Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran announced 65 layoffs of permanent part-time staff and the closure of 10 city facilities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mayor took to the steps of council chambers to address local media during a news conference on March 17.
“We are dealing with a rapidly changing situation that even public health professionals find challenging to keep up with,” said Basran. “This is new territory for everyone and we continue to listen to the direction of the B.C. medical health officer and take local action in the public’s best interests.”
The 10 facilities that will close by the end of the day on March 17 are:
- Parkinson Recreation Centre
- Kelowna Community Theatre
- Black Box Theatre
- Rutland Arena
- Memorial Arena
- Rutland Activity Centre
- Parkinson Activity Centre
- Okanagan Mission Activity Centre
- Kinsmen Field House
- Mission Media Centre
As part of those closures, the city laid off 65 staff working part-time within the city’s active living and culture division. The city is working to move remaining full-time employees to other city units.
There are no ‘special considerations’ in place for the laid-off staff.
According to Basran, essential services will continue as usual but the city is prepared to “react” if that’s what is needed. At a city council meeting on March 16, the mayor said contingency plans are in the works to maintain such services, including water treatment, wastewater management and emergency services.
Lance Kayfish, the city’s risk management and business continuity manager, said the responsibility of helping people experiencing homelessness through the pandemic is on BC Housing, not the city’s Journey Home program.
City manager Doug Gilchrest said there is no plan as of yet to declare a ‘state of emergency’ but it is something the city is evaluating.
Public hearings and city council meetings will continue as scheduled for now.
“I urge everyone to take the medical health professionals’ advice seriously and practice good hygiene such as washing your hands often,” said the mayor. “As I said yesterday (March 16), these are anxious times. But Kelowna has seen many difficult times before and I believe we can rise to the occasion and again show our best selves in the face of adversity.”