A Forest Park for Rossland? Poverty is expensive; the Benefits Question; BIG grape stompers needed!
Rossland’s City Council held its regularly scheduled meeting at 6:00 pm on Monday, March 27, with Mayor Kathy Moore and Councillors Lloyd McLellan, John Greene, Andy Morel, Marten Kruysse, and Andrew Zwicker present. Only Aaron Cosbey was unable to attend.
The gallery produced no opinions for the Public Input Period, so Council moved right on to delegations.
A “Forest Park” for Rossland?
Rossland resident Anthony Bell provided materials to Council on his proposal for a “Forest Park” extending from (and partially consisting of some parcels of) his own property, and further up the flanks of Deer Park Hill, known to many locals by a crude name based on its resemblance, from certain points on Red Mountain, to up-turned human buttocks.
Bell has been working to find a way to protect the forest — now second growth, as the old-growth around Rossland all fell to fuel the gold-rush over a century ago. His proposal is “to conserve the area for wildlife and for Rossland residents and visitors, to enjoy for recreation, in perpetuity. This would occur through donation of private lands, dedication of City land and application of covenants.”
Bell pointed out that “Lucy’s Meadow” has now been proven to shelter “healthy amphibian populations of Long-toed Salamanders, Northern Pacific Tree Frogs, and Columbia Spotted Frogs.” A pedestrian and bike path formerly marched straight across Lucy’s Meadow, but has since been diverted into the forest just above it.
Bell also noted that the area proposed for the Forest Park drains into the Centennial Wetland, and that the forest cover benefits the wetland by buffering and filtering seasonal flows. He pointed out that the forest surrounding Rossland provides much of our community’s appeal, not to mention recreation on trails built and maintained by the Kootenay-Columbia Trails Society — with the permission of the property owners. Now he hopes to persuade those property owners, including the City, to dedicate the parcels of land for his proposal as parkland in perpetuity.
Moore asked about ownership of a large parcel of land that includes the meadow to the south of Bell’s property. An unofficial path through that meadow connects from the south end of Dunn Crescent to the KCTS trail system in the forest above. Staff explained that title to that parcel is held by a numbered company.
Moore thanked Bell, and said that staff will do further investigation, and that Council will consider the request.
The Skills Centre’s Jan Morton gave a presentation of poverty reduction, pointing out the largely unrecognized costs to society (and taxpayers) of poverty: increased health care costs, demands on policing and the justice system, and loss of economic activity by those who cannot afford to contribute. The cost of addressing poverty reduction effectively, she argued, would be less — about half as much — as the costs of allowing poverty to continue or increase.
Morton pointed out that a “living wage” is only part of the poverty reduction equation; an inclusive community is also important — relieving social isolation; enabling people who live on minimal income to participate more fully in social and recreational activities, and improving their ability to get around. Recreational opportunities and transit are areas where municipal governments can make a big contribution for relatively little cost — by issuing low-income people with passes for recreation and transit. She cited Cranbrook as an example.
What’s a living wage? For a family of four — two adults and two children, ages four and seven — a living wage has been estimated at approximately $66,000 a year, or $18.21 per hour for 35 hours a week with two income-earners.
Morton said there will be a “summit” on poverty reduction held over two separate dates in May, to create an action plan for addressing poverty in the Lower Columbia region. Moore will be attending.
Kruysse asked, “What do we want to accomplish at the end of the day?” Morton responded that if the lowest income quintile could be raised to the next level, that would be a major accomplishment. Morton declined to try to predict solutions coming out of the planning process, but said, “Different agencies are going to need to work together, in a non-siloed way.” She reiterated that “it’s not just income, Marten,” and emphasized that social isolation needs to be addressed too. “Once there can be a degree of inclusion, often their lives are richer, even if their per-capita income is no higher.”
Moore thanked Morton, and Council moved on to its regular business.
Re-zoning 2253 Washington Street:
Council moved an item ahead to accommodate the property owners concerned, who were waiting in the gallery. Their application for re-zoning of 2253 Washington Street from R-3 Residential Multiple Family to C-3 Commercial Resort Accommodation was given third reading, with all Council members voting in support. The building is within 800 metres of a controlled access highway, so it requires approval in writing by the Ministry of Transportation before it can be adopted. The bylaw will be submitted to the Ministry for approval.
