Taking care of Business; and Some Cantankerous Thoughts
Many Hours of Meetings:
On Monday, March 23, 2015, Rossland Council members (they were all present) started with an in camera meeting at 3:00 pm, devoted to labour issues, then adjourned the in camera session for a Committee-of-the-Whole (CoW) meeting at 4:00 pm. The CoW was adjourned at 5:50 pm, and Council members re-fueled with a few wraps from Subway and re-filled their glasses of water. At 6:00 pm, they took their seats again for the regular Council meeting; and after the regular Council meeting, they resumed their in camera session at 8:00 pm. And they have further special meetings, also in camera, scheduled for both March 24 and March 25 (according to the City’s notices) to discuss labour relations.
During the Public Input Period, Mitchell Bickmore spoke to Council about a number of pressing maintenance needs at the Rossland Public Library building — owned by the City. He also said he thinks there is a buried oil tank at one corner of the building which may contain furnace oil.
The remainder of the COW was devoted to wrestling with budget issues: prioritizing capital projects and special projects to determine which ones the City must do in 2015, and which ones can be delayed without increasing future costs unduly.
During discussion of the ways available to Council to cover expenses, Councillor Marten Kruysse stated that tax increases have to be looked at “in context” and said he does not think Rossland’s property taxes are “competitive” with neighbouring communities; Councillor Aaron Cosbey also argued against further tax increases, and in favour of spending money now on projects that will prevent increased costs in the future.
Council also discussed grant applications for funding to cover part of the cost of necessary infrastructure work.
In Public Input Period, Almeda Glenn Miller arrived again to give a poetry reading to open the meeting and refresh Councillors’ minds. She first urged Council to resolve the recreation issue with Trail, then read a poem about swimming at the Trail Aquatic Centre — and how much one swim cost, per lap of the pool.
Delegation: Rob Darrah and Michael Amann brought Council up to speed on the Rossland Curling Club and its activities. Established in 1898, it is one of oldest in BC. Its trophy, the “Rossland Cup,” is the oldest in BC, dating back to 1899. They noted that other local curling groups have longer ice seasons; the curling rink dates are dependent on when Rossland puts ice in the main (hockey) rink.
Council then adopted minutes of previous meetings, including the recommendations from CoW meetings. For others whose memories are getting shorter too, those included: asking staff what impact on service a particular percentage decrease in costs, across all departments, would have; setting a property tax increase of 2%; asking staff how the worker-hours that were not used for snow removal in this low-snow winter season were allocated; and reviewing the staff incentive policy.
Next, Council dealt with several items expeditiously: Motions were made and CARRIED to:
· approve Council Policy 03-04 as amended;
· Approve Council Policy 03-05 as amended;
· Give staff authority to repair or replace the Golden Bear building furnace and water heater;
· Hire summer students;
· Allow the necessary spending for the “spring clean-up” operation;
· Give senior staff members authority to seek legal advice on behalf of the City if needed.
A motion to refund a penalty fee to a citizen who claimed not to have received the bill was DEFEATED, with only Cosbey voting in favour of it. Staff noted that they had not been able to identify any staff error, and the bill had been sent. Greene noted that typically these requests are denied.
Councillor Lloyd McLellan moved that the City offer former City Planner Mike Maturo $500 to do a report on reducing the cost of City street lighting. Councillor Andy Morel noted that he has recently heard complaints about some of the City’s street lighting. Cosbey recommended that, if Maturo agrees to do the report, the terms of reference should include the effects of going off the flat rate that the City now pays to Fortis; he also noted that Fortis is offering rebates to communities moving to LED lighting. Motion CARRIED, and Council members agreed to write up the terms of reference.
Cosbey reported on meeting with our MLA, Katrine Conway; he had not been aware that municipalities regularly send representatives to Victoria to lobby politicians.
Morel reported on meeting with our MP Alex Atamanenko (retiring this year) who also suggested going to Victoria to lobby for grant applications.
Mayor Kathy Moore reminded council that Rossland is hosting the 2016 AKBLG conference, and needs to develop the theme(s) and to begin firming up arrangements for venues.
Council then adjourned the public portion of the meeting and resumed their in camera session on labour relations. Your reporter strolled home, admiring the skinny crescent moon and thinking cantankerous thoughts about lobbying — that it is a corrupt practice that seems to play an increasingly important role in an increasingly corrupt political system, further eroding democracy and any remaining transparency of our provincial and federal governments.