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Fernie Mayor’s Update February 28, 2018

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Months are flying by and council and staff are as usual working diligently to achieve as much as possible with present council priorities. In no time at all October will be here and time will have run out for this electoral term.

Some of those achievements include an action plan created to implement recommendations in the Human Resources Audit that was completed by the Auditor General. CAO Norm McInnis has been great in working with the employees to bring about some of those changes. He has the employees determining the changes and that is brilliant as it will mean so much more coming from them than if council or CAO applied changes. Bylaw was moved under the authority of the Fire Department, the longtime bylaw officer is no longer with the City of Fernie and recruitment for this position is in the works. In 2016 I spoke with then MLA B. Bennett, Minister of Transportation Todd Stone, and the local Ministry people in Cranbrook in regards to incorporating a wildlife passage and a separate pedestrian bridge crossing as part of the Lizard Creek Bridge replacement and a new trail link. Last September I also spoke with the new Minister of Transportation Minister C. Trevena about those projects and the Ministry has agreed to the wildlife corridor and the new bridge with pedestrian bridge attached and the possibility of a stand- alone pedestrian bridge and trail similar to the one by Fairy Creek.

At the Kootenay hospital meeting ten days ago IH rep Todd Mastel stated that there are only two anesthesiologists left at the Regional hospital. This could mean bringing doctors from Fernie that can provide this service to Cranbrook or having surgeons come here to perform some routine procedures. Surgical appointments have been cancelled due to this shortage. In our Fernie hospital,the operating room renovation project is now complete and the renovated area looks great. New equipment and new steel doors really make a difference.

As most know the evaluation process for Hockeyville is from February 11 to March 16. On March 17 the finalists are to be announced at the Hockey Night in Canada game. If Fernie is a finalist there is only time from March 30 to 31 to vote. The support that Wilkie, Saskatchewan has given us and all the many groups that put out videos and messages of support was truly amazing.

I received a call from the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare who spoke to the provincial budget and the implication for Fernie. She said the RMI was not in the budget however for 2018 the RMI will continues as is with contingency funding as it has been a grant of $10.5 million for the past several years. She said she would work to get it into the next budget as either a permanent program or as a set number of years.

The allocation will be different probably meaning a decrease as has been happening each year recently. One positive is that for 2018 the City isn’t required to develop a new Resort Development Strategy but it does have to adhere to the same process to have projects either amended or new projects approved that fit with the 2015-2017 Strategy.

The Minister said she was very excited about the new Airbnb tax because that is money that communities can use at their discretion either for tourism or housing for workers.

She was also excited about the increase to the municipal and regional district tax (MRDT up to 3% ) that communities can continue to use for tourism or now use for affordable housing.

The MOU for the policing contract has been signed and in 2018 the City will pay for five members at a cost of $782,520, an increase of about $61.53 for the average home or 17 cents a day. In 2019 the city will pay for six members with a cost of $915,423. The committee for beautifying the dumpsters has met and calls for artists will go out soon, the Volunteer Lunch was well attended and thanks goes to the sponsors and especially all of the volunteers including the Senior Center group that prepared and served the lunch.

Councillor Warshawsky and I attended a workshop at the High School that was very interesting and informative, a lot of groups were there to present and talk about place based education, a way to keep students involved and thinking creatively as in today’s technical world information is at the fingertips of every child so what is needed is for children to learn critical thinking. Fernie is featured in a full page feature in the West Jet Magazine which certainly is providing much attention.

At the end of January the City was given the Arena back so work has been underway to check the lines and bring power and heat back into the building, plans are to purchase a new plant that isn’t ammonia based and have the arena back in use by September. The outdoor ice rink continues to get much use with a Timbits Hockey tournament and a skating carnival along with the many adults and children using the ice every day.

Fernie Volunteer Lunch February 21, 2018

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The Senior‘s Center was filled to capacity on Friday, February 16, the occasion being the Volunteer Lunch organized by the City of Fernie to recognize the many individuals that do so much for the community.

I have often said that volunteers are the heart of our community and I always believed that we needed to show appreciation to all the people that do so much without wanting any recognition.
I often thought it would be great to do this at a lunch however the funding required to hold such a large event was never available. Until four years ago when I was told that there were grants that could be applied to for such an occasion.

An application was sent to Columbia Power thanks to Audrey Repin who attended the first volunteer lunch that has now become a very welcome annual event that I love to organize on behalf of the City.

This year applications to the Columbia Basin Trust and Save on Foods were successful allowing the event to take place again.

Lunch began at 11:30 am and continued until two. Councillor Dan McSkimming was Emcee and Councillor Joe Warshawsky greeted everyone and made sure they placed their names in the basket for the door prize draws.

This isn’t a formal event but I do like to have a bit of a program so after introducing councillors McSkimming, Warshawsky and Schaffer I welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming. It was wonderful to have the room full including some City staff and CAO Norm McInnis. MLA Tom Shypitka would have attended however the legislature was in session so he sent a warm message that was read by the emcee.

This lunch is only a gesture to show gratitude for the many hours individuals put into volunteer work in this community. It’s truly only a token to express appreciation to the many remarkable persons that do so much for organizations, churches, clubs, schools, truly, volunteers are everywhere, including many that do for others quietly and privately. This is just a small acknowledgement of what everyone does in this community and it is also just a time to spend socializing with other wonderful people.

There are always individuals who need to be thanked for assisting and so thanks go Sara Stewart and Suzanne Garand from the City for all their help with application and invitations. To Joe Warshawsky for helping and Dan McSkimming for being emcee year after year, to Pastor Dennis Williamson for saying a lovely blessing on all volunteers, to Kevin McIsaac for giving a wonderful speech on what it means to be a volunteer, to MLA Tom Shypitka, thank you to the Columbia Basin Trust, Save On Foods and City of Fernie, and most of all a huge thank you to Alice and Jim Booth and all the people at the Senior’s Center, we couldn’t do it without them, they set up and take down, order and prepare the food and serve it. That group is the epitome of what it means to be a volunteer.

Last December I was speaking with Tammy Monsell telling her I was looking for a door prize for the event. A week later she handed me four tickets to the Vancouver Canucks/San Jose Sharks game valued at over a thousand dollars. This was won by Celia Roccamatisi. Other prizes were from Judith Johannsson of Ghostrider Trading Company, Eric Johnston from Credit Union, Fernie Chamber, Tourism Fernie, City of Fernie, BC Hydro, and the Independent Store.

I really can’t say enough on how important volunteers are in this community. One only has to look at the work that was accomplished in a few weeks to build the outdoor ice rink to see how giving, how kind, how generous and how marvellous the people in this community are. Looking for funding and planning this event is truly a real pleasure for me as mayor. It provides me with the opportunity to convey in a small way how much the City of Fernie appreciates and values the people who call this town home and who contribute so greatly to making it a wonderful place to live. Thank you everyone.

Fernie Film Fest Celebration January 29, 2018

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I’m standing in the lobby of the Park Place Lodge in the corner next to the elevator when a young couple walks by. Glancing up from my phone I immediately recognize Siobhan Williams, reach out and say Siobhan? She immediately responds yes, I introduce myself and am impressed with the friendliness of this young woman and her boyfriend Steve Bays of the musical band “Mounties”. Steve has played Wapiti and says he loves the town. Siobhan has nothing but praise for here as well.

We’re at the Lodge to meet for dinner sponsored by Gordon Sombrowski. It’s an opportunity to meet the special guests brought in for the feature film that opens the annual film festival held in Fernie, Friday, January 26, 2018 titled “Adventures in Public School.” Siobhan plays the love interest in the film and Fernie’s Flo Barrett is the costume designer for it.

Flo arrives and I greet her and present her with a City of Fernie hat. She has her hair piled on top of her head and comments that she’s not able to put the hat on. I reassure her its okay, it’s just a memento of home for her. After dinner she disappears to return with her hair flowing and the cap perched on her head. She says that she had to put it on because when I presented it to Josh Epstein, he wore it all the time, he even wore it to his stag party. I know that to be true as I saw photos and certainly appreciated Josh promoting our town.

At the theatre I introduce the film and the two special guests but not before welcoming everyone on behalf of the City of Fernie.

This is a distinctive year as it is the tenth anniversary of the festival and so Congratulations and considerable compliments go to the organizing committee comprised of Kevin, Cory, Debbie, Keya, Hannah, Suzanne, Deborah, Rebecca, Stacey, Susan and Ingrid on a decade of hosting exceptional films and guests to Fernie.

This annual festival is supported by many valuable sponsors so Congratulations are also extended to them for contributing to bringing independent films that showcase the many talented Canadians who produce including those from here in Fernie.

Adventures in Public School is produced by Josh Epstein, whom some might recall was here two years ago with his film Edweard that also involved award winning costume designer Flo Barrett .

The film’s script was co-written by Kyle Rideout and Josh Epstein. It was directed by Rideout and produced by Epstein.

