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COUNCIL MATTERS: Rossland City Council meetings, April 19, 2021

Screenshot: CFO Elma Hamming speaks to the Five-year Plan. All Council members were present, but not all were visible on this screen.

Tax rates and Five Year Plan;  moving a garden;  new art;  Mid-town Transition Project tender awarded;  pool times; more Disc Golf;  juggling ice time;  please don’t poison the bees; and the full RDKB report

Present for both meetings:  Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Chris Bowman, Janice Nightingale, Stewart Spooner, Dirk Lewis, Terry Miller, and Andy Morel.  Staff who spoke included CFO Elma Hamming, Manager of Recreation and Events Kristi Calder, and City Planner Stacey Lightbourne.

1:       5:00 pm – Committee-of-the-Whole

Council discussed the City’s draft Financial Plan for 2021-2025.  Hamming introduced the plan and the proposed taxation schedule.  She explained that if a home has increased in assessed value more than the average home, the taxes on it will increase by more than the average increase; conversely, if a home has declined in assessed value, its taxes will increase by less than the average increase.

The average increase on residential properties will be reduced to 1.5% from the original plan of 2.5%; and on other classes, the increase will remain at 2.5%.

Hamming summarized the funding of the Mid-Town Transition Project, and the COVID recovery funding received from the provincial government.  She guided Council through a review of revenue sources, and types of expenditures, both illustrated with colour charts. She also provided a summary of the City’s capital assets and their replacement costs, and the details of the City’s capital plan, the City’s financial policies and reserve funds, insurance funds, and debt levels.

Moore emphasized that the City is remaining below its self-imposed limit on debt-servicing costs, which itself is below the province’s limit for municipalities.

For interested readers, Hamming’s materials – 113 pages -- form the basis of the agenda for this meeting, available on the City’s website; it’s a comprehensive and detailed document that reports on Rossland’s financial health and trends and plans:  https://rossland.civicweb.net/document/11813

The Committee-of-the-Whole meeting adjourned at 5:37 pm, and everyone had a 23-minute break before the regular Council meeting convened.

 

2:       6:00 -- Regular Council Meeting

Public Input Period:  

Two residents spoke on the issue of ice time at the Rossland Arena, and the balancing act required to equitably allocate ice time among different teams, age groups, and the general public. Kristi Calder accepted the input and explained how she attempts to achieve fairness when demand exceeds supply.  

Delegation:  Rossland Community Garden – Penny Johnson and Laura Jackman

Penny Johnson, a director of the Rossland Community Garden,  and Laura Jackman, Outdoor Classroom teacher at Rossland Summit School (RSS), presented Council with plans for the relocation of the community garden, and requested a letter of support for an application to Columbia Basin Trust for a grant to fund a landscape plan for North Jubilee Park.  Johnson provided a brief history of the community garden and its funding background, and the gradual increase in water levels which have resulted in cold, wet soil and significantly reduced production. The current location of the community garden will become an extension of the Jubilee Wetland.

Laura Jackman explained that she and a colleague have developed a program ensuring that each Kindergarten to Grade 6 student at RSS will receive 100 minutes of learning outdoors, at the wetland and in the community garden.  

They hope to be able to begin moving the garden area in the fall of this year.

Bylaws:

Notice Enforcement and Adjudication System Bylaw # 2749: 

Rossland is heading for a new and more effective method of issuing and collecting fines for bylaw infractions, with implementation beginning in early summer.  Motions to give second and third readings to the amended bylaw CARRIED unanimously.  The amendments added information to Schedule A of the bylaw which had been omitted during first reading.  Lewis pointed out that any penalties for handing out plastic bags should be imposed on the company, not the cashier or packer working for the company.  Council also discussed some of the bylaws listed and the penalties attached to them; Spooner noted that Council needs to review the penalties for infractions of bylaws.

Fees and Charges for Recreation, Parks and Cultural Services Bylaw # 2751:            

A motion to adopt the bylaw CARRIED.

Five Year Financial Plan 2021‐2025 Bylaw # 2753:                                   

Motions to give second and third reading to the bylaw CARRIED unanimously.

Municipal Tax Rate Bylaw # 2754:     

The bylaw will impose a lower municipal tax rate for the year on residential properties than originally proposed; the increase has been lowered to 1.5% instead of the original increase of 2.5%, to help reduce the financial burdens on people already impacted by COVID-19.  A motion to give the bylaw first, second and third readings CARRIED.

