SSC Lays Groundwork

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
March 19th, 2009

Many Rosslanders were involved, either directly or indirectly, with the Visions to Action project which led to the creation and publication of the Strategic Sustainability Plan in May, 2008. Born out of that plan was the Strategic Sustainability Commission, a volunteer group of engaged citizens who guide the implementation of the plan. Essentially, they are the ‘action’ in the Visions to Action process. Interested in the progress they were making, I sat in on this week’s monthly meeting.

The chairs of each of the three task forces set up by the commission (Housing and Affordability, Community Economic Development and Water Stewardship) each presented updates on their task forces progress and findings.

Patricia Marshall-Thompson, speaking on behalf of the Housing and Affordability task force, noted that her group has been discussing communication issues around housing and affordability. “The general feeling of the task force is that the community has informally communicated that, yes, they are concerned about affordable housing, but on specific occasions where there have been duplexes proposed, or more densification of the community, the community has reacted negatively.”

The task force’s main focus right now is to work on setting up a needs assessment so that they can get a picture of where Rossland is currently at, thereby establishing a baseline from which to work.

Concerns raised by the Water Stewardship Task Force, chaired by Sara Golling, included the possible need for an additional Food Security or other related task force as there is an urgency in working on increasing local agriculture. It was noted that the cost of transportation and issues like repeated droughts in California (which provides a large percentage of our produce) are a very real present issue, as opposed to something that may happen down the road. Golling reminded the group that Rossland used to be a city of around 7,000 people who were largely able to feed themselves from local agriculture.

Golling also mentioned that her task force intends to find out more information from the Red Mountain Racers who, it was found, are raising money or attempting to raise money for a snowmaking system. Little is known about the plan at this stage, so Golling will be communicating with the Racers to see if there is an issue to be concerned about. Potential concerns could include where the water would come from. If, for example, the water source was to be the slag ponds behind the T-Bar unload station, issues of that water getting mixed into the drinking water system would be a big concern.

The Community Economic Development task force chaired by Bob Reardon is currently setting up its communication channels to get a feel on different areas of interest from the community. Plans so far include setting up an online blog through the Rossland Telegraph as part of their overall communication plan; the blog is expected to launch in the within the next two weeks.

Other ideas being discussed by the task force include a Sunday farmer’s market-style event along with the big picture idea of working towards being a sustainable or green city. “One of our thoughts was to approach the (Strategic Sustainability) Commission to talk about the potential to put together some kind of group of individuals to work specifically on that.”

The CED people are currently working on formalizing their terms of reference and plans to begin moving forward with some of the ideas they have been discussing.

In addition to the three newly established task forces, the Commission also has some people – namely Steve Ash – who are working towards the creation of an Energy task force, but who are already doing some work on establishing baseline information on Rossland’s carbon footprint and energy consumption.

To box up a status report on the Commission into one neat statement: they are currently laying the ground work and putting the foundations in place that will allow them to move into action. The long term goal of the Commission is for Rossland to become be a viable, resilient community that encompasses all of the values that the community has articulated.

“In the short term, though, we’re taking some steps towards that,” explained Commission chairman Kelvin Seldern. “Initially, that is the three task forces. I think we have to remember that the task forces are really very new and that there is a learning curve, but one of them has already advanced its first recommendation to council which was a recommendation for a year to monitor all of the stream flows and water sources that Rossland depends on. It only took them one meeting and they had an action item to take to council. In the very near future we’ll see a lot more recommendations going to council and elsewhere.”

Rosslanders, the Commission feels, should take comfort in knowing that the Commission and its task forces are working hard to establish firm grounding and data around the current situations each group faces before engaging in dialogue and action plans to make sure that the big job they have ahead of them gets done right and with plenty of thought and input from the community.

“Each task force has a planning side and we’re all trying to place our plans within the actual study that was done, and the work that was done, and make sure we work through that [The Strategic Sustainability Plan] instead of just going out into left field. If we start going outside in every direction, then the whole thing becomes a bit unmanageable,” explained Reardon.

In an effort to help move along the Sustainability Plan, the Commission is currently in the process of hiring a project manager to lead its implementation. Nine applications had been submitted by the deadline, and the Commission hopes to have the new manager hired in time for their next meeting, scheduled for the first week of April.

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