It star’s Judy Greer, Daniel Doheny, Siobhan Williams, Russel Peters, Andrew McNee, Grace Park and Andrea Bang. This film has already been recognized with an award as Best Comedy feature film at the Edmonton Film festival and is also nominated as Best Canadian Feature film and Best BC Film for 2017.

The film is about a teenage boy who is homeschooled by his mother, is rather inept at social skills, on falling in love with a girl attending public school he enrolls there and soon gets a crash course on teenage life.

The film is lighthearted and really entertains. Judy Greer as the mom is both hilarious, serious and very believable as the smothering mama that doesn’t want to let go of her baby boy. The relationship between mother and son is both touching and odd. At times much too close yet Greer does a great job of making the viewer understand the ties between mother and child and how sometimes parents can be too controlling in the name of love and wanting their child safe.

Siobhan Williams plays Anastasia, a one legged girl who is beautiful and very popular.

Siobhan was born in Cambridge England and moved to Canada as a child with her family. She trained for 13 years at the School of Alberta Ballet in Jazz, modern dance and ballet. She has studied voice guitar, violin and theatre. Since becoming involved in film and television she has trained in various theatrical and on camera methods. She broke into the film and TV world while living in her hometown of Calgary with a role on CBC’s internationally acclaimed series “Heartland”. Moving to Vancouver she was hired for another recurring role on the live action series Level Up. She has had leading roles on may feature films and series most recently including John Cassar’s “Forsaken” with Kiefer and Donald Sutherland and Demi Moore and is also on AMC’s acclaimed series “Hell on Wheels”. This very personable, beautiful young woman is very talented and well on her way to stardom.

Lovely Flo Barrett was born in the UK but spent a good part of her adolescence in Fernie. In 2015 Flo won a Leo Award for best costume design in a feature film for her work Eadweard which was the opening film in 2016.

She told everyone that she built those costumes in the basement of her parent’s house with a tiny budget. She was also nominated in two of three design categories at the Leo awards. Flo did the costume design for Adventures in Public School and also for the short film “Stories of Alyx and Anton” which premiered in Fernie just before the feature film. Most recently she did the costumes for the American horror film “Summer of ’84” that just premiered at the Sundance film festival. Flo lives and works in Vancouver where she no doubt has many projects on the go. But having her at the festival opening was great. Flo has an endearing personality and an amazing presence. “Everyone loves her” Siobhan commented to those of us sitting with her at the table. I think that goes for both of these two lovely young women.

I must give a shout out to Fernie’s film “I’m Possible” premiering at the festival. The story of Fernie local Grace Brulotte, and ski partner Scott Courtemanche, who is the first physically disabled woman tandem sit skier to heli-ski in Canada. For those that know Grace they know nothing stops this young woman from achieving what she wants in life, not even a most challenging disability. This short film follows Grace and shows “ A new perspective and redefines the meaning of possible.” Thank you Grace and Scott for this most inspirational film. You both make Fernie proud with your abilities and determination. Sincere Congratulations.

Fernie Mayor’s Update January 13, 2018

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Recent activity shows that people have confidence in where Fernie is heading and are investing in the community. Fernie had 28 new detached homes with a construction value of over $25,000,000 by end of 2017 (average cost being $527,714).

Several projects are worthy of mentioning and are listed here:

The James White Park Well river crossing, West Fernie Phase 1, and Fernie Ford property annexation were completed with West Fernie Phase 2 brought into the City boundary in December 2017.

The Short Term Rental regulation development started in 2016 with a bylaw implemented in fall of 2017.

A Floodplain mapping update was initiated, completed and bylaw updated.

Sewage Treatment Plant upgrades with alum and UV additions were completed.

The street paving projects in Mountview and Parkland Terrace, watermain and sewer-main replacements in Maintown neighbourhood were completed as well as an irrigation system was installed at Ridgemont Park.

An Asset Maintenance reporting tool was developed and used for dike inspections, manhole inspections and windrow removal.

Public bear proof bins were placed in strategic locations to reduce wildlife/human conflicts and strengthened regulations for curbside residential waste collection were put in place.

Roof repairs were completed at Aquatic Centre, Max Turyk Community Centre and Arts Station as well as deck repairs and replacement done at the Arts Station and turf improvements completed at Max Turyk Community Centre.

Leisure building rentals had 1085 hours for the Fernie Aquatic Centre reserved, 3688 hours for the Fernie Arena and 173 hours reserved for the Curling Club Hall.

Substantial work was accomplished on the Subdivision & Development Servicing Bylaw with public engagement and adoption with increased public education of bylaws and regulations via a campaign administered by bylaw students.

