A little feistiness at the public input section and during member reports at the end. In between? Taking care of business...
Council Meeting held October 27, 2014
Present: Mayor Greg Granstrom, Councillors Jody Blomme, Cary Fisher, Jill Spearn, Kathy Moore, and Tim Thatcher. Staff present: Acting CAO Tracey Butler and Executive Assistant Cynthia Añovnuevo.
Public Input Period: A visibly upset Fletcher Quince spoke, objecting to the fact that Butler had contacted the financial institution acting as receiver for the Old Firehall, with which Quince has a mutually beneficial arrangement for the occasional use of the premises for events. (Apparently the City’s concern was that alcoholic beverages may have been served without a special license at the “Beer & Ballots” event [sponsored and beer and wine provided by this newspaper—ed.], which was attended by a healthy number of Rossland citizens and all Council candidates except Granstrom.) Quince asked why Butler had made that contact. Granstrom reminded him that Public Input Period is not a time when Council answers questions.
Public Representation Period re Bylaw #2578 — road closure on Monte Christo Street: Esmé Myers spoke in favour of the bylaw, as she is the potential purchaser of the small plot of road allowance. It will enable her to maintain the current “footprint” of her small home, and to comply with City requirements should she ever decide to rebuild.
Delegation: Jackie Drysdale of the Heritage Commission addressed Council, thanking them for their support of the Commission, and emphasizing that the Commission only makes recommendations, and Council — representatives of the community — make the decisions. She pointed out that a Council member has a seat on the Commission, which gives the City another planning tool to use for its land-based planning decisions. Drysdale also spoke of the purpose of the Commission: the identification of heritage buildings and sites, based on their heritage value, and conservation and preservation of that heritage value. She promised that the Commission would submit its budget to Council before the deadline, in the “traditional amount” of $5,500. She said that the Commission has more material than the City is able to manage on its website, so it will be creating its own website, which will be linked to the City’s. And she announced that Heritage BC (the Provincial heritage umbrella group) would be holding a conference here in Rossland, October 1 and 2, 2015.
Moore asked how many people were expected to attend the conference; Drysdale responded that she thought about a hundred would attend, if travel to Rossland was not too daunting for them. She noted that accommodation seems very expensive.
Moore asked about the planned heritage website — whether it would be maintained by “someone other than a City staff person”. Drysdale responded that the content on the City website is currently the database for the Columbia cemetery, and is not readily searchable; she indicated that the plan is to expand content, make it searchable, and “give it back to the City.” She said the matter of website administration is still being discussed.
Blomme asked if Heritage BC is the same group that puts out a publication of the same name; and wondered if Drysdale could comment on the differences between a Task Force and a Commission. Drysdale answered that she could really speak only to what the Heritage Commission does; but she also mentioned that one downside of being a Commission created by the City, instead of an independent not-for-profit community group, is that the Commission is ineligible to apply for certain grants and to obtain funding that way. She noted that the Louie Joe Trail was funded by a Community Initiatives grant, obtained by Tourism Rossland. But she concluded that the Commission was the best structure for the group overall, and that “Heritage must be community-driven”.
Spearn asked who was responsible for pulling the conference together. Drysdale answered that there is a provincial planning committee, and a group at the local end is at the discussion stage.
Four new window openings were cut into the north wall of the Hunter Brothers Building (former Pro Hardware building) without approval, because the contractor was unaware of the development permitting process. The Design Review Panel recommended that the City not approve the window design submitted; after further discussions between the project architect, City staff and members of the Design Review Panel, an option for the window design was deemed acceptable, but only if the owner “agree(s) to make some improvements to the Washington Street Façade to be further approved by the DRP and Council.” A Council motion to that effect carried.
At the City’s Tax Sale on September 29, 2014, no one attended to bid on the properties, and the City ended up as the “purchaser” of all the properties. Two of the properties (both on Phoenix Avenue) belong to one person who cannot be located by any of the entities seeking to contract him, including a credit card company, and there is a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) bill registered on title for more than $200,000. After considering the likely costs and benefits of seeking substituted service on the registered but highly indebted owner, Council moved to not seek substituted service. Moore asked whether the City could then, after the one-year redemption period, sell the property with “no ramifications”. Butler said yes. Fisher asked whether the City could be liable to pay the CRA bill; Butler said no. The motion carried.