A Motion Fails — Unanimously
Council considered the information received from staff on the potential cost of providing health benefits to Council members, originally proposed by Zwicker at the previous meeting. Kruysse commented that he didn’t think it was something that Council should be considering; “It makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t think it’s appropriate. If there’s a compensation issue, it can be dealt with as compensation.” McLellan agreed. “The City is not our employer,” he pointed out. “We are not employees.” He considers Council membership as a volunteer position. Zwicker had crunched the numbers, and calculated that the amount of money it would cost to provide Councillors with benefits would be the equivalent of a 25% increase in compensation, and he didn’t think that would be very palatable to most people. Morel pointed out that Rossland’s Council is one of the lowest-paid in the province, “and I don’t think it’s something to be proud of.” McLellan stated, “The other thing about compensation is, just because we pay more money, doesn’t mean we’re going to get better people. I can allude to the Regional District, and I don’t mind saying that. They get a helluva lot more money; doesn’t mean they’re better.”
Moore noted that the discussion on benefits appeared to be a dead issue, and said staff could look into comparative compensation. Morel moved to direct staff to investigate comparative Council compensation. Greene said, “Let’s not waste staff’s time. They have more important things to do.” Kruysse agreed; he said that if the issue needed investigation, it should be done at the end of this Council’s term; appoint a compensation committee with “people from the community,” to produce recommendations that could apply to the following Council, not this one. Moore added that the information is readily accessible and Council could access it instead of asking staff to spend time on it.
Moore called for a vote on the motion to direct staff to investigate comparative Council compensation, and no one voted in favour. It FAILED unanimously.
Development Variance Permits:
Moving right along, Council then unanimously approved two development variance permit applications, for 2136 Monte Christo and 2001 Crest respectively.
Rossland’s “Employee Training and Professional Development Policy” came under scrutiny and Council approved it after clarifying a few minor points.
Then Council approved an “Equipment Loan Policy” which had been amended to require that City equipment must always be operated by qualified City employees.
Staff had suggested amendments to the “Street Lighting Policy” to make a plan for reducing excessive lighting as a first stage in rationalizing Rossland’s street lighting. Manager of Public Works Darrin Albo noted that some blocks have more lighting than necessary, while others have none at all. The first step in the plan is to remove “mid-block” lighting, and see if lighting remains effective for “way-finding.” Kruysse spoke of pedestrians having closer encounters with bears than they liked, in ill-lit areas, and emphasized that if we want to be a pedestrian-friendly community, we have to have enough street lighting that people can walk around town in the evening with sufficient lighting. Morel noted that stairways are not well lit at all. Chief Administrative Officer Bryan Teasdale noted that the City will be open to public input on any changes in the street lighting; Albo noted that there are likely to be complaints “from both sides” — those who want more lighting, and those who would prefer to have less, or none. Greene asked whether there had been any investigation of solar-powered lights with motion detectors, to use, for example, as mid-block street lights.
Council voted unanimously to adopt the updated policy.
Southeast Asia Project:
Moore announced that Rossland applied, and has been chosen, to participate — at no cost to Rossland — in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities ” Southeast Asia Project,” along with Edmonton. There will be more information available on the nature of this project around the end of April. Stay tuned!
Wanted: Two big, heavy, energetic people with — big, tough but really clean feet?
Trail is holding its annual Silver City Days “Grape Stomp” contest on May 13, 2017, at 3:00 pm; Rossland’s grape stompers don’t have to be Council members this year — but they have to live in Rossland. Lessons learned at previous grape stomps suggest that winning teams tend to have weight and energy on their side. Rossland’s participating Council members last year had the energy, but not the weight. Big, energetic, heavy-weight Rosslanders with big tough feet should apply to represent our home town at the grape stomp, and mash those grapes with a will!
Council members each reported on meetings attended and other items of interest before the meeting adjourned, and your gimpy reporter was grateful to the Councillor who offered and provided a ride home, confirming a deep appreciation of small-town living; people in the West Kootenays in general, and in Rossland in particular, have so much fuel for gratitude.