A part time Communications Coordinator position was added and 58 Grants and Partnering Agreements were made totaling $824,065.00.

Increased public engagement through open houses, public halls and surveys were conducted and an action plan to implement recommendations in HR Audit was created.

Facility improvements include a completed renovation at the Visitor Centre located on Highway 3 as well installation of new interpretive signage there.

The Inter-community business license agreement with Elkford and Sparwood and new Intercommunity Business License Bylaw was adopted and 660 Business Licenses issued.

The 2016 census surprised with a population of 5,250 residents, an increase of over 600 residents that resulted in having to pay 70% of policing costs instead of the 30 % due to achieving the 5000 threshold.

There were several issues that brought forth much comment from the community one being the use of herbicide to control invasive plants which is something that is mandated by the provincial government as invasive plants although sometimes attractive can quickly overrun the natural habitat and destroy it. The bylaw recognizes this and when implemented allowed for use on invasive plants and over the several years since implemented herbicides were used only once or twice and so there is a buildup of those weeds in all areas of town. A study was commissioned by an expert that showed exactly where these plants are located around town. The director of leisure services was planning on trying natural products to see if these growths could be eradicated.

2017 had Fernie featured on the Rick Mercer Show and also had famed actor Liam Neeson film here.

The July 1, Canada 150 celebration was fantastic with thousands attending.

Many positive things achieved this past year too numerous to mention however perhaps for the community the one thing that will never be forgotten is the tragedy with the loss of our valued employees Wayne Hornquist and Lloyd Smith and contractor Jason Podloski. This loss was shocking in every way possible. At times still so unbelievable and painful for everyone especially for their loved ones. The positive that came out of this incredible sorrow was the generosity of spirit shown to our community by everyone. The amazing love of residents coming together to swiftly build an outdoor rink and the generous donation of rink boards and funds to assist in that build by the Calgary Flames Foundation and others. And the generous donations of labour, equipment and material provided so quickly by our citizens without even being asked. The list is very long so it can’t be placed here but everyone needs to know how very grateful we are to all of you for what you accomplished, what you did for this community.

Thank you everyone and wishing you all a very Healthy and Happy New Year.

Christmas 2017 December 4, 2017

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It’s December and for me this time of the year always elicits memories of childhood customs and traditions that impressed deeply. Memories of midnight mass, huge bonfires, the Christmas Eve meal of “baccala”, dried salted codfish cooked in several ways, and all types of vegetables, sweets, nuts and fruits. In preparation of the bonfire we would scour the countryside for twigs and pieces of wood used to start the fire.

And there are other memories, like the first time I heard voices emitting from a radio. Pressed against the wall of an open window listening to the neighbour’s radio I stood mesmerized by the magical sound coming from it, wondering how it was possible for people to be in that small space.

There was the time I was in a bus accident and my arm went through the window, when a visiting child grabbed the red hot poker from the fireplace and jammed it into the back of my leg and when I had to stand silently while the doctor’s wife spooned a horrible concoction of soaked bread in milk and oil into my mouth as a way to entice her daughter to eat. And there were the visits to friend’s homes to view the dead as was the custom.

In Italy our house was bereft of amenities, mom walked to the communal water fountain where she would fill a large cistern to carry back. Laundry was done in the creek, heat was from a fireplace that also served as the cooking area for making meals. The house, which was mom’s dowry when she married dad, consisted of two rooms lit by a single bulb hanging from the ceiling. It also had an area where sausages could be seen hanging along with cured hams and a suspended shelf covered with loaves of bread. Every now and then a chicken would get into the house and at night I’d hear it squawking trying to get out. What I loved most though was the fish market, where shelves and containers of shiny fish would sparkle in the sunlight, black eels moved around in metal pails and snails tried to crawl out of the basins holding them.
We were about four kilometers from the nearest town where many of my dad’s siblings lived. Dad would put me in the basket attached to the front of his bicycle and with mom behind him he would pedal us there.

We spent most of the time with my mother’s family so I recall happy times when we all slept on the floor of the cabin at harvest time. Chestnuts, walnuts, filberts and us kids filling baskets of acorns that fell to the ground used for feeding the pigs. My grandpa also had a vineyard and that is where we went to pick grapes and make the wine. My uncles mashed the grapes and grandma and mom cooked sausage over the campfire catching the drippings with a slice of thick bread and parcelling it out to us before dinner.

Evening dusk brought the sight of hundreds of fireflies buzzing around like miniature stars, the happy sounds of laughter and singing with grandpa and his sons playing the accordion and mandolin.

