Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Kitimat faces many hard decisions in the face of shocking population decline forecast

“Municipal services are driven by your ability to pay and by the population you serve,” he explained. “A town of 2,000 people will have a different complement of municipal services than a town of 15-, 20,000. That’s obvious.” -- Part of a briefing to Kitimat City council as the city comes to terms with the state of its economic health.

As the realities of the Eurocan closure hit home in Kitimat, that city's council has had to face some cold statistics over their future, that of the potential decline of the city's population by 4,000 residents.

That was the scenario presented to council, as city staff provided an apparent worst case scenario of population decline created by the Eurocan closure and the planned modernization of the Alcan smelter in the city.

Looking at the potential number of unemployed Kitimat residents, it's estimated that with Eurcan's closure some 500 residents will be out of work both from the mill and the spin off jobs associated to it, once the Alcan modernization project takes place another 500 residents are expected to be removed from the rolls of the employed, as serious a change in economic fortunes as the city has seen in a long time.

If the numbers predicted come to pass, Kitimat's population would reverse back to around 5,000 residents, levels not seen since 1954.

With that prospect to contemplate, Kitimat council will have to work out how to provide services for a city of 5,000 as opposed to what they provided for one that at one time neared 15,000 and had one time hopes to reach at least 20,000.

District manager Trafford Hall delivered the sobering news to Kitimat's council on January 29th, offering up the prospect of hard decisions to come by that city as it tries to determine how best to serve its residents with a population in exodus and a thinly stretched tax base to remain.

The full review of the numbers was provided by Kitimat's Northern Sentinel, (read it here) it makes for an interesting read on how sudden economic reversal can quickly change the dynamic of a community, something that Prince Rupert is more than familiar with.

Kitimat's forced deliberations on the future of service delivery could offer much instruction for other communities in the Northwest, as they too struggle with a declining population, crumbling infrastructure and the need to retrench financially.

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