Kaslo council, April 13: subjects range from Pride to power to policy

·9 min read

Planning Pride

A delegation from Kaslo’s Pride Committee opened the meeting to touch base with councillors about their plans for this year. The North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society Pride Celebration plan to raise the Pride flag in the community and re-paint the rainbow crosswalk in town on June 4-5 (COVID permitting, of course). Lily Sweet and Shannon Isaac told council events will take place on the 4th starting at 6 pm. The delegates asked the Village to close the road, and to clean the street to help painting as dirt on the road surface was a problem for the crosswalk painters last year, and asked if they could borrow a broom and high-viz vests while they prep and paint the crosswalk, which will again be located at 4th and Front. Council asked for more information, which Isaac pledged to bring to an upcoming council meeting.

Community Forest rep seeks direction

The next delegation caused a bit of concern for councillors. The Village’s representative on the Kaslo and District Community Forest Society board, Steve Anderson, came to council to tell them of a push that could affect the municipal government’s representation on the board. The AGM was being held later that week, and there were proposals to cut the number of board members from nine to five, as well as eliminate both appointed members from the board.

Council went in camera to discuss the subject, then returned with direction for Anderson. He was told to let the community forest board know that the Village wants to retain its seat on the board. At the AGM, neither of these votes passed (see ‘Kaslo Community Forest members hear positive forecast for 2021,’ page 19).

Spring, the time for grants

A spate of grant applications was approved. In one motion, $4,350 in Spring Recreation Grants were approved by councillors. Only one request was denied, from the North Kootenay Lake Community Services Society, as councillors felt it was a duplication of the items requested in the application submitted by the Kaslo & Area Youth Council.

Another grant application that was hung up earlier in the year was approved. The Kaslo Racquet Club had its $2,500 Community Development Fund grant approved, after council had asked for more information. The money will go to repairing the club shed and purchasing landscaping equipment to keep its racquet courts in good shape.

The Victorian Hospital of Kaslo Auxilliary Thrift Store Community Development Program provided more information to council on its $4,000 grant application to the Community Development Fund program. The money is being used to cover a shortfall in its funds for a renovation project that has seen a new bathroom, floor, heat pump and other improvements to the Village-owned heritage building.

“The thrift store has not had much income since we closed on March 2020,” said volunteer Andy Shadrack. “We have currently spent about $69,000 improving the building and facilities.” Council received the new budget as information.

Council also approved the Kaslo Senior Citizen’s Society to apply for a $4,000 grant for upgrades and repairs to its kitchen walls and cupboards in its centre, and to replace the facility’s chairs.

That’s a hard no

The Village didn’t get far in its request to get the region’s power companies to work together to improve reliability of the electrical grid in the area.

A letter from FortisBC has firmly stated the company isn’t interested in having an employee stationed in Kaslo anymore. Noting that most outages are from transmission line issues, and not something a one-person crew could handle, they also noted there’s not as much need for one.

“Large amounts of infrastructure upgrades have occurred in the area since we had a crew in Kaslo,” said a letter to council from Blair Weston, Fortis’ community relations manager. “Those upgrades mean distribution outages in Kaslo have been much less frequent since the last time a crew was there.”

And Weston noted BC Hydro has also indicated they’re not interested in renewing the old service agreement that allowed Fortis crews to work on BC Hydro lines. After a similar request from the RDCK in 2019, BC Hydro replied “The Lardeau Valley is serviced by our crew from Nakusp. In the event of an unplanned outage, BC Hydro will bring in crews from other locations or contractor crews if they can respond faster than the crew from Nakusp.”

“All these points mean at this time [FortisBC] does not think the workload in the area, and the limited potential benefits to restoration times can justify stationing a crew in Kaslo,” concluded Weston.

He did note the company was planning more vegetation clearing in the next few years to decrease outages caused by trees and branches.

Council received the letter as information.

Parcel taxes introduced

Council gave initial approval to two bylaws regulating how the Village’s water and sewer lines are financed. The water parcel tax isn’t new, and charges property owners $1.10 for every foot of frontage, to pay for their water supply. The second tax, a sewer parcel tax, is new. Village staff noted the municipality needs to build a reserve fund for the ongoing maintenance and improvement of the sewer system. For the sake of convenience and ease, the introductory sewer parcel tax will also be $1.10 per foot. However, both taxes and how they work will be examined by the Village’s Liquid Waste Management Committee and may see changes next year.