In 1951 dad and his maternal uncle and a few others from the town were approved for a government sponsored move to Canada. A baptism party for our baby brother was held the night dad left, I didn’t realize at the time that when he arrived to Canada it would be Christmas Eve. Dad and his uncle were sent to work in Timmins, Ontario to work in the bush falling trees. He and other Italians weren’t prepared for the harsh Ontario winter and Dad would say later that for the first month they froze with their light jackets and shoes, unable to purchase warm winter clothing from the company until they had worked an entire month but there was lots of food in the camp, he would say. Two years later after having moved across the country working a variety of jobs dad heard about Fernie, came, found work in the local sawmill owned by long-time mayor James White, bought a house and sent for his family.

I was enthralled by Fernie, by the grand mountains, pine trees and yellow fields of dandelions similar to the golden flowers back home. It didn’t impress mom as she said later that stepping on the train platform in Fernie she thought “if I had the money I’d turn around and go back”. But if mom was nostalgic for Italy she didn’t show it to her children, although looking back I remember the many parcels I helped put together for her to send home. The letters that came sporadically that she treasured and the songs played daily on the phonograph with records purchased from Barton’s music store, records of Italian artists that sang about missing parents and country. I learned to love those songs not understanding their meaning until I became an adult.

From age nine I accompanied mom shopping and to medical appointments. I served as translator for her and many of the Italian families that had settled here.

Life in Fernie didn’t have the family members that made for a loving family ambiance. There was no one here but us although within five years my dad had sponsored many family members from both sides of the family who arrived to Fernie, stayed a bit and then moved on to Calgary.

Dad worked two jobs to move ahead, he rebuilt our tiny house into a four bedroom one and as the oldest I got to be his assistant. It didn’t matter that I was terrified of heights or of bugs, I was more terrified of disappointing dad and incurring wrath so I stood on the scaffolding and handed him tools, turned the handle on the lathe as he sharpened saws and spent summers sawing and chopping wood with my siblings and winters straightening crooked nails as he recycled a barrel of nails that must have come from Coal Creek. Summers were worked in the field where Isabella Dicken School now sits, as the property was leased for gardening and dad planted a huge garden that we weeded and harvested while our friends went by having fun.

We kept traditions of food and getting together with friends. Christmas Eve in Fernie meant a huge meal, friends dropping by for a drink and midnight mass where my sister and I sang in the choir. Dad gave me the privilege of decorating the tree but there were no gifts. I recall the first Christmas here, returning to school in January the teacher asking the class to list gifts received. Aside from a sock filled with an orange, a few candies and a lump of coal I had no gifts to mention to which the teacher annoyingly declared that she didn’t believe it and that I had better write it down. Terrified of being admonished again I invented an outlandish list of what I would have liked to have received but when the teacher read it I was chastised loudly in front of the class and accused of lying. It was an early lesson in understanding that even truth will be misunderstood and trying to please is no easy task. But most of all it was a lesson on injustice and the catalyst in my lifelong desire to defend those that need defending especially individuals that don’t have the ability or knowledge to do so.

Life is full of challenges, but those seven years in Italy provided me with family closeness filled with love and happy adventures with grandparents, uncles and aunts who doted on me. The continuation of upbringing in Fernie gave years of experienced disappointments, lessons that taught a strong work ethic, a new language, the understanding of differences of ethnicities, and most of all becoming Canadian.

I have never desired to move from Fernie and I am so proud of this place that is home. I have roots to the first country but my heart is here in this most, amazing town that I fell in love with from the first moment I stepped off the train. After decades of life in this town I still believe there is no better place in the world.

Merry Christmas, everyone, Happy Holidays and wishing you a very Happy, Healthy and safe New Year in 2018!

Fernie Mayors Update October 12, 2017

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The Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention for elected officials was most interesting this year with the meeting of new government ministers.

Fernie met with several ministers, highlights include the meeting with Housing Minister Selena Robinson. Minister Robinson spoke to the UBCM membership as well on the importance of partnerships saying the new provincial government wants to listen to local governments’ distinctive viewpoints and concerns. She acknowledged the pressure of the housing crunch falling on local governments and said that the Province is committed to being a key partner on this issue.

We met with Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena regarding changes to be made on the highway through West Fernie and to get assurance that the Lizard Creek Bridge replacement is still on track and we were assured it was.

CAO Norm McInnis and I spent most of the first day with the mayors and chief administrative officers of the resort communities that included Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Lisa Beare to discuss the RMI program, no firm commitment but sounding promising that it could continue.

