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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update from Mayor Doug McCallum City Services and Operations

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The impact COVID-19 is having on our everyday life is unprecedented.

All of us are adjusting to new measures and approaches in how we go about our daily lives and how we interact with one another. With this in mind, I want to assure our citizens that the core services and operations that the City of Surrey provides are being maintained for the well-being and safety of our community with measures put in place to keep our staff and front line responders safe.

While we are doing everything to ensure for a smooth continuation, I would ask the people of Surrey for their patience given the fast-changing nature of events.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Surrey RCMP and Surrey Fire are taking proactive steps to ensure that the safety of Surrey residents will not be compromised.

Front line policing is the top priority with resources shifted to ensure for response to Priority 1 emergency and 911 calls, managing prolific offenders in the community, maintaining a highly visible police presence in the city and protecting Surrey’s most vulnerable with RCMP and Mental Health Outreach Team operating at full capacity.

Surrey Fire Service is, currently, at normal service levels and all Surrey Fire Halls are at full operational strength to respond to emergency and 911 calls. Surrey Fire has contingency plans in place to ensure maximum response capability is maintained.

Starting Monday, March 23rd, all city run day camps will be shut down.

Also, starting Monday, the two daycares located at civic facilities will be shut down to the public in order to prioritize space for health workers, first responders and essential service workers.

As part of the City’s COVID-19 pandemic response, modifications have been made to our customer service counters at City Hall such as the requirement to use to use hand sanitizer stations upon entry and exit from City Hall. To protect our staff, as of yesterday afternoon, the City has begun implementing remote work options that ensure employee safety while maintaining full continuity in City operations.

I want to stress that while you may see a change in how business is conducted at City Hall, the business of the City has not stopped.

For example, the Planning and Development Department are prioritizing permit applications to expedite issuance for simple permits. Remote inspections have been expanded to enhance social isolation opportunities while keeping projects going.

As of tomorrow, a call centre to direct planning, development and building inquiries and to make appointments that would normally take place at City Hall will be in operation, so our clients will not have to come to City Hall. The phone number for the planning, development and building call centre inquiries is 604 591 4086.

Ensuring that business continues is vital in the days ahead, that’s why the City has approved infrastructure construction to proceed for the Anniedale Tynehead NCP. This new infrastructure represents $35M dollars worth of construction and the project itself will bring more housing choices to Surrey. The funds for the infrastructure has been paid by the developer.

City staff have also been taking stock of large format industrial space that could potentially be used to set up temporary hospitals, or as space for production lines to manufacture essential medical equipment, or for warehousing of essential resources.

There have also been a lot of questions regarding property taxes. We are actively working with the Province on what can be done on this front and we will update you as soon as we can.

As we all know now, events are changing everyday, and I can assure you that the City of Surrey will adapt accordingly.

While our recreational facilities are closed during this time, we have begun to put up videos of classes that you can do at home. We just launched the videos last night and we are continually adding to it, which includes resources from our libraries, museums, and galleries. I want to thank our Parks, Recreation and Culture staff for the great and quick work they are doing on this front.

In the meantime, I continue our residents to enjoy our outdoor spaces including our parks, playgrounds, and beaches. Get out in the fresh air but do so by being mindful of social distancing. Use your judgement, Surrey is a big city, there are many outdoor spaces you can make use of while keeping social distancing intact.

I want to conclude by saying that I am proud of our residents for their calm and resolve during this time. We will get through this because we are all in this together.

We should also take a moment to thank the people who are working on our behalf during this time. From health care staff and front-line emergency responders, to the grocery clerk and transit operators,

everyone who is going to work to keep us safe, our kitchen pantries full, I want to thank you. I also want to encourage everyone to take a moment and send a message of thanks and support for their efforts they are doing on our behalf.

Thank you.
Mayor Doug McCallum

Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.

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Surrey Public and School Playgrounds Re-Opening June 1

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Surrey Playground

Effective June 1, 125 playgrounds throughout the City’s park system and all playgrounds within the Surrey School district’s 101 elementary schools will be re-opened. The decision to re-open has been made with direction from the Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines which states that “playgrounds are a safe environment” and that everyone should be mindful of “appropriate personal hygiene practices before, during and after outdoor play.”

“The collective work we have done to flatten the curve is working and that is why we are now re-opening our City playgrounds,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “I fully welcome children, students and families to make full use of the playgrounds, but I want to remind everyone it is very important that we all continue to practice good health and hygiene measures. So, wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer and if you are sick, stay home.”

“We can’t underestimate the importance of play to a child’s development, particularly during the pandemic,” said Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education. “Playgrounds promote physical activity, which in turn improves attention and decreases stress and anxiety. But we need to ensure that children are playing safely – encouraging physical distancing as much as possible, minimizing contact with other children, and washing hands before and after play.”

The City of Surrey is also re-opening its skate parks. The following eight skate parks will be re-opened for May 30 with physical distancing requirements and size limits for the number of users:

Bear Creek Park
Royal Kwantlen Park
Fraser Heights Park
Cloverdale Fairgrounds
South Surrey Athletic Park
Tom Binnie Park
Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex
Guildford Recreation Centre

Surrey’s COVID-19 Compliance and Enforcement Team will be monitoring the sites to educate the public and assist, should any concerns be observed.

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$500,000 IN COMPUTER UPGRADES UNNECESSARY IF SURREY STICKS WITH RCMP

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Police transition costs growing, $150,000 per month
and climbing fast: Councillor Linda Annis

Surrey, BC (May 25, 2020): Surrey Councillor Linda Annis says she will be voting against spending $500,000 today on proposed computer upgrades for a transition to the mayor’s proposed Surrey Police Department.

“Like so many of the rising costs associated with transition to the SPD, we wouldn’t need these tech upgrades if we stayed with the RCMP,” said Annis. “Costs for the transition are already at $150,000 per month and climbing daily. Worse, no one really knows what the final cost will be. For instance the IT and computer budget estimate is $6 million to $20 million.

How can a range like that even be taken seriously. That’s not a serious budget number, it’s a ballpark at best and so open ended it makes absolutely no sense.” Annis said Surrey taxpayers need to know these numbers will ultimately hit them in their wallets, and do nothing to provide better policing or public safety.

Frankly, the more we learn about the cost of transition the more this looks like a vanity project for the mayor and his Safe Surrey councillors,” explained Annis. “In fact, I’d stake my seat on council if this transition ever passed a public referendum. But, the mayor would never allow that because Surrey voters would stick with the RCMP if they were given the opportunity.”

Annis said she will be voting against every SPD transition cost being brought before council.

“The transition cost is at least $129 million at a time when our city revenues are down and our citizens and businesses are hurting,” added Annis. “Proceeding is completely tone deaf to the hard times facing our citizens. Even worse, the proposed SPD will actually have fewer officers than we have right now. The math is completely ridiculous and the lack of accountability and transparency is hard to swallow.”

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Surrey Residents Embrace Digital Library Resources

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Surrey, BC – Library branches may be closed due to COVID-19 but Surrey Libraries are still serving the literacy and learning needs of the community. New users of OverDrive, the free service that lets people borrow digital content like eBooks and eAudiobooks saw an increase of 257% in April compared to the same month last year. Additionally, downloads of eBooks and eAudio and use of streaming video more than doubled in April.

“From books, to magazines and streaming media, our residents have discovered and fully embraced the wide range of materials available in Surrey Libraries digital collection,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “Our libraries offer a lifetime of continual learning and I am happy to see so many people continuing to use this vital resource. For those who have yet to access this wonderful resource, you can do so by signing up for your own library card online.”

To meet this increased demand, the Library is growing its digital content by adding new engaging online resources as well as always available eBooks and a superloan eBook and eAudio collection. Additionally, use of online learning platforms like Lynda.com, Gale Courses, Learning Express, and Kanopy Great Courses has also doubled.

“The Library has always been a source of trusted information and free resources for the community and we continue to fill that role,” said Neelam Sahota, chair of the Board of Trustees. “The Library’s digital resources are convenient and meets people’s needs – having more people discovering these resources is a silver lining in an otherwise challenging time.”

In addition to the digital resources, Library staff are available to answer questions by email  (libraryinfo@surrey.ca) and telephone (604-598-7901) and the Library has seen an increase of over 1,000 per cent in the number of emails received over the same time period last year.

Surrey Libraries has also started offering virtual programming. Tech help, Storytimes, homework tips online, literature club for seniors, and book clubs for all ages are just some of the programs available. Upcoming online programs can be found on the Library’s website: https://www.surreylibraries.ca/events.

Information on online library resources is available at
www.surreylibraries.ca/news/getting-started-our-online-library. And for the full alphabetical list of databases that Surrey Libraries offers, visit the online library page.

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Patios for Surrey’s Restaurants a Good Solution to More Space and Social Distancing

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Let’s be creative and flexible in helping our 800-plus
restaurants survive COVID-19: Councillor Linda Annis

Councillor Linda Annis says Surrey needs to give its 800-plus restaurants, wineries and breweries the option of opening up summer patios as a way to provide more space in the age of social distancing.

“Vancouver’s decision this week to ease restrictions on patios is a good move and a practical way to help their hospitality businesses,” said Annis. “We need to be equally creative and supportive as our Surrey restaurants, wineries and breweries struggle to survive the impacts of COVID-19. If they can only use their interior space, many will not make it. But if they can have patios that let them have more space while social distancing then they have a fighting chance, and frankly who doesn’t want to sit outside on a sunny day in Surrey?”

Annis said she’s going to ask city council and city staff to move quickly with little or no red tape, quick approvals and helping get to ‘yes” on patio options that allow businesses to make the most of summer in Surrey.

“We don’t need a long approval process, instead we should be giving our hospitality sector some quick guidelines that take common sense and safety into consideration, and encourage them to be creative,” added Annis. “I don’t want another layer of bureaucracy, just give our hospitality sector the chance to do what they do best, be creative and offer great food and service.”

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VPD Budget Issues a Wake Up Call for Surrey’s Proposed SPD

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This is no time for Surrey to be changing police forces: Councillor Linda Annis

Councillor Linda Annis says media reports about serious budget issues for the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) during COVID-19 should be “another reason to press pause” on Mayor Doug McCallum’s plans to rush ahead with a Surrey Police Department.

“These are unprecedented times and the last thing we need right now is a police force that’s in some sort of costly, complicated and unnecessary transition,” said Annis. “The fact that the Vancouver Police Department is facing serious policing and budget issues, as the City of Vancouver deals with reduced city revenues, should be a wake-up call for all of us right here in Surrey.

Switching police departments during a global pandemic is a scary thought, both from a policing perspective, but also because of the very real financial impacts facing our city and its taxpayers. Right now, our police department and city staff should be completely focused on public safety and how to manage through the impacts of COVID-19. We shouldn’t be spending another dime or another second on creating a Surrey Police Department while all of this is going on around us.”

Annis said her only interest in reports about possible police budget cuts in Vancouver is to remind Surrey taxpayers what’s at stake with the costly transition to the SPD from the RCMP, particularly during the state of emergency.

“Policing is costly and complex at the best of times,” added Annis. “But during a serious emergency, like the one we’re in right now, we need to stay focused on what’s actually important to our taxpayers, and switching police departments during a health crisis isn’t even close to the top of that list.”

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