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COUNCIL MATTERS: May 19, 2020, Rossland City Council meeting

A screenshot taken during the webcast Council meeting.

Rossland City Council Meeting, May 19, 2020

By web conference

School zone speeds;  more room at the brewery; cannabis store application deferred; and a true bear story

Present:  Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Stewart Spooner, Andy Morel, Janice Nightingale, Chris Bowman, and Dirk Lewis.  Staff members present:  Chief Administrative Officer Bryan Teasdale, Chief Financial Officer Elma Hamming, Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Añonuevo, Manager of Operations Scott Lamont, Manager of Strategic Projects Darrin Albo, Manager of Planning & Development Stacey Lightbourne, and Manager of Recreation & Events Kristi Calder.

Public Input Period:  No one raised their little electronic “hand.”

When Council adopted minutes of previous meetings, including the last Heritage Commission meeting, Bowman noted that the Heritage Commission plans to break the large number of recommendations in the Heritage Management Plan into different stages and prioritize them; they will start with identifying the three highest-priority items for Council’s consideration.

School Speed Zones:

Council had been interested in setting lower speed limits in Rossland’s school zones, and had requested City Staff to investigate the legislative limitations.   Staff advised against pursuing any process to lower the school zone speed limits, based on advice from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure as well as legal advice; the City has the authority to impose lower speed limits, but those limits would have to be in force 24 hours a day, every day, not just from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on school days. City Staff also commented that a 20 km/hr speed limit would also add to snow-clearing costs.

Lewis commented that he could see no compelling reason not to reduce the speed limits, and would  like to do it.  Darrin Albo commented that  30 km/hr is not the problem – it’s the vehicles travelling at higher speeds that are the problem, and that at 20 Km/hr, snow clearing does pose additional problems.  Morel said he thinks it’s important to maintain a difference between the regular speed limit of 30 k in town and a school zone limit; he and Lewis agreed that the important thing is the safety of the children.  Teasdale reminded Council that if they changed the speed to 20 in a school zone it has to be in effect 24/7, not just during school-zone hours.  Spooner pointed out that there are practical limits to achieving safety – and although driving at walking speed is safer, he doesn't think people will do it.  Morel agreed that people are not likely to go 20, but they might slow to 30.  Nightingale suggested that instead of very low speed limit, the City could install a flashing “school zone” light that would activate during school-zone times, and it would be a good expenditure of funds if it saved a child’s life.

Lewis  moved that school-zone speed limits in Rossland be set at 20 km/hr.  Morel suggested closing the Macleod – Plewman – Washington downhill lane during the afternoon school and ski hill closing times.  Moore pointed out that that is a different idea than the motion.  The motion to reduce the speed limit to 20 km/hr in school zones FAILED.

Nightingale moved that staff investigate the cost of having flashing signs to alert people to the existence of a school zone  -- the motion CARRIED.

Policy Review:

Council reviewed and re-confirmed the following City policies: the Permissive Tax Exemption Policy, the Retaining Elements and Landscape Features Encroachment Policy, and the Electric Transportation Policy.  The Electric transport Policy was amended to expand the window of opportunity to acquire an electric bike, as they are sometimes sold out.

Staff Reports and Updates: 

Rossland Beer Company Liquor License Application to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch:  the application is for permission for structural alterations and to increase in seating capacity by 25 people.  There is no request for any change in operating hours. A resolution of Council is required for the application to proceed.  Council considered the expressed views of neighbours, the likelihood of increased noise, the general impact on the community, and the issue of the additional parking spaces required for the additional seating capacity – an additional four parking spaces (one per six people).  There is no possibility of adding parking spaces, but the bylaw permits an applicant to pay an additional $3,000 per parking space not provided.  Upon approval of the application to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, the Rossland Beer  Company would pay $12,000 in lieu of parking spaces.

Morel expressed concern about the parking issue; Moore thought more patrons could walk to the brewery.

A motion to recommend that the application be approved CARRIED.

Development Variance Permit Application for 1670 Park Street:  The owner is seeking permission to replace an old garage that has flooding problems with a new garage and future secondary suite, which would exceed the height allowance by 1.3 meters.  The property is a large one, and well treed; the additional height would not bother any neighbours.  Spooner again urged Council to reconsider the height restriction; Moore pointed out that increasing the allowed height would not be appropriate everywhere in town.  

A motion to approve the application CARRIED.

Cannabis Retail  Store License Application for 2185 Columbia Avenue:  this application was deferred to the June 15 Council meeting, at the request of the applicant. (See separate news item on this topic for more details.)

Mail Ballot Voting and Election Officer Remuneration:

Staff raised two questions for Council to consider and decide upon:  First, whether Rossland should offer citizens the ability to vote in municipal elections by mail ballot, and second, whether Rossland should raise its remuneration for its election workers.  Currently, other local governments pay their poll clerks and ballot counters more than Rossland does. 

A motion to increase the pay for poll clerks and ballot counters from $16 an hour to $19.04 an hour to meet the Elections Canada rate for their Poll Clerks CARRIED.

On the question of mail-in ballots, staff noted that the City of Trail and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary also offer mail ballots; Fruitvale, Warfield, Montrose and Castlegar do not.  Councillors expressed the hope that allowing mail-in ballots might encourage more people to vote. A motion to ask staff to investigate further the costs and logistics of mail-in ballot CARRIED.

Business Support amidst COVID-19 Pandemic:  other levels of government can do it better.