The parcel tax bylaws received first and second reading, and will go for final reading and adoption at the May council meeting.

‘Tree’-off time at golf course

Village councillors have decided to let the folks who run the community golf course manage their own tree issues.

A motion calling on the Kaslo Golf Club to do a danger tree assessment and report back to council on which trees should be removed was defeated. Councillor Rob Lang said it didn’t make sense.

“If we had any trees on the golf course that were already a danger to the public, they’d already be down,” he told his fellow councillors. “What we have up there is an issue with the fir trees.”

Those trees, he explained, are getting old. Many have been severely damaged in recent wind events, and some are simply dying. Some have been shedding large branches, and have narrowly missed damaging club infrastructure.

What the course needs, he said, is an arborist to come in and examine the trees and see what trees might have to be removed.

“We need a current assessment on the health of the firs,” he said, adding that the golf course would be willing to pay for the job. If any trees have to be removed, it would be in the fall or next winter, and the club would continue to plant replacement trees.

Council approved that plan, and asked for a written report on the situation from the course when the arborist has reviewed the situation.

Green machine

Council took another step towards meeting its emissions reduction targets, by choosing to buy an electric vehicle for its next staff utility truck. After going through the options, issues and advantages of several vehicles, Chief Administrative Officer Ian Dunlop told council the best option appeared to be a ClubCar Carryall CA700. The vehicle will come from a Calgary dealer, and cost $24,989. The vehicle, which look like a cross between a golf cart and a pickup truck, will operate by battery and be good for about eight-hour shifts on the road. It comes with a two-year warranty, and the dealer’s agreed to provide a technician to come to town should any repairs be needed.

Money for the truck will come from the Village’s carbon reserve, a fund set aside for just such a purpose, with some extra top-up money from the Village’s COVID Re-Start fund.

Art for the masses

There’s some new public art coming to town. The Chamber of Commerce was given the go-ahead to apply for grants to finance its Kaslo ArtScape project.

“Kaslo ArtScape is a multi-year concept with the goal to bring art on a grand scale to our community, support local artists, and create a unique tourism opportunity,” explains the Chamber in a letter to council. “In year one of this project, prospective artists will submit mural concepts to repaint the Kaslo Pharmacy mural that incorporates an interactive component to highlight ‘Picture Perfect Kaslo.’”

The overall plan is to engage local muralists and partnering business/building owners to create wall murals with the goals of “bringing art on a grand scale to our community, supporting our local artists, and creating an opportunity to increase tourism via an interactive component in each mural.”

The painting should be selected and ready for installation in July.

While the Village is waiving several permits and fees for the project, council said the mural should work within the design guidelines of the Official Community Plan – and they wanted final approval of the artwork.

Asset management

One of the biggest and most complex jobs facing municipal staff these days is asset management—having an inventory of all Village-owned infrastructure, a good idea of its condition, and a plan for its maintenance, repair and financing its eventual replacement. The job is big enough even in tiny Kaslo — which has 36 kilometres of waterlines, four kilometres of sewer, 62 kilometres of roads and lanes, a water reservoir and a sewage treatment plan, representing millions of dollars of taxpayer investment.

It’s not a job that can be ignored. Senior levels of government won’t provide funds to municipalities anymore that don’t have asset management plans in place.

Kaslo’s about to begin its asset management process by hiring an extra staff person to begin the work. The Village anticipates it will be hearing about its funding request from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to pay for the position in the near future. The person should be hired late this spring, with an eye to starting in the summer. The Village has applied for $95,000 for the two hires, 60% of which is covered by grants.

Front Street Park

Council awarded the first contracts for the Front Street Park project at this council meeting – those pertaining to the washrooms. The general construction contractor will be Blackburn Building Ltd and Handley Construction. Brickwork will be done by Hoover Masonry. Virgo Enterprises won the plumbing contract, while Kaslo Electric won the wiring job.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice