive community. We are in great shape financially. We provide a high level of service to the community. That has been our goal all along. Our future is bright; I still think we are going to continue to grow. It is all about the lifestyle.