Kaslo council, Nov. 8: Smaller Jazz Fest a success

A new council term, new meeting procedures, and new municipal website added up to a fresh start – with a software glitch or two – for Kaslo Village council after the October 15 election. The mayor, two new councillors and two incumbents had plenty to tackle on their first meeting of municipal business.

Smooth Jazz Fest

Chief Administrative Officer Ian Dunlop reported meeting with the organizers of this year’s Kaslo Jazz Fest and emergency and law enforcement officials, and said everyone agreed the event was a success. The only problems reported on the weekend were with a campground on South Beach, which was run by a third party as a fundraiser. Otherwise, everyone is “on the same page” when it comes to keeping the festival at the much smaller size it was this year, he said.

“Everyone agreed the size was right,” Dunlop told council. “We don’t want to be going back to how it was three years ago, when it was a much bigger event. There are diminishing returns for doing that.”

Talks on the arrangements for next year’s event will happen in the spring, he added.

A Ave complete

One of the biggest infrastructure projects the Village undertook this year is complete. CAO Dunlop says the new waterline under A Avenue was connected to the system, pressure-tested and backfilled under the street earlier this month. A touch of paving work will still need to be completed in the spring, but otherwise the job is done.

The $800,000 project to replace the nearly century-old pipe was fully funded by the Village, as grants were unavailable for this kind of maintenance-type job. The waterline had deteriorated to the point where 15% of the village’s water was lost through the stretch of pipe, the CAO told council. Dunlop said crews also uncovered issues with an aging pressure control valve, which will also have to be replaced in the future.

PM to the Moyie?

It’s the 125th anniversary of the SS Moyie, the iconic paddlewheeler now drydocked as a museum on the shores of Kootenay Lake in Kaslo. The group that oversees the care and management of the boat have some big plans to mark the occasion, and that includes inviting the prime minister to Kaslo to take part in the celebration.

“Since he has a connection to this area of the Kootenays, we would like to invite the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau to an event sometime between July and early September when convenient in his schedule,” the Kootenay Lake Historical Society wrote to council. (It’s not a happy connection however: the PM’s brother, Michel, died when he was swept away by an avalanche in Kokanee Glacier Park in 1998.) Protocol suggests the invitation should be sent by the mayor. Council voted to have the mayor write an official invitation to the prime minister.

Mayor’s ‘vision’ for Kaslo

Being mayor means being on your game 24/7, and that includes looking for opportunities to improve your community whenever and wherever they arise. And that’s why Mayor Suzan Hewat added a note about her recent visit to the optometrist in her Mayor’s Report.

“I realize that it is strange to put this item in my report, but while at the office I had a conversation with the optometrist who recently purchased the practice,” she wrote. The optometrist told Hewat she had resumed travelling to Nakusp to provide eye care in that town.

Hewat saw an opening to make a pitch for her own community.

“She had no idea that this service had been provided in Kaslo,” said Hewat, who by coincidence had worked at the old eye doctor’s office in the village years ago.

“We had a discussion regarding the possibility of resuming the service and what would be needed. I let her know about our Health Select Committee and that this was one of our priorities…”

Hewat says while the exchange was positive, the doctor won’t likely be able to begin serving Kaslo for another year or so. In the meantime, the Health Committee will discuss what they can do to help make it happen, Hewat says.

Rec grant reconsidered

A local organization is going to get a Fall Recreation Grant after all. North Kootenay Lake Community Services (now known as Kaslo Community Services) were denied a $500 grant earlier this year for their ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ program, even though the program had been funded by the Village in the past. This year’s grant committee felt the program “was educational in nature and did not involve recreation.”

But the non-profit group appealed the decision to council.

“They are now faced with an unexpected shortfall, compromising their ability to deliver their valuable community program as planned,” a report to council stated. Since the majority of the committee was supportive of council reconsidering the decision, and there was enough money in the Fall Rec Grant fund to cover the project, council voted to support the project after all.

The program, designed for parents and caregivers of young children, is an opportunity “to learn about child development, safety, health and behaviour, and to share questions, concerns and ideas about parenting,” the KCS says.

Election costs

The final numbers are in for the cost of the October 15 municipal elections. Village Corporate Officer Catherine Allaway, who acted as the election returning officer, reported that delivering the election cost approximately $11,000. That was to pay for hall rental, supplies, advertising, training materials and staff time.

Not all of that will come out of local taxpayers’ pockets. The Village will bill the RDCK and School District 8 over $3,700 in expenses for running their local elections for them.

That is “significantly reducing the cost impact on the Village,” she told council.

The one downbeat in her report was it took a long time for staff to count the ballots after polls closed on Saturday night at 8 pm. Results weren’t ready until about 2 am.

“In future, when there are multiple races, it is recommended to bring in additional counting staff and conduct the count at City Hall,” Allaway said. “This will permit simultaneous counting of each race and quicker results for all involved.”

Kaslo voters cast a total of 549 ballots, including 147 at the advance poll, 14 via mail ballot and 388 on general voting day.

Bell lease review

The public is going to get a chance to weigh in on a lease agreement for a radio tower owned by Bell Media. Since 2009, the Village has leased land at the community-owned golf course for Bell to run a low-power FM transmitter. The lease on that expires in December, and a new agreement has been reached with the telecom giant.

The five-year deal includes a hefty rent increase (from $600 to $900 annually, with annual inflationary adjustments). That will generate just under $4,700 for the Village over the life of the lease, which can be extended another five years if both parties agree.

However, any lease agreement the Village enters has to go through a public review before being finalized. Interested members of the public are invited to go to City Hall to review the details of the agreement, and submit comments by December 6. It can also be viewed on the Village website.

First meeting jitters?

So what’s it like to sit in on your first real meeting as a Village councillor?

Erika Bird, who topped the polls in the Oct. 15 vote, said it was sometimes hard to keep up.

“It goes by very fast. I had some non-important comments I had written down but I missed the discussion on,” admitted Bird. “So I have to learn about how to ‘get my oar in’ a little quicker.”

The other freshman councillor, Matthew Brown, said he felt comfortable with the format, as it paralleled his experience with the Kaslo and Area D Economic Development Commission.

“At this point I am just trying to listen and learn as much as I possibly can,” he told the Valley Voice after the meeting. “That’s just close to my main focus, is taking everything in and try to learn how to be as effective at the table as I can.”

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice