Council Slashes its Own Budget; Staff Expenses Take a Hit Too

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
February 25th, 2015

Regular Rossland City Council Meeting, February 23, 2015

Present:  Mayor Kathy Moore, Councillors  Marten Kruysse, John Greene, Aaron Cosbey, Lloyd McLellan, Andy Morel, Andrew Zwicker

Public Input Period:

Several women spoke in support of a letter to Council by Ilo Schubert, who has operated “Ilo’s Pre-School” — the only pre-school in Rossland — for 28 years and will be retiring in May.  She wished to ensure that a pre-school could continue in the same location after her retirement, and offered to discuss any potential issues with the City.   Christine deMarco, a retired kindergarten teacher, Janet Brook and Kendall Holmes, all spoke very highly of the value to children, and to Rossland, of Ilo’s Pre-school. 

Almeda Glenn Miller had been invited by Moore to attend in response to a challenge by the Mayor of Calgary, to raise awareness of  poets across Canada. She elicited appreciative smiles and chuckles with a sample of her poetry — about gardening in Rossland.


Jubilee Park Wetland Restoration Project:  Eva Cameron and Rachael Roussin presented the 33-page feasibility report on the wetland restoration proposal for north Jubilee Park.  The request:  for Council to approve the project, so construction can begin in September of this year.

Cosbey asked for more detail about the water management benefits of the wetland restoration, and whether it would reduce the amount of water directed into the storm sewer system.  Eva Cameron explained that the additional native shrubs and trees planned for the site will take up quite a bit of water, and just slowing down the flow, creating ponds to hold more of the run-off and let it soak into the soil will help.  Kruysse commented that it seems like a constructive and useful solution to what has been a problem to the City for a long time.  Morel complimented Roussin and Cameron on their work and asked how deep the ponds would be;  Cameron answered, 35 to 70 centimeters.  McLellan commented that the City tried to drain the park for decades, and he wished this project had emerged many years ago.  Zwicker said he thinks it’s an excellent project. 

Moore promised that Council would make its decision at the next regular Council meeting.

Cameron noted that they are also looking at the Centennial wetland area with a view to improving its functionality as a wetland.    

Sustainability Commission (SC):   Chair Terry Miller reviewed the past year’s work and summarized results of the meeting held on January 28, attended by over 30 people, including five Council members.  Hot topics at the January meeting were:

·         Energy and Transportation;

·         Economic Development;

·         Innovative Education;

·         Affordable housing for seniors;

·         Arts and Heritage;

·         Waste reduction;

·         Food Security; and

·         Climate Change.

Kruysse noted that it may be important for the SC to be aligned with Council priorities; Moore said those priorities will be communicated shortly.   Cosbey  suggested that SC and Council think about how they can sit down together and communicate.

Council then adopted the minutes & recommendations from the Committee-of-the-Whole (COW) meeting of Feb 17.

At the February 17 COW, Council was presented with information on the budget areas that had not already been covered by Acting Chief Financial Officer Lois Hunter, including Council expenses.  Council went to work to reduce the amounts budgeted for its own costs.  Deputy CAO Tracey Butler mentioned that the City paid $14,000 last year to send four people to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference;  Council thought that amount was far too high and discussed ways of reducing it, such as sharing accommodation.  A motion to reduce the amount budgeted for the UBCM to $8,000carried.  Council also agreed to reduce the amount budgeted for strategic planning from $6000 to $2500, and to reduce the amount for Council workshops from $5000 to $2000, and to cut in half the money spent for attendance at the Association of Kootenay-Boundary Local Governments meeting . 

             The budget for staff  training and workshops also took a hit.     

But Council reconsidered its earlier refusal of funding to the Curling Club for paint and carpet, and resolved to allow $4000 for that.  To cover the added expense, Council reduced the amounts formerly allowed for the Trails Society by $500, the Sustainability  Commission by $2000, and the Visions for Small Schools Society by $1,500.