Ophir Reservoir Local Area Tax Rate Bylaw # 2755:    

The amount charged per unit remains the same as in 2020 -- $58.93. All funding collected from this parcel tax is applied to paying down Ophir MFA debt, which will be retired in 2031.  A motion to give the bylaw first, second and third readings CARRIED.

Red Mountain Specified Area Tax Rate Bylaw # 2756:                            

The levy has been recalculated to ensure that the debt can be retired in 2022 as planned and that the properties are taxed appropriately.  A motion to give the bylaw first, second and third readings CARRIED.

Policy Review:

Land Transactions Policy:  A motion to reconfirm the policy CARRIED.  Spooner asked if we have a policy to determine what properties are “surplus.”  Stacey Lightbourne answered, yes, the city has criteria, and lists of properties for eventual acquisition and for sale.

Pesticide and Herbicide Use Policy: A motion to reconfirm the policy CARRIED.  The policy discourages the use of herbicides and pesticides, and encourages other less harmful means of controlling weeds and pests.  Morel pointed out that local beekeepers have lost hives poisoned by pesticides applied for cosmetic purposes.  Miller talked about a plan for dealing with invasive species, and that our attention to  knotweed could be expanded into a strategy for curbing  more invasive species.  Lewis noted that “the things [herbicides, pesticides] you can buy in stores in the area are not good.”

Recreation Facilities User Allocation Policy:  Council discussed a motion to approve the policy as amended. The amendments are, staff explained, an “adjustment to the prioritization of user groups, allowing for increasing internal City programs and an increase in special events like Rossland Warrior games, GTMHA Tournaments, Boxing Day Classic and Smokettes Tournament.”  Nightingale suggested switching the first two priority groups, saying “that’s how we manage it now in practice.” Kristi Calder noted that she could work with the policy either way, and keep some time open on weekends for public use.  Lewis suggested that there should be some way to leave time available for the long-term users like the Eagles and the Fossils, and that priorities could be capped at a certain percentage of time.  Calder noted that she could work on a division to propose. Spooner wanted to leave it to Staff’s discretion. Moore suggested referring the policy back to Calder to be brought back at another meeting; a motion to that effect CARRIED.   

RCAC Art Installation Request:

The Rossland Council for Arts & Culture is requesting  that the Sculpture titled “Equilibrium,” currently on display at the North-West corner of Columbia Avenue and Washington Street, be moved to the South-Eastern corner of Washington Street and First Avenue, and that a new sculpture titled “Connected” be placed at the Columbia and Washington spot.  Morel noted that the City may need to begin budgeting for these requests. Council agreed that The City needs a plan for accommodating art pieces, leases, installations and purchases for art pieces.  A motion to approve RCAC’s current request CARRIED unanimously.

Proposed Midtown Mixed-Use Development Project - Tender Review and Award:

A motion to  approve the overall capital budget (including land) for the construction of the Rossland Midtown Mixed-Use Development Project (1920 Third Avenue) in the amount of $15,485,672, exclusive of applicable taxes, and subject to Final Project Approval (FPA) from BC Housing, and to approve the portion of costs in the overall capital budget, which includes both the shell space and tenant improvement costs for the City Hall portion of the overall project, in the amount of $3,286,576 (including land), but exclusive of applicable taxes, and to authorize the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society (LCAHS) to enter into the CCDC-5B contract through the amending Article A-8 Contract Price with Yellowridge Construction for the full scope of work, including related City Hall costs and improvements, in the amount of $12,191,183 exclusive of applicable taxes, and subject to Final Project Approval (FPA) from BC Housing, CARRIED unanimously.

Rossland Pool Operations 2021:

Kristi Calder recommended that the Rossland Pool be allowed to operate with limited capacity during June, July and August this year;  she explained, “There is currently not sufficient staff available in the community to operate the pool in full capacity for the summer of 2021.”  She also noted that “as more data has emerged regarding the safe operation of facilities during the Covid-19 Pandemic, indoor and outdoor pools have repeatedly been identified as one of the safest options to provide youth and adults recreation options.”  Calder presented a proposed schedule of operation for the summer:

A motion to approve the proposal for limited operation of the pool for 2021  CARRIED unanimously.