At the April 6, 2020 meeting, Council had discussed and defeated the idea of suspending penalties for non-payment or late payment of business license fees, and had tasked staff with investigating possible ways for the  City to provide help to those who need it.  The Deputy Corporate Officer submitted a report explaining that it’s not easy for a municipality to provide personal or business assistance; she cited provisions of the Community Charter, which restrict such efforts, and pointed out the complex logistics of determining who might be eligible for assistance – setting criteria, and collecting sensitive personal information to see who meets them. 

She also reminded Council that that the purpose of local government is  “to provide for physical infrastructure (roads, water, waste management, information and communication technologies) and promote favourable conditions (livability, culture and social initiatives) that are necessary prerequisites to economic activity, viability and community well-being.”

Her report went on to note,

“The Province of BC is actively working with groups such as Community Futures, Columbia Basin  Trust and local Credit Unions to provide financial support to businesses in need.  Federal support  programs for businesses are constantly being revised.  These levels of governments are better  suited to offer direct financial assistance programs.” 

Council discussed the issue, and Nightingale agreed that it’s a bad precedent to allow businesses to  operate without a license; better to work to improve the business climate. Moore expressed disappointment that the City has not found a  more direct way of assisting those who need it;  she pointed out that she had envisaged some form of assistance to businesses who were able to qualify for other assistance programs. 

A motion to go with option 3 (asking staff to look into means within a municipality’s legal powers to provide assistance) and expand on option 2 (looking for ways to invigorate the local economy)  CARRIED.    

During discussion, Bowman suggested making membership in the Chamber of Commerce a criterion, and increasing the business license fee to cover Chamber membership. Others didn’t agree with that approach, saying that membership in the Chamber should remain voluntary.

Nightingale suggested that the City reconsider the cost of business license fees. Teasdale commented on a recent review of the fees; Moore commented that she favours keeping them at their current level, and getting all the businesses that operate in Rossland to obtain licenses.

A Bad Debt of $773.04

A motion to write off delinquent and uncollectable taxes in the amount of $773.04 on a mobile home which no longer exists CARRIED.

Gold Fever Follies Request to Waive 2020 Fees for Miners Hall  

The Gold Fever Follies will not be presenting a show this summer, as it would be impossible to maintain distancing for performers, and difficult to ensure distancing for audience members.  The Follies ask that this summer’s fee of $1000 be waived, and that their agreement with the City be extended to cover the summer season of 2021.  Staff pointed out that the  Miners Hall will be freed-up to rent for events that are able to comply with distancing, so it may not cost the City anything in the long run.  A motion to grant the request CARRIED.

Rossland’s  COVID-19 Restart Plan

CAO Bryan Teasdale presented a “Restart Plan” For Rossland, and Council discussed the plan before approving a motion to endorse it.

The plan assumes the following principles:

·       staying informed, being prepared and following public health advice;

·       practicing good hygiene – hand hygiene, avoid touching your face and respiratory  etiquette; 

·       staying at home and away from others if you are feeling ill – never going to school or work;

·       maintaining physical distancing outside the household, e.g., no handshakes or hugs, and keeping your number of contacts low and keeping a safe distance; 

·       making necessary contacts safer with appropriate controls, e.g., using plexiglass barriers  or redesigning spaces; 

·       increasing cleaning of frequently touched surfaces at home and work; 

·       considering the use of non‐medical masks in situations where physical distancing cannot  be maintained, such as on transit or while shopping; and 

·       continuing to reduce personal non‐essential travel. 

The Tennis Court and the Lions Campground may open in late May, with a focus on cleaning protocols; the Museum and Library have plans to open, with precautions, in June;  Golden Bear Daycare may open in June, “pending input from families and updated health and safety plan.” 

Events cancelled for 2020 include the Canada Day celebrations, all Gold Fever Follies performances,  Golden City Days and the Fall Fair

A motion to endorse the restart plan for Rossland CARRIED.

Council reviewed the regular staff reports, including the cheque register, the first-quarter budget update, the annual grant update showing the grants applied for and approved – Moore commented that the City has been very successful at obtaining grants with its current complement of staff;  an overview and analysis of RDKB services and tax requisition trends; a building inspection report and a building permit report; the water production report, which showed a significant drop in water usage for April, compared with the previous year.  Councillors mused about the possible causes:  fewer visitors in town, businesses using less water, home-bound people showering less --  “I’m not going anywhere, why should I shower?” declared one councillor.  Albo noted that it rained more this April, so there was less lawn-sprinkling.   

Members Reports:  Councillors reported on the meetings they have attended recently.

Moore noted that she had attended a teleconference with RCMP, and reported that they are planning to move to a less centralized system over the next year or so. (NCO i/c the Trail detchment, Mike Wicentowich, responded to your reporter's query with the information that nothing is likely to change in our local area.)  Moore also reported that Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI)  payments will be accelerated this year; and that spending will be allowed for other than capital projects if needed.

Council recessed to an in camera meeting to discuss matters related to the acquisition or disposition of land.  Your reporter then went for a much-need walk in the beautiful evening.  During a socially-distanced conversation with some people building a garden bed, the topic of bears arose --  they pointed out  a bee hive on a porch roof so bears can’t get at it.  That resulted in sharing the recent RCMP report about the bear who had got itself trapped in a car in Trail (left unlocked, with garbage in the trunk) and was released by RCMP officers; that reminded someone of their neighbour, who had got into his crew-cab truck and driven off to work one day, and noticed that more people than usual were waving at him enthusiastically – he felt that he must be very popular.  When he got to work,  he was surprised to see a bear in the back seat who had ridden peacefully behind him all the way, enjoying the view … when he opened the back door of the truck, the bear exited and ambled off.