There is a great deal of activity with roads rebuilt in several areas of town and technological changes made in City Hall. Chambers now has screens that allow both council and visitors to follow the agenda clearly.
Survey results on staffing issues in Fernie presented by chamber manager Patty Vadnais showed 60% of businesses surveyed have unfilled positions some being $20 hour ones, 19 businesses are not receiving applications at all and some not tourism related still not being filled. It seems that lack of workers is reaching crisis and there’s no easy fix in the near horizon to attract workers.
City has an Affordable Housing Strategy completed and Council voted in favour of proceeding with the development of Station Square by having the beautification committee continue planning and having administration investigate parking issues.
Leisure Services and The Fernie Museum were awarded a $50,000 grant from the BC Museum Association to produce a piece of art that would incorporate the theme of Station Square and the 1908 fire.
A contractor recommended by the respected Invasive Plant Council conducted a comprehensive baseline inventory of invasive plants on all City properties and council directed staff to bring a project forward in the 2018 budget to address the issue of invasive plants located on City properties. Noxious weeds are considered a significant threat and can “trigger devastating environmental, economic and social impacts on local ecosystems”. Noxious weeds are legislated under the BC Weed Control Act and possess some or all of the characteristics which allow them to be invasive and difficult to control. If allowed to proliferate uncontrolled the provincial government has the authority to treat the invasive growth and charge the City if this work isn’t undertaken by a municipality. Council also moved to allow a one-time application of a herbicide allowed by the City bylaw and the provincial government and considered by Health Canada as safe to the Max Turyk soccer field. Note that it was slated to be done this spring but due to much complaint by a group of citizens the application was stopped. This delay in the weed control area has grown much larger resulting in an increase in cost. The soccer field land was purchased specifically to provide a good soccer field for the many children that play as the one being used before was deemed unsafe with gopher holes and weeds and uneven land according to parents that approached city council. Nearly a million dollars has been spent on this new field and it doesn’t make any sense to allow it to become a weed infested area that will ultimately result in it also being unsafe for children. Councillors are being told that hand pulling and other natural methods need to be tried first, staff has tried many natural ways to stop the noxious growth and especially after reading the results of the inventory and the recommendations it is clear that the application of the herbicide is the only solution. It will be sprayed by a professional, with extreme caution and it is said that after four or five sunny day any residue will have dissipated. It stands to reason that children and pets should be kept away from the sprayed area during this time.
After several years without a contract the 2012/2019 Collective Agreement has been signed by the City of Fernie and the International Association of Fire Fighters local 2827. An internal change is the inclusion of an Assistant Chief position that has the duties of Training Officer and Emergency Management coordinator. Brendan Morgan has been moved into this position and with the many fires in BC citizens have been asking whether Fernie is prepared with a plan in case such an emergency were to arise. The answer is yes, there is a plan and staff and Fire Rescue is prepared. Another change is moving bylaw services under the auspices of Fire Rescue Department and this is working quite well.
A very contentious topic was the short term rentals issue that came forward some months ago. A public meeting was held with nearly 100 people attending, and expectations at that meeting and subsequent correspondence by some businesses was that the City should and could make changes or implement policy within a couple of months at the latest. However, this issue required much research to find what other communities are doing, what rules and laws regulate rentals and then for staff to bring a report back to council for consideration. This was done and council has directed staff to prepare a bylaw amendment to implement short term rental regulation as outlined in the short term rental regulatory framework that is enforceable and includes a business license, inspection, parking and that the owner must live in the home where this service is offered.
Council also approved a proposal to conduct a structural, architectural, mechanical, electrical and building and fire code review of the Fernie Fire Hall and all equipment storage buildings located at the public works yard. A glowing letter of thanks to Fernie Fire Rescue in regards to their assistance towards an incident at the Elkview mine was sent by mine General Manager Don Sander. They were thanked for their contribution to the extinguishment of a situation and also for instructing their Mine Rescue teams in their efforts. Congratulation team, Fernie truly has an exceptional fire department.
As a member of council and specifically as mayor my duty is to make decisions based on information provided by staff and then after reviewing that information I make a proper judgment on what is requested by a proponent. I like to listen and make my determination based on my thoughts not on how someone or some organization wants me to vote. Since the first election I made it a policy never to take donations towards my campaign and I state honestly and proudly that in five elections I haven’t deviated from that resolve. There have been a few times when I agreed on decisions that weren’t popular but what I have learned since being on council is that unless you are immersed in a situation and are privileged to know all of the information of the issue what you hear on the street is rarely close to being full or even truthful information and so becoming angry with council decisions becomes a futile exercise. What I have also learned is that even if truthful information is passed to you if you have already made up your mind on the situation and determined how you want it to go, being conveyed truth often falls on deaf ears. There are also private reasons why people become angry at decisions and those could be that its perceived to be a personal loss or as 2018 draws near and a local election looms on the horizon it becomes time for organizations to mark their candidate of choice and then work to find whatever they can on present council members and me in particular to cast doubt as to who we are and what we represent. This is politics and I am seasoned enough to understand how the game is played, but I refused to play that game in five elections, and won’t do so in the future either. I believe my record speaks for itself.
I have initiated many programs, worked on many projects, supported many organizations, and worked long days into evenings to do good for this community and for the area as a whole. I support whatever and whomever I can with requests, I treat everyone with respect and my door is open to all that care to come and visit, ask questions or just want to know information. I don’t believe in treating people any other way but I draw the line at people thinking that just because someone is a member of council that gives them the right to make rude and dishonest statements on line or in front of people. There seems to be licence these days to act as judge and jury on anyone while you hide safely behind the computer. To anyone out there that wants to know information I extend an invitation to come before council but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that I am available by phone or come and visit at city hall, I am always willing to provide you with the truth to questions you have in the privacy of the office.