Council Notes -February 9th

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
February 12th, 2009

City Audit

Kicking off February 9th Council Meeting, Amed Naqvi, auditor of the city of Rossland, gave a presentation regarding the upcoming audit of the City of Rossland’s financial affairs. An annual process, Naqvi will be meeting with city councillors and staff as necessary over the course of the audit and will be assessing the risk of the financial statements.

“It is my job basically to express an opinion that the financial statements (of the City of Rossland) are fairly presented. The audit is a process where we try to provide reasonable assurance that the financial affairs of the city are reasonably reported.”

In the half hour presentation, Naqvi ran through his report on the process by which he will undertake the audit and informed council and city staff of their responsibilities in the process.

Tourism Rossland 101

Deanne Steven, executive director of Tourism Rossland, gave an introduction of Tourism Rossland to the councillors along with an update on the organization’s current status and activities.

The registered non profit society receives funding from five key sources including the AHRT (Additional Hotel Room Tax) of 2% on all hotel stays in Rossland, the Resort Municipality Tax Transfer Program (which is being used for infrastructure only and in this case for the Rossland signage program), a number of grants (Columbia Basin Trust, Kootenay Columbia Cultural Alliance, Tourism BC, Kootenay Rockies Tourism, LCCDT Tourism Group) and also fees from the Red Mountain Resort Association. The final piece of past funding which has been dropped this year was a large sum of money from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities under their tourism funding budget.

“We’ve been funded the last two years from the UBCM funding under their tourism program. That was $30,000 for the last two years, unfortunately they are not doing that anymore and that is really hard,” explained Steven.

Making up for the loss of the UBCM money has a doubly negative impact as Tourism Rossland has used that money to acquire matching dollar grants. The loss of the $30,000 means a $60,000 budget drop once the loss of matching funding if factored into the equation.

The success of Tourism Rossland’s efforts have been displayed by an increase in tourism dollars coming into town. With three years of data behind the group now, Steven explained a graph charting this past year’s results with the three years average.

“We had a great winter last year, which is no surprise to anyone, and really interesting is we had a really great April and that’s probably because we had some great races with the Red Mountain Racers. Their events pull in big numbers. We also had a great summer this year which is in part due to the Seven Summits Race; we did a lot of work on that event this year.”

Rossland was one of the few municipalities in British Columbia to show an increase over the past year in tourism. Last year saw approximately 2.5 million dollars in accommodation revenues in Rossland. As of the end of October this year’s numbers are up 11% from the previous year.

Among Tourism Rossland’s marketing efforts is a real effort in the online marketing world. Rossland now has its own You Tube channel regularly updated with videos from events around town. Tourism Rossland now also has its own Facebook page which currently has just over 1,000 members. In the web world TR maintains several websites including tourismrossland.com, Rosslandevents.com, bikerossland.ca and a new project set to launch in March at www.rosslandtrail.com. This project, funded by 2010 Legacies Now involves compiling detailed information on all of the sports facilities in Rossland, Trail and the Beaver Valley along with professional photographs of all facilities and then using local talent to develop that into print and online marketing material. The goal of the project is to attract international teams to do their pre-Olympic training in the Rossland Trail area. Tourism Rossland has also secured one of ten booths to present the information in mid-February at a VANOC marketplace event in Vancouver. All of the international team’s delegates will be attending, which will provide a huge opportunity to promote our area’s sports facilities to the world.

Trees for Tomorrow

A letter from city Engineer Mike Thomas was received and supported by council. His letter noted that an area requiring significant re-vegetation exists at the Ophir Reservoir Borrow Pit on the east side of the dam. Re-vegetation plans for the dam constructed were limited to grass seed. City staff plans this spring to survey the landscape and ensure trees could be planted above the final dam height in the event of further dam expansion. Planting trees in the area would further reduce erosion, improve water quality and encourage wildlife to return to the area.

Council Meetings moved to 7:00pm

Council’s vote to move the start time of council meetings from 7:30pm to 7:00pm was welcome news for anyone who regularly attends council meetings. As part of the same agenda item, the motion that council’s in camera meetings be held prior to regular meetings was defeated with Hanne Smith the only councillor voting in favour of the motion. It was also passed that although the format, dates and times are still to be determined, Council has agreed that a public input session be held in addition to regular meetings. City staff has been directed to develop options for the inclusion of the public input session into council’s procedure bylaw.

Photocopier Issues

In what amounted to the liveliest debate of the night, Laurie Charlton again brought forward a motion for councillors to get their own passwords to the city hall photocopier machine. Explaining that he thought it was “silly” to have to bother city staff and waste their time to get photocopies made for councillors when needed Councillor Charlton delivered his case to getting an access password to the copier.

City Administrator Ron Campbell explained his concerns over the issue as it is his responsibility under legislation that he is charged with the maintenance of the records and having councillors copy city documents after hours and on weekends that he is not aware of hinders his ability to meet that responsibility. Campbell also noted that having councillors copying documents without his knowledge there is a potential for disclosure of third party information.

After a debate in which councillors showed their desire to find a solution to this issue once and for all and get the recurring issue put to rest.

It was ultimately decided that a good middle ground was to provide a small copier/printer aside from the city photocopier for councillors to use rather than provide passwords to the city copier.

Farmer’s Market

Michel Germain, with whom many are familiar from this past summer’s Farmers Markets at the Old Firehall as well as the booth he set up outside of Ronnie’s convenience store on Columbia Ave, submitted a letter to council seeking support for a permanent Farmer’s Market in Rossland. The brief letter suggested that the city needs a better downtown location for the market and suggested the public square next to Ferraro Foods or Pioneer Park as possible options. His goal is to run the markets every Saturday from 9 AM to 4 PM.

Council debated the legality of Germain’s setup on Columbia Ave and carried a motion to send a reply letter thanking him for his input and informing him of the various zoning and business permit issues that (in their current form) make those two sites unavailable for such a use.

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