A meeting was also held with Airbnb representatives regarding the bylaw to be brought forward by the City regarding short term rentals.

I joined the mayors of the Highway 3 coalition and the regional district to meet with ministers in regards to more improvements to Highway 3 and having more charging stations implemented along the route and on the topic of local agriculture.

The meetings were mostly to inform new ministers of projects and requests for our areas, all were very cordial and interested in what we had to say.

Rich Coleman, Leader of the Official Opposition spoke to the UBCM membership stating how important it is for leaders to hold a shared passion for public life despite challenges. He encouraged elected officials to stand up to “nimbyism” so that supportive housing and addictions treatment facilities could be built. He added that the province presently spends $2.8 billion annually to support those with mental health and addictions issues. He added that there was a need for the Province to support central communities with substantial funding to rebuild so that “they know we care about them and that people who fought the fires should be honoured, thanked and remembered”. In our region the RDEK is organizing such an event to thank the volunteers.

Delegates attended a session on “Leading through Crisis, Flooding and Fires 2017”, getting information into the future of fire prevention and mitigation in B.C. With more than 1200 fires, 1.2 million hectares of land burned, 4000 evacuees and costs nearing $500 million, this summer is said to be the worst wildfire season in B.C.’s history. Madeline Maley, Executive Director of the B.C. Wildfire Service, said that a full review of BCWS and the Fire Smart program is being conducted along with the development of a research and expansion program for stopping wildfires and also looking at ways to involve the public and work with other authorities across the country to develop innovative solutions to wildfire mitigation. It was also mentioned that controlled burns could be reinstated as they are an actual method of dealing with grasslands and forest stands that pose threats.

Other sessions included one on cannabis legalization and a tour of a dispensary that three of our councillors attended.

The week was completely full from early morning to late evening with the many receptions offered. It culminated with the election of the UBCM board that now has four members from the Kootnays. President is Director Wendy Booth from the RDEK, AKBLG chair and RDEK director Rob Gay Mayor of Invermere Gerry Taft, and Mayor of Nelson Deb Kozak. Congratulations to all.

The week ended with Premier John Horgan delivering the closing address. When he walked on the stage he was given a resounding standing ovation. His speech was well received and ending on a touching account of his experience of going through cancer.

Fernie is Pretty Special September 21, 2017

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Monday September 18, 2017 saw a donation of memorabilia to the City of Fernie from Glen and Chris Bossio.

The couple live in Lethbridge but the family has long roots to Fernie. At one time the Bossio brothers had several businesses in town and were well known.

Glen’s father Joe was the son of Patsy and Teresa Bossio. Joe was born and raised in Fernie as was Glen.

Glen moved away a couple of decades ago for work and now retired he said with more time on his hands he decided to have a look at some of the memorabilia in his possession and that included a jersey, leather coat and formal wool sweater that the legendary hockey team the Fernie Rangers wore during the fifties.

He had the jersey cleaned and placed under glass in an oak cabinet and then thought it would probably be more appropriate to bring it to Fernie since this was the place his father came from.

He also brought an original Free Press from 1959 with the account of the fire that burned the Fernie Arena down to the ground and also caused the death of Fernie teen Dominic Ferrarrelli and also a photo of the Annex A hockey team circa 1954. These items will be placed in the Arena so they can be viewed by the public.

It’s been an interesting time with the mine rescue competition held by the City that was very successful. Thanks goes to our coordinator Elke Weber and the committee for all the work to organize the event, and thanks especially to our sponsors, volunteers and competitors because without them this event couldn’t happen.

The other event in town was the Chautauqua Fall Fair that was absolutely wonderful, from the kickoff event at the Heritage Library on Thursday evening that had the Ktunaxa dancers and Angie Abdou reading from her latest very intriguing novel to all of the events in between that offered art, music, food and entertainment for all ages and interests.

Some to mention are the musical acts on Friday evening and Saturday, the formal British Tea organized by the Seniors headed by Marjorie Thompson and Helen Milligan and a Ukrainian dinner prepared by local ladies thanks to Sharon Switzer. At the dinner a verbal presentation on the internment camps in Canada by Lubomyr Luciuk was very appreciated and during the day a most amazing celebration on city hall grounds by Wildsight Elk Valley. Saturday morning had a dedication of a plaque to the 34 men that lost their lives 100 years ago in the Coal Creek mine, and Sunday also had a interdenominational service by Rev. Andrea Brennan. The four day event also had a pancake breakfast and a show of locally grown vegetables and the most delicious looking cakes, all was perfect, this was an epic experience enjoyed and still talked about by everyone. Thank you to Ron Ulrich and historical society for bringing the idea forward last year and thank you to the individuals that participated and came out to enjoy the festivities. It certainly made our city proud that a festival of this quality was realized and it’s all thanks to volunteers. This proves people in this town are pretty special. Thank you so much everyone.