Back to the Regular Council Meeting:  Having adopted all the recommendations from the COW, Council addressed Correspondence from Ms. Ilo Schubert:  In discussing Ms. Schubert’s letter, council engaged in a wide-ranging discussion.  It appeared that some Council members did not understand the difference between a pre-school such as Ilo’s  — which provides the benefits of early childhood education — and a day-care, which is simply a baby-sitting service.  Moore invited a knowledgeable member of the gallery to speak and she explained the difference.  Ultimately, Council referred the matter to staff for further information.    

Council passed a resolution authorizing an application for a grant to fund infrastructure planning, and then hashed over a draft policy on the use of the new “events sign” to be installed at the corner of Columbia and St. Paul, to replace the old Chamber of Commerce banner.  After a few amendments the policy was adopted.

Then Council made good on its earlier promise to begin reviewing existing City Policies, two per regular meeting.  They started with the “Council Committee System Policy” and made suggestions to clarify and simplify the language, and directed staff to make the application form for citizen volunteers shorter and  more user-friendly.

Next up was the Land Sale Policy.  Morel suggested deferring this one until after Council’s strategic planning process.  McLellan wanted to ensure that the City’s real estate business was spread over — or rotated among — different realty companies; Cosbey suggested the City should seek out companies willing to charge lower commissions.  Butler noted that the Community Charter (Part 3)   regulates the disposal of municipal property. A motion to refer the policy back to staff carried.

Rusty the Horse Sculpture:

The Rossland Council for Arts and Culture (RCAC) has decided to find funding to purchase Rusty, and asked the City to decide where Rusty should take up permanent residence.  Moore wanted to emphasize that the City is not paying for Rusty.  Greene wanted Rusty to go in a different location, away from the Washington & Columbia intersection.  Butler suggested that RCAC talk with Public Works to determine the best location, considering factors such as sight-lines and snow removal.  A motion to that effect carried.

Members’ Reports:

McLellan reported that the Library AGM is on March 10th at 6:30.   Moore pointed out that  Council has a regular council meeting on March 9 — and a COW on the 10th.   McLellan suggested that the city use the library meeting room for such gatherings as the meeting to elicit citizen input on City planning from the computer-averse that was held in the Legion; he thought that perhaps it would have drawn more people (or at least some — no one showed up), if it had been in the Library. 

Cosbey reported that the Seven Summits Centre for Learning has been granted charitable status by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Morel, Zwicker and Cosbey related some of the legal and financial facts they had learned at the AKBLG conference — Morel expressed surprise at how interesting it was. 

 Zwicker spoke about the prospect of using in-line power generation in our largest water main when it is replaced, if there is sufficient flow and if funding could be found.  

Greene read a letter from Senator Nancy Greene Raine, his sister, asking that  Rossland City Council endorse / proclaim National Fitness Day on the first Saturday in June;  Moore reminded Council that the City has a policy against making such proclamations.

Kruysse reported that he understands that the Chamber of Commerce is considering amalgamation with Trail’s Chamber of  Commerce.  He pointed out that their cut in funding from the City left them with a need to either dissolve or find other options.  He commented that dissolution would be expensive, and that the step of joining with the Trail Chamber might even help to grow their Rossland membership. He said, “I certainly wish them well.”   Kruysse then reported on a talk at the AKBLG by George Cuff, an expert on municipal governance and management, which he felt validated this Council’s approach.  

 Moore said that what she learned at the AKBLG will be in her written report, but includes how important it is for Council to give staff very clear direction; that it is good to have a lot of COW meetings to enable full discussion; the importance of staff performance evaluations; and the importance of Council meeting occasionally without staff.   At the winter market, she heard about the need for more dog-doo bags.  Moore said she plans to provide a report on the RDKB meetings at the end of each month;  tipping fees may increase by up to 16% at the landfill;  she attended a museum meeting — they are making good progress on their business plan;  she and Zwicker will be meeting with ThoughtExchange about a potential town hall meeting, and ThoughtExchange will speak to Council at a COW on March 3  about the things learned from the recent citizen engagement process.  307 different Rosslanders participated, nearly all of whom live in Rossland full-time.

Moore then adjourned the public portion of the meeting and moved in camera for a session under Community Charter Section  90 (1) (c) – “labour relations or other employee relations.”    Your reporter packed up and walked home, admiring the crispness of the night and the bright upturned crescent moon holding the shadowed part of the orb in its arms.               

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