Late agenda addition:  Cafe Patios:  Stacey Lightbourne explained that there have been some requests for sidewalk patios, but there is an old bylaw from 1998 governing the topic – “Street Vending Bylaw”  -- the motion is that the City waive all fees under the bylaw for sidewalk patios for restaurants for this year only, because of COVID.  The motion CARRIED (Bowman had left the meeting for this item.).

Information and reports:

Council reviewed reports on:  Payments made;  Budget Update;  Corporate Management Work Plan Progress Report;  Building Permit Report;   Building Inspections Report;   Step Code Rebates Report;   Public Works Report;   Water Production Report; and the Updated Task List.  ( Nightingale noted that building permits this year are greater than from 2019; “That must be keeping the planning department busy.”  Lightbourne nodded vigorously, then left the screen.)

Council members reported on the meetings they had attended (selected highlights only):

Nightingale noted that BC Housing has increased their funding of the housing portion of the Mid-town Transition project.

Bowman  reported that the  board of Kootenay Rockies Disc Golf Society has voted unanimously to enter into discussion with the RDKB and Blackjack to spend its existing discretionary budget in developing "an 18 hole” (basket?) extension at the Thin Air Disc Golf course, located at Black Jack. He opined that Disc Golf “is an excellent opportunity for an  easy family-friendly activity, free from much cost, that is attractive in many ways (from fitness to fun) -- still in its infancy but gaining some traction.”

Bowman moved to provide a letter of support for BC community gaming commission grant to the Rossland Museum for its further development; the motion CARRIED.  He also reported that the Museum’s ecology club is seeking to “rewild” gardens around the museum and asks for a letter of support for their project. Miller wanted to know what the letter of support was intended to achieve; Moore noted that if the City agrees to write a letter or support, they need more information, but the motion CARRIED.

A motion to provide a letter of support for the project of moving community garden also CARRIED.

Morel provided a written report on RDKB meetings he had attended since his previous report; the full unedited text is included here:

RDKB Report – by Andy  Morel

   Regional Connectivity Committee – March 1, 2021 by Zoom

·       Delegation of BC Hydro representatives explaining complicated logistics of attaching non-hydro assets to poles and other infrastructure. For our region, likely equally complicated for access for Fortis poles.

·       CBT Staff report regarding Universal Broadband Application being submitted by March 15, 2021 on behalf of Columbia Basin residents. Approx. 14K residences underserved. Application to support up to 6600 homes with universal service objective of 50/10 speeds. $91M project cost with rollout plan from October 2021 – March 2027. Small # of homes in Park Siding under RDKB jurisdiction added to application.

  Liquid Waste Management Plan Management Committee – March 4, 2021  by Zoom

·       Staff and Committee waiting for CPCC Upgrade Project grant application announcements – fingers crossed.

·       Continued advocacy for CPCC project with both Federal and Provincial Ministers. Reply letter from Federal Infrastructure Minister McKenna through MP Cannings. Recognizing the grant applications are now under Provincial scrutiny and approval guidelines, the Committee will continue to ask MLA Conroy for support as well as send a letter of advocacy along with staff report to new Municipal Affairs Minister, Josie Osbourne.

RDKB Board Meeting – March 10, 2021 by Zoom

·       Delegation: Kootenay and Boundary Farm Advisors (KBFA) Spokesperson: Rachael Roussin, Program Coordinator and General Advisor Re: Overview of KBFA's activities in 2020/2021 Ms. Roussin provided her annual update on the activities of the Kootenay and Boundary Farm Advisors, an extension and engagement program that helps producers to build relationships to improve agricultural production and efficiency. *New YouTube channel for those interested under Kootenay and Boundary Farm Advisors.

·       Staff Report from CFO, Barb Ihlen regarding potential use of the Provincial Covid Safe Restart Allocation Funds. Board approved allocation of funds towards Wage Continuation Program - $95K for 2021 as well as $45K towards increased staffing at Grand Forks pool complex for increased operational hours in support of users. Future potential uses of funds to be presented by both staff and directors.

·       Staff Reports, Final iteration of East End Transit and General Government, Legislative and Administrative Services Work Plans and Budgets presented by Staff and approved by Board.

