Mary’s Council Update March 22, 2012Posted by admin in : News , trackback
Another month filled with meetings and interactions. Some good, some disappointing—not for me but for people making requests. It would be fabulous if we could make everyone happy but that’s not possible but council does the best it can.
Yesterday MLA Bill Bennett came to Fernie to present $350,000 to Fernie for soccer fields and $400,000 to Sparwood Mayor Lois Halko for work to their aquatic centre.
BC Hydro has informed that smart meters will be installed soon in our area. There are concerns over these meters however Hydro reassures that they are safe although Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378 state in a letter that “people are concerned about potential health, environmental, cost and privacy impacts.” They are also concerned about the loss of 400 meter reader jobs. Another issue with Hydro is the loss of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program. On March 1, municipal leaders met with Hydro and provincial reps to discuss this issue. We were told that Hydro has been asked to reduce 1200 jobs across the province, but funding ($4,300,000) for the program will remain and come back to the region with the challenge of producing a new delivery model. It was expressed as whether this might provide employment for some of the people being let go but skepticism bounded as to whether this new model could be done as successfully as in the past if consultants not familiar with the area create it.
On March 7, Councillor Iddon and I attended the Community to Community Forum at St. Eugene Golf Resort that was a good opportunity to share information between the communities of the Regional District and the Ktunaxa Nation. It seems to be an excellent way to strengthen relationships and cooperation between us and it was determined that “instead of sending letters we talk to each other on different topics”. The dialogue included topics such as the Columbia River Treaty “Put in money to restore salmon runs to right a historic wrong. Include membership on Advisory Planning Committees to deliver both points of view on joint land use planning such as the Kookanusa OCP and parks planning and joint management. Invite each other at special events like inaugural council meetings, having gardens on Ktunaxa lands, sharing of history and cultural events, storytelling such as when the curse was lifted off Fernie. Also Broadband, emergency preparedness, public transit, and sharing of house inspectors was discussed. “We don’t have to agree or be best buddies we just need to work together and support one another; we need to change our mindset to meet the needs of both parties.”
It was mentioned that the USA has always involved their First Nations people in the Treaty but here in Canada there is none. Locally it was suggested that we could do a survey to find out the number of Aboriginals living in Fernie, fly their flag as a symbolic gesture of recognition of our First Nations neighbours or perhaps use the Ktunaxa word for welcome on our signs so as to show our appreciation of their history and culture in this area.
Don’t know who is taking advantage of BC transit locally but here are some stats, January 2011- 301 passengers, 2012- 537, February 2011- 608, 2012- 587. The Health Connections Bus for January 2011- 196, February- 152, January 2012- 257, February- 244. These numbers are very low in comparison to other communites; I hope that more people take advantage of this service in order to ensure continuation of it.
The Resort Municipality Initiative five year strategy has currently been reviewed and taken to a public meeting of stakeholders who made many suggestions as to how this money should be disbursed. It is agreed that a group of stakeholders, staff and council reps will form a new group to work on this. It is thought that with the HST removal in the future the Province may fund this initiative from a general pool of money instead of from hotel room tax.
Council discussed ways of making City hall accessible to all recently but in light of costs for the alterations needed that would include removing outside and interior walls or adding a new section to the building it was determined that in future meetings that required public hearings for large issues as well as some regular meetings would be held in one of the other more accessible buildings owned by the City. Also if someone is unable to access City Hall they only need to make arrangements by phone to have a staff member or employee come outside to them to provide business requirement. Council is fully aware of the difficulty in accessing City Hall for those with physical impairments and we want to do whatever possible to accommodate them in a workable way.
Council has donated $1000 to the Stars in the Valley Golf Tournament being held in May to raise funds for STARS that provide an invaluable service to Fernie residents in emergency situations by flying them to hospitals where they can get required care.
The OCP implementation committee is working on a survey to be distributed to every person so as to get information to update the Quality of life Index Report. I am asking that instead of just glancing at it and throwing it in the trash instead please read it, fill it out and return it. This will provide an accurate snapshot of life as it is led by the people who live here on a fulltime and partime basis.
March 31 from 8:30 to 9:30 pm is Earth Hour. This is a symbolic event to show how even one hour will save energy and reduce the environmental footprint. If this was done every evening it would save enough to power 4000 homes for an entire year says BC Hydro.
Congratulations to FAR for fifty years of skiing. I recall years ago when the present hill was installed. I remember classmates in grade five and six coming to school on Monday talking excitedly about their skiing experience. As the daughter of immigrants working hard to make a new life in this country I wasn’t given the luxury of doing the same but I still have always appreciated what skiing meant personally and most importantly what it means economically for Fernie.
I asked for comments on whistle cessation. I have received many both pro and against. This coming Monday is a good time to get your voice heard as Council has a whistle cessation bylaw coming up.
Budget discussion is underway; here is some of what your tax dollars get you in the way of services. Water distribution, Sewer, Storm sewer, fire protection, building inspection, bylaw enforcement, parks, recreation ( includes aquatic centre, arena, curling club, disc golf, bocce pits, baseball, tennis, mountain bike trails, dirt jump park, skate park, soccer fields, other trails), street lights, snow and ice control, sidewalks, planning, garbage collection and recycling, dog licensing, streets and traffic, land use, building design, subdivision, signage, business licensing, building permits and inspection, fire prevention, noise control, an amazing Library, assistance to the Arts Centre, Museum and Chamber and roads. It can’t be emphasized enough that half of what is collected on your tax bill is for City Taxes the rest is for other agencies including school, regional district, hospital and policing. This year it was deemed that a 5.2% hike to taxes is what is needed to maintain the levels of service now provided. Several councillors and I have said this is unacceptable so now it is left to our treasurer to come up with a way of making up the deficit of nearly $74,000 annually. My personal point of view and one that I am sure won’t be shared by many is that the $1.5 million in the budget for implementation of water meters in 2014 should be scaled down and used for present needed services instead. Taxpayers should express whether they would prefer to have water meters or not. Regardless budget talks are most important and I encourage everyone to attend the meetings that discuss this very significant topic.