Lost Souls Society August 18, 2017

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“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”
Martin Luther King

The above quote was stated by Daniel Ste.-Marie, Secretary/treasurer of the Lost Souls Society, on Saturday August 12, 2017.

This was on the occasion of a commemorative ceremony held to honor the memory of internees buried at the Morrissey Cemetery. Several dignitaries attended along with interested members of the public, Councillor Joe Warshawsky and I as mayor attended to represent the City.

Daniel delivered a welcome to all present saying “It is hard to believe, when we look around at these idyllic surroundings, that 100 years ago the Canadian Government established an internment Camp.

The internment camp at Morrissey, established in late September 1915, was just one of 24 Internment Camps created and spread out across the country from Nanaimo to Halifax where the Government Interned 8,579 German and Austro-Hungarians including Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Croatians, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Italians, Jews, Ottoman Turks, Polish, Romanians, Russians, Serbians, Slovaks, and Slovenes who had been designated as “enemy aliens”. By the time the camp at Morrissey closed in mid-October 1918, almost 500 men who had been ripped from the bosom of their families, their friends and their communities were interned here. These men had not committed or been convicted of any crime. We should not forget that the Government of Canada invited these people to come to help populate the West, others were fleeing oppressive regimes. All they wanted to do was to build better lives for themselves and families. As a result they worked hard to make Canada what it is today by contributing to our economic development, providing opportunities for social change and cultural diversification. If you look at the image on page 2 of the Service Folder, you will find the image of the Windsor Hotel which was used to house the Internees. Some might think that the internees did not have it so bad. This is not so. They were housed up to 6 per room that measured 10 feet X 12 feet, had no freedom of movement as the building was surrounded by barbed wire, they were forced to work long hours felling trees, clearing stumps and building roads, all done with rudimentary tools in all types of climatic conditions. They were paid a paltry 25 cents a day for the work outside the camp, a mere pittance compared to the $2.50 to $3.00 a day they earned while they worked in the mines. Many were beaten for non-compliance, some so severely they had to be hospitalized at the Fernie Hospital. Sadly, during the Internment Operations, 106 internees were sent to mental institutions, one of whom was from the Morrissey Camp and a total of 107 internees died, four of whom died while interned at Morrissey and buried here in this Cemetery.

Buried in the Cemetery are:
Hrenko (Harry) Smeryczanski, a , 25 year old Galician, who died of Tuberculosis on March 30, 1917, Hermann Rellmann, a 22 year old from Essen Germany, who died of Chronic Brights Disease on November 1st, 1917, Mike Katalinic, who died of Tuberculosis on July 1st, 1918, Tom Rusich, a 48 year old Croatian, who died of Tuberculosis
on October 5th, 1918, a mere 2 weeks before the camp closed.

There is no doubt that a great injustice occurred and that we have an obligation to speak out about this injustice and give a voice to those who can no longer speak. For many years the memory of these events was almost forgotten as it was overshadowed by the Holocaust and the Japanese Internment during World War 2. Thankfully, because of a few dedicated individuals and outcry by the affected communities, the history of the First World War Internment Operations is being brought to light. With the installation of this plaque we acknowledge this injustice and ensure that future generations do not repeat the mistakes made in the past. Thank you for joining us to help preserve their memory.”
Before Daniel’s opening remarks the national anthem was sung by Meaghan Weber followed by unveiling of the plaque, consecration of Sign and New Grave Markers and then speeches by dignitaries.

Wayne Stetski, MP for Kootenay/Columbia, spoke saying that “all internees endured hunger and forced labour, helping to build some of Canada’s best known landmarks such as Banff National Park. Moreover 81 women and 156 children dependents of male internees were voluntarily interned”. He added that there had been no plans to establish a camp in Fernie however when miners turned against non-British workers and demanded that they be interned, in order to stop a major uprising and closure of the mine local, provincial and federal governments reacted by creating a camp in Fernie that grew so quickly that that a larger and more secure camp was required forcing a move to Morrissey. Wayne then went on to recount information on numbers and nationalities of people interned not only during this time but with the Second World War. The “Minister of Justice could detain anyone acting in any manner prejudicial to the public safety or the safety of the state”, he said. This meant both enemy nationals and Canadian citizens were subject to internment. Many were prominent families and the treatment received is part of Canada’s shameful history that most hope will never be repeated.