·       Appointment by Board of Director Worley, Director Cacchioni and Alternate Director Parkinson to the West Kootenay Regional Transit Committee for three year term commencing January 1, 2021 and expiring December 31, 2023.

·       Staff Report: CAO, Mark Andison reported on email from Clara Reinhardt, President, AKBLG. Possible restructuring of Lands and Natural Resource Operations - Letter from Minister Nathan Cullen, Lands and Natural Resource Operations CAO Andison explained that Mr. Cullen is requesting input on the possible restructuring as well as the mandate of the ministry. It was recommended that the RDKB's recent resolution to AKBLG advocating for more local control of land-use practices be sent to Minister Cullen.

    EAST END SERVICES COMMITTEE – MARCH 16, 2021 by Zoom

·       Delegation: Stew Spooner - KCTS Year End Report including 2021 Update and Workplan

·       Delegation:  T. Grouette, Executive Director, LCIC Re: Update on Activities

Discussion ensued on various topics including:

1. Commercial energy needs in the east end, Columbia Gardens specifically.

              2. Tech mining in the region,

3. Updating land inventory in the Columbia Gardens Industrial Park,

4. I4C building occupancy, and

5. Benefits to having regular updates to the EES Committee.

·       Seth Wright, Manager, Government Relations - BC Transit – update on Trail Exchange Project. Director R. Cacchioni - Bus Shelters Funding S. Wright, BC Transit staff attended the meeting and provided the Committee with an update on the Trail transit exchange plan, project development process and the timeline and next steps. RDKB and BC Transit will work together to look at the funding model for the project. Potential for Infrastructure Canada grant funding opportunity with 40/40/20% Feds/Prov./Muni split to support purchase of new and refurbishing existing bus shelters.

RDKB BOARD MEETING – MARCH 31, 2021 by Zoom

·       Delegation: MP Richard Cannings provided an update from Ottawa and various issues around the riding. Discussed a number of issues related to responses to pandemic as well as the prospect of an election in 2021 and the myriad of political issues swirling around currently.

·       Staff Report: Impacts of the RDKB Wage Continuation COVID-19 Pandemic Policy CAO Andison reported that as of the last pay period, the RDKB’s quarantine pay was just over $40,770, which represented a small increase in quarantine total wages. A total of 32 staff have received quarantine pay; six staff have received paid leave.

·       The Board reviewed and approved a number of advocacy pieces brought forward by the Education and Advocacy Committee. They include: That staff review the RDKB’s resolution on "Use of High Efficiency Electrical Appliances" and bring it back to a future Education and Advocacy Committee for discussion in preparation for submission to the UBCM for its 2021 convention.

That staff be directed to advise Richard Cannings, MP that the Board wishes to discuss the following items when he attends the March 31, 2021 RDKB Board meeting: proposed 1% wealth tax; the state of long term care facilities; and invasive aquatic species.                                                                                           

That the Board direct staff to arrange a meeting with the provincial Ministry of Finance to discuss the proposed 1% wealth tax. Carried.                                           

That the Board direct staff to arrange a meeting with the provincial Ministry of Health to discuss the state of long-term care facilities.                                             

That the Board direct staff to arrange a meeting with the Ministry of Environment to discuss the issue of invasive plants and other species in our water bodies.                                                                                                                       That the Board direct staff to arrange a meeting with the Ministry of Education to discuss the need for increased library funding.                                                      

That Board Directors be requested to submit issues they wish to discuss with their Members of the Legislative Assembly to staff.

·       Staff Report: CFO, Barb Ihlen  presenting the 2021-2025 RDKB Five Year Financial Plan as amended for all services under the umbrella of the RDKB. Read three times and passed by Board.

·      Discussion of Items for Future Meetings: Director Grieve asked for an analysis of the cost savings during the pandemic; that is, how much money has been saved on Directors’ and staff members’ travel-related costs. Staff will prepare a report to this request.

(End of Andy  Morel's RDKB report)

The meeting recessed to an in camera session, and your reporter arose from her computer, turned it all off, and ambled into the living room, being grateful for not having the dread virus, for having had a first dose of vaccine, for a spouse who cooks dinner as needed and helps with the rather large vegetable garden and other stuff, for still being able to walk, for living in this beautiful place and for many other wonderful things that are too often taken for granted.