There's still gold in these hills! Shocking fences. And maybe snowmaking, if everything works out.
Regular Rossland City Council meeting held February 24, 2014
Present: Mayor Greg Granstrom, Councillors Cary Fisher, Kathy Moore, Jody Blomme, Jill spearn, and Kathy Wallace; Deputy CAO Tracey Butler; Accountant/Comptroller Lois Hunter and Manager of Public Works Darren Albo.
Note: This is not a complete record of everything said or covered in this meeting. For that, check the video when it becomes available on the City’s website. In this report, I summarize, paraphrase, and omit some items, while trying to give readers an understanding of what Council does, and of the positions taken by different Council members on the issues before them.
Rossland’s Dan Wehrle, P. Geo., gave Council a fascinating look at Rossland’s underlying geology, with a map of the major gold-bearing veins, and a glimpse of some of our gold-mining history, and explained the work he has been doing in the vicinity of the Old Mining School at the eastern end of Kootenay-Columbia (or is it Columbia-Kootenay?) — both reclamation efforts to clean up old mining debris from former workings, and his own exploration of the old Mascot claim, which he now owns — among others.
Next up was Jim Gustafson, appearing in response to Council’s invitation. He explained to Council that his request to Rossland and other communities for answers to three questions about studies on medical needs is intended to make clear to the hospital board the range of issues important to the different communities, and to encourage reasonable discussion among the communities on how their needs can be addressed. He noted that the hospital board is large, consisting of 30 representatives with different and sometimes competing interests. He stressed that he is not doing this as a “cheerleader for Castlegar” in its wish to have a new regional hospital located there. He also noted that this isn’t about how many beds are where — it’s about the types of medical services needed in particular areas. Gustafson referred to the “elephant in the room” — the fact that our entire region’s medical facilities are, in general, older and more out-dated than elsewhere in the province — he said they are “in the bottom half”.
Spearn noted that Council is not expert on the area’s medical facilities and needs, and queried how Council should answer the questions; Gustafson explained that some other communities have asked medical professionals for input, and Slocan held a community-wide discussion.
The Auditor’s Report
Fisher wanted to stress that the City is working on the recommendations in the auditor’s letter (some details were in this column for the January 27th meeting). Moore questioned whether the City would receive a refund of its share of overpayment of pension contributions for the former CAO from 2009 to 2012; Butler wasn’t clear about that and said she would have to look into it.
Moore said she would like to see a policy developed to prevent any requests to the payroll clerk for “special adjustments”. She made a motion to create a policy that would limit accrual of vacation time to the current year — to encourage staff to take their vacations, for “rest and renewal” and to avoid the City having to pay out large amounts of money for banked vacation time when an employee retires or leaves. The motion failed: Moore, Fisher and Spearn voted in favour; Granstrom, Wallace and Blomme voted against it.
Canada Day Celebrations
The Chamber of Commerce asked the City to take back responsibility for the traditional hike up Mt. Roberts to install a new flag, and the cake and other festivities in Pioneer Park afterwards. The cost is about $1000, and the Chamber wants to focus its energies on activities that are more clearly within its mandate. After discussion, Granstrom suggested that Spearn and Fisher volunteer to be the committee that will consult with community organizations and individuals to organize the Canada Day event. They agreed.
Water for Snow-making
Red Mountain Racers (‘RMR”) sent the City a letter officially requesting to enter into a water-use agreement, for withdrawing water from one of the City’s reservoirs for snow-making, subject to satisfactory water levels being maintained, and with the assurance that nothing at all would be added to the water for snow-making, for a nominal charge of $1000 per year. The letter stressed the significant economic benefits to Rossland of having an athletes’ training facility at Red Mountain. Council is very supportive of the project, but complications have arisen: preliminary discussion with the Ministry of Environment has just revealed that Rossland will have to amend its water licences to include water use other than domestic, and the City does not yet know how much time the amendment process will take and how much it may cost. Wallace moved that Council agree with the proposal in principle. After some discussion, Moore pointed out a legal advisory memo from the City’s law firm, cautioning against giving unqualified agreements in principle. Moore proposed an amendment to the motion, so that the City’s agreement in principle be subject to satisfaction of licensing requirements, development permits, consistency with the OCP, water supply to meet demand, and mutual agreement on costs; all to be determined prior to final approval. Moore explained that she doesn’t anticipate any problems with the items listed, and wholeheartedly supports the project but thinks the City needs to look into the details and wants the agreement to be done properly. The amended motion carried.
Electric Fence Bylaw (not!)
Councillors discussed the draft bylaw to regulate electric fences in Rossland and potential amendments, and an informative message from one of Rossland’s urban farmers, and when it came to the vote, Council resoundingly rejected the bylaw.
Wallace moved that staff begin to prepare a cost-benefit analysis on our fire service levels and costs. Granstrom felt it would be valuable to have comparisons with other communities. Fisher said that if we are paying disproportionately for our fire service, we should address that; Granstrom and Wallace both spoke to communities’ need to set levels of service that they need and can afford. Spearn spoke to affordability. Motion carried.
(And how do YOU like the sandwich boards?)
Spearn noted that the Chamber of Commerce puts up and takes down the Christmas decorations in town; then she moved that the design and appearance of the various sandwich boards out in front of our businesses should come under the purview of the Design Review Committee, as she thinks some of them are “ghastly”. Moore commented that she thought local businesses should be given some latitude and that we don’t want to legislate everything. The motion was defeated, with only Spearn voting in favour.
Moore moved that the Sustainability Commission’s Economic Development Task Force be permitted to use the Miners Hall without charge, for a local non-profit collaboration event. Carried. Moore also complimented Granstrom on his response to the Fire Service Review, which she attended. From the Lower Columbia Community Development Team meeting, Moore noted that the Attainable Housing Committee obtained preliminary funding approval and are now working to find a realtor and property.
When the mayor adjourned the public portion of the meeting at a little after 10:00 pm to move into an in camera session, your reporter packed up her laptop and headed out into the brisk and starry night.