Talks continuing about how to improve downtown Courtenay

Planning for improvements to Courtenay's downtown core is going well, according to city director of community services Randy Wiwchar.

Planning for long-term and short-term improvements to Courtenay’s downtown core is going well, according to city director of community services Randy Wiwchar.Wiwchar told council a steering committee made up of members of the Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association and city staff has been set up since a large forum discussing ways to improve downtown was held at the end of February.”Things are going well,” said Wiwchar. “We’re moving forward, looking at short-term, looking at long-term, looking at immediate things we can do, and looking at keeping the downtown dynamic in terms of more events and community beautification and things like that.”City staff compiled a list of the most popular ideas from the forum, some of which are long-term and some short-term.Subcommittees were formed for events/cultural partners (made up of cultural groups, City staff and DCBIA members), and beautification (made up of City staff and DCBIA members).According to Wiwchar, beautification of Fourth Street was established as a priority, and even though there’s no line item in the 2012 budget, some things can be done right away to improve it.”We do have a list of things we can do on Fourth, very simple things to do a short-term beautification,” said Wiwchar. “Anything long-term at this point we’re not looking at. Those are longer discussions, those are budget discussions, but for now we think we can do some very immediate things on Fourth.”Mayor Larry Jangula asked if doing something with the old Palace Theatre site, which he considers an eyesore, has been determined as a priority.”Put some pressure on the owners of the old theatre property to knock that fence down, level that property and beautify and let the public have access,” suggested Jangula. “And I think that was a big one and it would help everyone.”Wiwchar said the City is still trying to negotiate a compromise with the property owner.He also noted that parking and traffic ideas are still being narrowed down as there are differing opinions surrounding the issue, such as to make the area more pedestrian friendly or more parking friendly.A few of the other initiatives on the list include: More communication with the Economic Development Society, downtown exposure at ‘big box’ stores, food vendors and expansion or change of the DCBIA boundary.Coun. Bill Anglin, council liaison to the DCBIA, said the improved communication between interested parties is creating synergy and he expects positive changes, but he noted the City’s role should be to facilitate.”Business knows how to run business,” said Anglin. “They can come, they can ask for things whether it’s for Elevate the Arts and getting some street closures, whether it’s working with planning on parking issues, those kind of things. I think that’s really what they’re looking for and what they have seen as the new direction that they’re going to try and work towards.”A second forum is expected in September.• • •Cory Vanderhost of MNP LLP presented the firm’s findings from its audit of the city’s 2011 financial statements. He noted the firm had no limitations on its audit, and staff were very helpful. “We didn’t find any evidence of conflict of interest, unusual transactions or any illegal or questionable payments,” said Vanderhorst. He added the city is in a “healthy position” financially, but council should always be thinking about the future in terms of its finances.”You want to have those things in your mind in view of what’s coming down the pipe because if there’s no funding for say a water project that needs to happen you start getting into that flexibility discussion of what are we doing in tax versus debt,” said Vanderhorst.Council passed a motion to approve the 2011 audited financial