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Rossland City Council Meeting, April 6, 2020

The meeting was held by ZOOM, to protect us all from each other’s potential virus load. In one regard, the Zoom meeting was easier for an observer than a meeting in the Miners Union Hall, because it was much easier to hear what each Council member said during discussions.

Present:  Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Chris Bowman, Janice Nightingale, Dirk Lewis, Stewart Spooner, and Andy Morel.  Staff members:  CAO Bryan Teasdale, CFO Elma Hamming, City Planner Stacey Lightbourne, Public Works manager Darrin Albo, and Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Añonuevo.

Mayor Moore read out a statement about the live recording of the meeting, to notify “gallery” participants that any private information they provide will be recorded.  The meeting underwent some trial-and-error testing of the meeting technology before proceeding.  

Public Input Period:

No one spoke.

Delegation:

Kiersten Packham, an audit manager at Grant Thornton, presented a summary of their audit of the City’s 2019 Financial Statements. She stated that the audit opinion is unqualified – there were no significant issues;  “It was an excellent audit this year, really clean.”  She commented that they were lucky to be able to access the City’s premises and records before the pandemic complicated things.

Business from Previous Meeting:

At the Council meeting on March 9, the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce made a presentation requesting funding from Rossland, and is asking for help  from the other municipalities it serves. The group asked for $7,410 from Rossland to help with continued advocacy work for its 240 member businesses in the region.  The staff memo pointed out that there is no money in the City budget for this, so it will have to form part of the upcoming budget discussions if approved.  

Nightingale proposed a motion to support the Chamber with $5,000; she argued that the Chamber provides advocacy for local businesses to other levels of government; and supporting it would also increase regional cooperation.  Morel said he isn’t sure it’s the best use of funds in these times.  Spooner didn’t think that their presentation at the previous meeting demonstrated relevance to Rossland businesses, and he didn’t  understand their funding formula; Lewis echoed Spooner’s opinions.  Bowman recapped the history of the former Rossland Chamber of Commerce, and ended with a comment that he’d support the gift to them if they need the money, but he wasn’t very impressed with the presentation.  He also noted that the funds could be found because no one will be attending the AKBLG conference. Nightingale pointed out that the City used to support the (former) Rossland Chamber of Commerce to a much higher level than this request; and she’d like to offer them the funds on a one-time basis. Moore said she could support giving them the money, as she’s impressed with the work they’re doing now.  The motion to provide $5,000 CARRIED.  Moore suggested taking the funds from the Council travel budget, since the AKBLG conference has been cancelled.  She suggests that the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce should apply under the community “Grant in Aid” funding in future.

Policies:

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic Policy:  The draft policy sets out the City’s approach during the pandemic.  It includes – inter alia -- refunding deposits on any City facility rentals, but not being responsible for any third-party agreements; restricting non-essential travel and in-person meetings;  self-isolation and physical distancing; it requires both Council members and Staff to inform the City of any travel plans; sets out Staff rules for absence from work for self-isolation, and the use of sick leave, accumulated vacation time, and leave-of-absence applications.  The policy explains that if an employee must take time off to self-isolate after travel in contravention of travel bans, sick leave will not be available.

A motion to adopt the policy CARRIED.

Bylaws:

          Zoning Amendment Bylaw #2718:  A motion to adopt the bylaw, which had already had first, second and third readings and a Public Hearing, to re-zone the property at 1827A LeRoi Avenue, to allow short-term rental of two basement rooms, CARRIED.

          Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw # 2721:  A  motion to adopt the bylaw CARRIED.

          Bylaw Penalty Relief Measures during COVID-19:  A motion to  waive Business License fines for not having a valid Business License, and for operating with an expired business license for the year 2020, FAILED after discussion.

Nightingale expressed opposition because the businesses who haven’t paid their licenses yet were already delinquent before the pandemic became a factor.  Lewis pointed out that it’s only some businesses who are adversely affected by the pandemic, and others should not be given a free pass. Spooner said he’d rather see any subsidy go to those whose businesses are suffering, and suggested tying eligibility for relief from the penalty to eligibility for other benefits.  Nightingale liked that idea, and so did Morel.  Spooner moved that the City direct staff to find a federal or provincial program that would provide good criteria CARRIED.  Hamming raised the issue of the inter-municipal business licenses; Nightingale suggested that it be limited to City of Rossland (only) licenses. 

