Library's value to Rossland; new section of a trail coming up; the problem of invasive weeds; GHG emssions reduction plan
Regular Rossland City Council Meeting, October 24, 2016
All Council members were present, as well as Chief Administrative Officer Bryan Teasdale, Chief Financial Officer Elma Hamming, City Planner Stacey Lightbourne, manager of Public Works Darrin Albo, and Executive Assistant Alison Worsfold.
Public Input: A resident asked when new tree would arrive to replace one that had to be removed from her property for City work. Albo responded that he expects replacement trees, for her and for other properties, to arrive in a few weeks; otherwise they will be replaced in the spring.
Letter from Kootenay Columbia Trails Society (KCTC): This item was moved up in the agenda so that Stewart Spooner, Operations Manager of KCTS, would not have to wait until nearly the end of the meeting to hear Council’s decision on his request. Spooner, on behalf of KCTS, is seeking a letter of support from the City for construction of “an entirely new 2.5 km lower section for the existing Green Door trail.” The proposed new route for the lower part of Green Door will address “significant public safety, endangered species and invasive weed management issues.” It will not cross the Schofield Highway at the water hole corner, but instead will follow a route above the highway down into Warfield.
Council voted unanimously in favour of writing a letter of support for the project.
What’s our Public Library worth to this community?
1. Adam Howse, Chair of the Rossland Public Library Board of Directors, presented to Council an impressive summation of the library’s contributions to Rossland’s community life, in support of a request for increased funding in the 2017 budget. The library’s funding from the City was cut from its 2014 level of $126,000 to $119,750 in 2015, and then it took a further cut to $115,948 for 2016.
Howse said that in 2015, the library was open for 1821 hours and had over 41,000 visits; it provided over 2050 hours of public computer usage; provided space for 321 meetings, free of charge, for not-for-profit organizations; and provided 32,471 loans of library books. Over 2500 people attended programs at the library; he pointed out that the library also offers free WiFi, but can’t quantify usage for that; it also provides free access to two of the few public washrooms in town, approved by the Family Action Network — “Easy Peezy” washrooms. (The other two are at Laundry Dog and City Hall.) The library stays open for extended hours during community celebrations such as Spring Fling, Golden City Days and Rossland Winter Carnival.
The library “can be considered the original open-source content provider,“ Howse explained. “We have no barriers.”
The library also provides free exam invigilation, study group and internship opportunities, research assistance, and a new book club just begun with Rossland Summit School (RSS); the first meeting had 38 students attending. The library also works with Seven Summits Centre for Learning.
Howse explained that the library is seeking an additional $11,000 from the City, to bring its budget back up to slightly over its 2014 level of funding. With that money, the Library wants to increase its hours of operation, by providing one more evening per week and greater weekend coverage; the hours would be from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Friday and Saturday. The renewed funding would be spent to hire an additional person, so “the money would return to the community,” Howse pointed out.
Councillor Marten Kruysse wondered whether it would be possible for the library to raise money by charging for meeting space; Howse responded that, under the BC Libraries Act, a public library is required to offer its core services free of charge. He also noted that part of the Library Renewal Plan is to have an additional small meeting room, and to offer video-conferencing services to the community if they can acquire equipment for it; he thought it might be possible, under the terms of the Act, to charge for-profit businesses for using a video-conferencing facility. (For readers wishing to read the applicable section of the act, click this link.) Howse emphasized that the library will ensure that facilities remain free of charge for community not-for-profit organizations.
The threats posed by invasive weeds:
2. Jennifer Vogel of the Columbia Kootenay Invasive Species Society, scheduled to appear before Council to answer questions about invasive weeds, was ill, and participated by telephone instead. Mayor Kathy More asked Vogel which invasive species the City has that it ought to address, and how. Vogel responded that the worst threats are posed by knotweeds such as Japanese knotweed, Giant knotweed, and the hybridized version of those two, which is Bohemian knotweed, and all three varieties are spreading in Rossland. (Editor’s note: Rossland is rife with other invasive species too, such as knapweeds, hoary alyssum, common tansy, Himalayan balsam (policeman’s helmet), orange hawkweed, burdock which is found along many of our urban trails with its adhesive seed-carrying burrs, hoary cress, St. john’s wort, yellow loosestrife, and others. To see pictures and read about each of these, just click on the links.)