The Golden Bear Child Care Centre lease term expires on October 28. After discussing the relative costs and benefits of continuing the lease as a short-term loan, or paying out the balance owing to the Municipal Finance Authority, Council moved to pay out the loan. Moore noted that she thought there was not as much information about the relative costs of each course of action; Fisher asked if there was a surplus expected. Butler replied that it could be possible, but “we’re not at the end of the year yet.” The motion to pay out the loan carried.
The Rossland Library requested a letter of support for their renewal project; motion to provide one carried. Spearn noted that the library is a busy place, and the project is exciting.
A motion to receive “information items and approve the recommendations within” carried. The only “recommendation within” was from the Sustainability Commission, to approve a request from the City for $30,092 per year for a five year term for the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation, beginning on January 1, 2015.
Council quickly passed a motion to read the Monte Christo road closure bylaw for the third time.
Moore reported that she thought the “Beer & Ballots” event was useful and well-attended; she had attended the Lower Columbia Community Development Team (LCCDT) meeting, and reported briefly on discussions around projects that could benefit the entire region; she thought the regional focus was a good thing.
Blomme noted the award won by the Rossland Beer Company for their “Paydirt” Pale Ale and said that this is a very big deal in the BC craft brewing world. She also said words of praise and gratitude for Granstrom’s support of her as a council member during her term.
Thatcher mentioned that the new Museum manager will be starting work on November 3, and asked what the City is asking for the Rotary Health building, now on the market; Butler responded that the asking price is $120,000. Fisher commented that the new museum manager is a hockey player, and that he’ll be trying to recruit her.
Spearn also attended the LCCDT meeting, and referred to discussion about “that LCCDT meeting about spending that $600,000 over the next three years for elected officials”. (Asked after the meeting for details on this, Spearn explained that the $600,000 is a grant from Columbia Basin Trust, to be spent on regional initiatives: the “Lower Columbia Priorities Plan.” The meeting was for elected officials, and was facilitated by the LCCDT.) Spearn also noted that the regional conversation was “the best and most exciting part”. She also enjoyed the Heritage Commission’s walking tour of the cemetery, and said she thought the “Beer & Ballots” night was well-attended and well designed, and was a good exercise.
Moore asked a question about the City’s broadband progress; she said she had sent an email around about a potential grant she had read about, and asked if there was anything Rossland could be doing to advance our broadband development. Granstrom replied that the grant in question was for ISPs (internet service providers), and said that “the reason we are where we are with broadband is that no one wants to commit to being an ISP. So the reason they’re looking for grants, is so we can get an ISP, in order that we can get costs in order that we can move forward if we’re going to move forward. So those grants are for ISP providers. If you’re thinking that the City becomes an ISP provider that requires a whole bunch more effort. But those grants are specifically for ISP providers so that they can convince someone in that field to be the ISP provider for broadband.” Moore commented that she thought Trail had signed somebody up, and that she was asking about it because “our situation seems so sort of unsettled in terms of what we are doing … just wanted to be sure we don’t miss any opportunity”.
Granstrom reported that he has a couple of very important meetings coming up, including an East End Services meeting on November 5.
Blomme spoke about the upcoming election, and said that she has found that many people in the community have perceptions about what goes on in Council, and how Council members work together, that are quite different from her personal experience. She emphasized that each Council member is responsible for their own communications.
Moore said she found that interesting, and noted that what she has heard about herself is that “I’m not a citizen,” (by law, all Council candidates must be Canadian citizens) “and that I come to 50% of the meetings, I call in on the phone all the time; so, it’s like, I know I went to 97% of the meetings, I missed four … I just think it’s interesting.” Granstrom said, “OK, you got your shot in, thank you very much.”
Spearn said, “you know, this feels like a campaign thing, and it’s not appropriate, but my experience of nine years here, and longer, much longer in the community, is that people talk, and it’s like that game of telephone, where you tell somebody something and by the time it gets down to the end it’s wrong, it’s totally different, its miscommunicated” … “and I know that my job in the community is to be honest, and not make up stories, and I never have made up stories to make somebody else look bad.” She commented that the debates on Council have been “worthwhile and sincere and genuine” and that she looks forward to the next four years, “if that is to be.”
Granstrom adjourned the meeting at 7:50 pm. And your reported walked home in the dark, looking at the glow of streetlights, porch lights and windows in the night.