MLA for Kootenay East, Tom Shypitka, said he was honored to take part in this important ceremony and that “there is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people”.

Andrew Hldayshevsky, QC, Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Endowment Council and Sarah Beauliew MA PhD Candidate at Simon Fraser University also delivered moving messages.

Touching words were spoken in prayer by Fr. David John of Fernie Holy Family Parish church and Fr. Andrew Applegate, Saint Aidan Orthodox Church in Cranbrook.

A beautiful plaque was then unveiled by John Gawryluk, President of Lost Souls Society, Wayne Stetski, Tom Shypitka, Andrew Hladyshevsky and Lawrna Myers, from the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund Endowment Council.

Work was done at the cemetery with new wood fences placed around the graves of three of the local deceased interned men and the placing of large rocks on which the plaque of dedications sits.

This project was made possible by the Council of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund with support by the Regional District of East Kootenay, Elk Valley Thrift Shop Society, George and Marilyn Wilson, Lacey Mitchcll of Mitchell Excavating, Nick Morris of Morris Manufacturing, Cherished Memories Funeral Services, Jim and Adele Dvorak, Corlyn Haarstad, Canwell and Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Members of the Lost Souls Society, founded in 2015, say “It is dedicated to the preservation of our heritage by promoting historical research and public interest in the history of the Elk Valley.

Fernie Mayor’s Update August 16, 2017

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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.

Kenny Hess Comes Home July 18, 2017

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It’s said “You can’t go home again”, yet this past Saturday evening well- known entertainer Kenny Hess proved you can come home again and perform for old friends and school buddies.

Kenny was well received by a crowd that had people who had only just heard of him and those he has known most of his life and those were obviously thrilled to gaze upon one of their own up on the stage belting out some familiar tunes as well as some of his own melodic, original songs.

Slated to begin at 9:00pm most of the crowd arrived well before that to look over and bid on silent action items, check out the cd selection and enjoy a cool drink.

When Kenny and his band walked on stage loud cheers emanated from the audience who were very eager to hear him perform and dance the night away to his pleasant, country sound.
A couple of months ago I found a message from Kenny asking me to call back. I did and in the conversation found that he wanted to come to Fernie, the place he regards as his home town, and do a charity event. He asked me for some ideas on what non-profits in town were in need and on mentioning Tom Uphill Manor he relayed a story to me that I found quite poignant. He said as a child of 12 or 13 he and a friend stole a fishing pole from a neighbour. They were found out and ordered to do community service.

“One of the hardest things I ever had to do was tell my dad what I had done,” Kenny said. He said he saw the pain of deep disappointment oh his dad’s face at his action and determined he wouldn’t ever do anything like that again.

He was sent to the Tom Uphill Home to fulfill his community service and while doing so sang, something he enjoyed doing since a small child. But on being heard he was soon recruited by a resident to sing for all of the people in the Home, something he ended up doing until his time was over and continued to do so periodically.

Although moved away years ago to pursue a musical career Kenny has never forgotten his time in Fernie. He has serious heart for this town and the people he knows, the ones he went to school with, the people he worked with and even those that were acquaintances.

He’s been pretty successful with his career winning several provincial country music awards for artist and song of the year, nominations to the Canadian Country Music awards, a prestigious Juno and this year he has received a nomination to the Canadian Country Music Awards for his annual Rockin’ River Festival held in Merritt in August that will feature Toby Keith, The Band Perry, Kacey Musgraves, Brett Kissel and the legendary Willie Nelson as well as many other well-known musicians.

Saturday evening during intermission seemed a grand reunion. People came from out of province to hear him perform and to have an opportunity to give him a hug and pose for a photo. A highlight of the evening was having Kenny and his daughter Becca who is a fabulous singer in her own right do a duet. The music went on well past the midnight hour as no one wanted the evening to end.

All proceeds will go towards the Tom Uphill Manor much needed renovations and the Hospital Foundation. If this proves successful Kenny hopes to do this on an annual basis.

Here is someone who doesn’t have to come back and do anything for the place he left behind but Kenny is one special person, he loves his family, his friends and this town, he still feels this is home and wants to contribute and those of us that know him love him for it and appreciate it greatly.

Thank you Kenny, you gave us a great evening of music, thank you to Sharon Ashmore, the Lions Club, and all of the people that volunteered that evening in so many ways. You are all so great, you make this town the wonderful place that it is, the place that Kenny wants to keep coming home to and that all people who have lived here for any period of time will always have a heart connection to.