Audited 2019 Financial Statements:  Council reviewed the statements, and a motion to approve them CARRIED unanimously.  Spooner commented that he isn’t an accountant, and he relies on the staff and auditors to give good advice.  Moore replied that it’s “true of all of us,” and that’s one of the reasons we have auditors.  She also noted that this year’s audit was the best yet in her years of experience on Council, and thanked Hamming for her work.

2019 Supplementary Statements of Financial Information:  Hamming explained that these statements are prepared in accordance with another legislative statute, the Financial Information Act. Tney are not part of the audit process, nor are they a part of the regular consolidated financial statements.  They are required to beprepared every year, approved and then sent to the Ministry.  the Financial Information Act requires that this "Statement of Financial Information" must be made available to the public before the end of June each year." 

A motion to approve the statements CARRIED.

2020 – 2024 Five-year Financial Plan: Council considered the financial planning for the next five years, and examined the effects of different potential taxation levels in consideration of the pandemic. A motion to give the plan first reading CARRIED.

Discussion of property tax  levels followed:  Lewis made a motion to change the financial plan by doing away with the planned 2.5%  increase over the previous year, and having no increase at all; Nightingale expressed discomfort with that, because it would cost the City a significant amount of money – nearly $612,000 over five years, because the cost of a one-year “gift” carries on over time -- and would benefit each property owner by only (on average) $52 for the year, and many of those property owners would not need that bit of benefit.  Nightingale went into detail about the availability of the province’s tax deferral program, and how much more it could benefit some property owners for the year.  Spooner suggested that the City should help residents learn about programs like that. Lewis pointed out that many people are impacted by the pandemic, and even though it wouldn’t be a large benefit to anyone – “about ten nice coffees” – it would be “a nice gesture.”   Nightingale said “once we’ve set our tax rate, it’s set in stone.  If we collect the money from those who can pay, then we can move the money around – we can help the community.”   Spooner agreed.   Lewis’s motion to go with a 0% tax increase over last year, instead of the planned 2.5% increase, FAILED.

Spooner suggested that the City provide links to the programs available to benefit those who need it.   

Staff Reports and Updates: 

Development Permit Application: 1920 Third Avenue – Midtown Transition Project:   Council reviewed the application; Moore asked Anthony Boni, the architect, about the height of the proposed building as compared with the height of RSS. Boni commented that he didn’t have precise measurements at hand, but he estimates that the two buildings would be of similar height.  He noted that the school’s ceilings are higher.  Moore reminded the public that this is just one of many steps in the project, and many things could still prevent it from completing.  Bowman commented that he has been very close to this project for a long time, and he listed several ways that the project will benefit the community.  

A motion to approve the permit CARRIED, subject to a list of nine required conditions, which Moore read out in case attendees did not have the materials in front of them.

Citizen Budget Results, Part 2:  More money for trails.  Council reviewed the input provided by citizens on the services they would like to see given less, or more, funding.  Moore pointed out that this is another opportunity to adjust the financial plan.  Since the citizen input had indicated significant support for spending more money on trails, a motion to take the  $6,110 left over in the community “Grant in Aid” fund and contribute it to KCTS CARRIED – after Spooner left the meeting temporarily.

Council Reviewed the invoices paid for municipal services during the previous month,  and the Public works Report, the Water Production Reports, the Bylaw Enforcement Officer Report, the Building Permit Report, and the Updated Task List.  There were no comments or questions.

Member Reports:

Lewis had traveled to Windsor for a funders’ meeting for the 100% renewable initiative and has been in isolation since he returned.

Morel reported that  RDKB has passed their budget; it was reduced from the original with an influx of reserve funds, but it's still increased. He also referred to the RDKB’s plea to NOT visit  second homes / cottages.

Bowman expressed interest in working with the Chamber of Commerce.

Moore had met Scott Lamont, who comes from Squamish to step into Darrin Albo’s shoes as Manager of Public Works.  Albo will be retiring at the end of this year, and will be working three days a week until then; the City intended this period of overlap as part of their succession planning.

Moore is participating in Zoom meetings every two weeks with other Resort Municipality mayors  – all are concerned about cabin and second-home owners travelling to their secondary dwellings to “retreat” during the pandemic, and they don’t want them to do that because the smaller communities do not have the facilities to deal with an outbreak.  Moore also noted that wearing non-medical masks to inhibit the spread of air-borne, potentially virus-loaded droplets has now been approved by the medical profession, and  “making masks could be medicine for the soul.”

The meeting adjourned, and your reporter poked the “leave meeting” button and the “shut down” button, and hiked into her living room, planning to make some sort of face mask from a bandana for the next necessary trek to Ferraro’s for food.