Mayor Tells it Like it is; Trail will pay, after all; Knotty Weed Problems
Rossland City Council Meeting, September 19, 2016
Present: Mayor Kathy Moore and Councillors Aaron Cosbey, John Greene, Marten Kruysse, Andrew Zwicker, and Andy Morel. absent: Lloyd McLellan.
Before declaring the meeting open, Moore handed a jar of freshly-pressed fruit juice to each of two Councillors who had picked fruit on the “community fruit pick & press” day, but had not taken any juice from it.
Public Input Period: Arena Rates and Fire Services
Two residents spoke about the rates for use of Rossland’s arena. They had spoken to user groups, and wanted Council to put the new (higher) rates for adults into effect on October 1 instead of January 1. The residents said, “The user groups are united in their desire to increase the viability and revenue recovery of our arena … there is a strong desire in the community to maintain this facility, and … the user groups are willing to put their money where their mouth is.”
Moore explained that the rates could not be increased that quickly because Council first had to pass and then adopt the bylaw changing the rates, and there was also administrative work to do to prepare for the rate changes. She expressed appreciation for the residents’ willingness to support the arena, and for the work done to calculate additional revenue from earlier rate increases.
Another resident asked if any progress had been in the negotiations at the Regional District level about the high cost of fire services, since he last appeared at a Council meeting. Moore acknowledged that, so far, nothing had changed. The resident asked whether the Rossland public would have a say if Council thought the City should “go it alone” for fire services. Moore and Greene both assured him that the public would definitely have a say, and that Council does not want to leave the service; they want costs for fire services to be reduced for all the fire service partners, as they think everyone is paying too much.
Recreation Fees Bylaw: (Council moved this item ahead on the agenda so that the residents who had spoken to the issue could hear discussion on it without sitting through more of the meeting.)
After discussing at some length the differences in fees between Rossland’s previous rates, and the rates charged by Trail, Council voted unanimously to give third reading to the bylaw as amended.
Recommendations from Staff for Decision:
1. A motion to award the contract for consulting services to complete updates and further develop the City’s current Asset Management Plan to Urban Systems Ltd. CARRIED unanimously. Kruysse commented that he had a few initial concerns, but after speaking with the City’s management team he felt confident in the recommendation. Five companies submitted bids and Urban Systems was not the lowest, but offered the most knowledge, experience and familiarity with the City. Morel expressed his gratitude that the cost of the contract is covered by a grant.
2. A motion to appoint Berg Lehmann as the City’s auditor for one more year CARRIED unanimously. Chief Financial Officer Elma Hamming explained that under normal circumstances, the audit function would go through a Request for Proposal process at this time, but it will be helpful for the new management staff to benefit from Berg Lehmann’s experience for another year first. She also commented that she expected audit fees to go down by at least $6000, because the auditors had been dealing with high staff turnover and had also been providing services not normally required. Hamming explained that these services could now be handled by the new finance department personnel.
3. A motion to delay penalties for late utility payments for the past quarter because, Moore said, “our system screwed up,” CARRIED unanimously. The due date for utility payments for this period only is October 31, and Moore added, ” we apologize to our citizens.”
4. A motion to allow a Permissive Tax Exemption for the 4-unit property at 2061 First Avenue, for the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society, CARRIED unanimously. Kruysse asked whether there would be means testing to ensure that the affordability benefits those who really need it. Patricia Marshall Thompson, who spoke to the application, stated that yes, there will be means testing.
Motions to adopt Bylaws 2616 and 2617 — an OCP amendment and a zoning amendment, both for the former Rotary Health building at 1807 Columbia Avenue — CARRIED unanimously without further discussion. This places the property in the “Downtown Core” zone, and enables the property to be used as a coffee and tea business.
A motion to give first, second and third readings to the 2017 Revitalization Tax Exemption Bylaw CARRIED unanimously. All the exemptions had been approved by Council earlier, and are for properties at 1938 Columbia Avenue, 1960 Columbia Avenue, 2104 Columbia Avenue, 2105 Columbia Avenue, and for WCH Holdings on Red Mountain Road.
Only one item on the Task List drew comment: Moore noted that the report on the issue of the City plowing private driveways (and what constitutes a “private driveway”) has not been completed, and snow will be falling soon. If changes are going to be made, they need to be implemented with plenty of notice to residents.
The City will be upgrading software for financial reporting and for utility meter reading. CFO Hamming showed that audit fees for the City went as high as $58,000 in 2012, when the auditor was asked to produce financial statements and file legislative reports, both of which should be done by the City’s financial department. The new financial software will facilitate that work and help to reduce audit fees. Moore commented she doesn’t “believe in whitewashing things,” and that the higher costs were in part because Rossland was being audited by the Auditor General for Local Government, “because of questionable and unethical behaviour that happened in this organization in the past” — the higher audit fees weren’t just because of “high staff turnover. Grrr!”
Request From RCAC:
The Rossland Council for Arts and Culture requested permission to place a sculpture outside the Miners Union Hall, and invited a Council member to sit on the selection committee. A motion to allow the request CARRIED unanimously.
Strategic Plan Discussion:
Zwicker had circulated a document with comments and suggestions on the City’s Strategic Plan. Other Councillors appreciated the material, but decided that no motions were needed, as staff would be responsible.
The problem of Japanese Knotweed (and other invasive weeds):
Jennifer Vogel, Executive Director of the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society, wrote a letter to the City detailing the number of complaints CKISS has received about Japanese Knotweed in Rossland. Classified as one of the world’s worst invasive species, Japanese Knotweed is a threat to property values and foundations, among other things. (To learn more about this weed, check this article, or any number of others on the topic.) Vogel suggested that the City “consider establishing invasive plant bylaws and an Invasive Species Management Plan.” Moore suggested that Vogel speak with staff, and be invited to appear as a Delegation to Council.
Council members reported on meetings attended and other matters; Moore brought a gift of good news: the City of Trail, after an initial delay, has now agreed to pay Rossland the money owed under the Liquid Waste Management contract, for Rossland’s overpayment for the past two years based on original estimates of sewage flows which were higher than the actual amounts recorded by flow meters. Moore estimated the amount at about $152,000.
Council recessed to an in camera session, and your reporter walked home in the dark and drizzle, wondering when the first snow will fall and admiring the growing formwork for the new retaining wall on Columbia Avenue.