Vogel spoke about the difficulty of controlling knotweed; manual control is seldom effective because people are unwilling or unable to put the necessary sustained effort into cutting, digging and smothering every two weeks during the entire growing season for at least five years; also, great care must be taken to dispose of the cut material where it will not spread another infestation. Chemical control is unfortunately the most effective, though expensive and still not easy; it requires injection into every stem, monitoring, and if necessary treatment to be repeated for at least five years.
Lightbourne asked Vogel to explain what other communities are doing to control noxious invasive weeds, particularly on private land. Vogel recommended a suite of bylaws prohibiting landowners from harbouring noxious invasive plants on their property, including enforcement measures, and cited Whistler as a community whose bylaws could be used for inspiration. She mentioned “cost-share” programs, in which the municipality will assist residents with the cost of treatment, or cover the cost entirely. She suggested some potential sources of funding.
Councillor Andy Morel moved that staff make a proposal to Council about managing invasive species. Kruysse said he wasn’t convinced that invasive plants are really much of a problem in Rossland; Cosbey disagreed, saying he thinks knotweeds are a huge problem, damaging infrastructure and destroying property values. He commented that it’s a situation where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Lightbourne mentioned that a person in Squamish was recently denied a mortgage because of knotweed on the property; Kruysse was still not convinced that knotweed is a big problem, but Morel’s motion CARRIED unanimously.
Recommendations from Staff for decision: Plans and a Variance
a) Council discussed and unanimously approved the City of Rossland 2015 — 2020 Water Smart Plan. Albo explained that reducing water pressure in water lines is a high priority because lower pressure will extend the life of the pipes, and reduce the volume of any undiscovered leaks. Councillor Andrew Zwicker asked whether the City is looking into devices that can produce power at pressure reduction stations; Albo replied that, yes, the City has asked for a cost-benefit analysis.
b) Council discussed and voted unanimously to adopt the City of Rossland Greenhouse Gas reduction plan. So far, the City has taken “base-line” measurements of its own emissions, most of which are generated by the City’s fleet of vehicles, including snow clearing equipment, sand trucks, etc., and its energy consumption. The City’s emissions in 2015 were significantly higher than in 2010; the City’s challenge is to greatly reduce them over the next four years — ideally, to meet targets set by the province, to a level 33% lower than 2007 levels, and to find ways to effectively offset remaining emissions. The plan identifies actions to take over the next three years.
c) Council briefly discussed the Development Permit Variance Application for 2740 Butte Street, reducing the front and side setbacks to zero and allowing an encroachment agreement, to allow for construction of an addition and new roof with eaves that overhang City property. The home in question is isolated and staff report that the encroachment will have no adverse effects on neighbours or on City operations. A motion to approve the application CARRIED unanimously.
Council voted unanimously to give third reading to both the Water Rate Bylaw #2622 and the Sewer Rate Bylaw #2623, both having been discussed at earlier public meetings.
Council discussed the proposed 2016 Climate Action Reserve Fund Bylaw #2625, “a bylaw to establish a reserve fund in support of the local government’s commitment to corporate and community energy and GHG reductions,” and a motion to give it first and second readings CARRIED unanimously.
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Council then looked at theTask List, and the Revenue, Expense & Capital Update: Actual vs Budget ; council members asked questions about some of the items, and Councillor Lloyd McLellan praised CFO Hamming for the format and clarity of the report.
Councillor John Greene reported that the Heritage Commission is down to four members and would welcome more.
Zwicker reported that the Energy Task Force of the Sustainability Commission has received some solar monitoring equipment, to assess Rossland’s potential for solar energy production. He pointed out that there are few alternative energy projects being done in BC.
The RDBK governance survey report has gone to the RDBK personnel committee, which will produce recommendations; McLellan thought the report should have been released to everyone so they could become familiar with it before receiving the recommendations. Moore commented that Rossland Council would like to see the report.
Moore gave a brief update on the Thoughtexchange citizen-input process collecting input on the next City financial plan, saying the results will be released soon.
Council then recessed to an in camera session regarding the disposition of City land. And your reporter wandered home in the dry cool evening, wearing a light, highly absorbent jacket, and was astonished — and felt lucky — when a veritable deluge pounded down from the clouds mere moments afterwards.