As it deals with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the 2020 budget, the Village of Cache Creek is also looking ahead to flood season, and Mayor Santo Talarico says that steps have already been taken in order to ensure that the community and its residents are prepared.
“Sandbags are available at the north end of the Cache Creek park,” says Talarico. Some bags have already been filled by members of the Cache Creek Volunteer Fire Department and have been stockpiled for those who need them, and residents are also able to go to the park and fill bags for personal use, with bags and sand available. “It’s a good idea for people to choose to think proactively.”
The Village has also stockpiled rip-rap, so that it’s available at short notice. “It means we have access to it quickly instead of having to go to an outside source if it’s needed. In the middle of the night it can be difficult to get access to material.
“We’re ready for what the weather brings.”
Talarico says that the COVID-19 virus has effectively closed the municipal office, but notes that everyone is still able to carry on work from remote locations. However, the regular council meeting scheduled for April 14 was cancelled, with the announcement noting that “nothing pressing” was on the agenda.
The economic downturn in the community caused by COVID-19 is “huge”, says Talarico. “Obviously we’re a tourism, drive-through-oriented community, so there’s been an impact.
“As far as the health risk goes, though, it’s minimal. It’s created anxiety and stress, but we’re fairly well-situated. There’s only been one reported case [of COVID-19] in Cache Creek so far, so compared with the rest of the province it’s minimized here, due to the fortunate lifestyle in rural B.C. That’s a plus. There’s lots of space between us and our neighbours.”
Talarico adds that while most residents have been taking steps to minimize the spread of the virus and do the right thing, there are some who will never listen.
“Most people want to conform to the guidelines of the provincial, federal, and municipal governments. The ones who aren’t there yet will never be there. Their mindset is that there’s not an issue, so they’re carrying on the way they always have.
“It’s pretty evident what we need to do, but unless we have a complete shutdown and lockdown they won’t conform.”
COVID-19 has had an impact on Cache Creek’s 2020 budget, with only necessary spending continuing. One casualty has been the Cache Creek pool, with council making the decision not to open the pool for the 2020 season.
“It’s fairly simple what we need to do,” notes Talarico. “We’ve put a provisional budget together, and we’re scrutinizing everything from start to finish. The proposed provisional budget had a number of initiatives we wanted to see completed this year, but everything is on hold. We don’t know when COVID-19 will subside and we can get back to normal, and we don’t know what hit we’ll take with taxes not being paid.
“We’re taking it day by day. It’s necessary spending only.”
Asked if council has decided on a property tax increase for 2020, Talarico says they are still looking at it. “We’re in a holding pattern of sorts.” Regarding the possibility of deferring the property tax payment deadline — currently legislated as July 2 — he notes that that could create more difficulties, as the Village does not just collect money on its own behalf.
“If we were just taking in our own funds, we could fund ourselves. But we’re obligated to pay other portions of government at tax due time. [The Province] needs to address that — which they haven’t done to date — and come up with a formula about moving the deadline and deferring payment to other governments as well.”
Talarico says that the rezoning application for a property on Highway 1 at the south end of town, which would allow for a building accommodating businesses and apartments, is continuing, and that the mixed-use model is in line with the Village’s Official Community Plan and Downtown Vision framework.
“It’s also in line with a lot of other communities. [Mixed-use] is a trend that will probably stay with us for decades, and we want to accommodate that.”
He notes that while the Province is changing burning regulations to ban all Category 2 and 3 open burning, campfires are still allowed, and will continue to be allowed within the Village. “If the Province says no campfires then we’ll abide by that. If they take the lead then we’ll follow them from here on in.”
Going back to COVID-19, Talarico says that although authorities have been warning about a new form of virus that might start going around, he doesn’t think anyone anticipated what’s happening.
“Nobody anticipated dealing with COVID-19, but everyone has told us what we need to do as citizens: stay home and do what’s been outlined, and we’ll get through it.”