Nakusp council, August 22: Museum makes big ask

·7 min read

The Nakusp and District Museum is asking for a big hike in its annual grant from the Village.

A delegation from the museum appeared before council saying it wanted to increase the salary of the museum’s curator/manager from $20/hour to $28.85, the provincial standard.

That would allow them to offer a living wage for a year-round, full-time curator, which would in turn help build the museum.

“If we had a permanent, not seasonal, curator/manager we would be eligible for many additional grants that would allow us to do renovations, offer community programming, purchase capital equipment and obtain specialized museum technology to adequately protect and digitize the artifacts in our collection,” they said in a letter to council.

That would take a big boost in the museum’s annual grant, from $18,500 to $42,000. The current funding does not sustain half a year of operations, they said, noting that despite having had many successful fundraising events, greater core funding is needed to keep the organization’s momentum going.

Even if council approves the request, it likely wouldn’t happen until next year, when the 2023/24 budget is set. Council received the presentation as information.

New industrial land

Expanding the available industrial lands is a Nakusp council priority, which is why staff will investigate the cost to develop a parcel west of the village on Hot Springs Road.

The Village owns the 10.5-acre lot at 1305 Hot Springs Road, and part of it is already used by NACFOR. Much of the parcel is in a steep slope zone and can’t be developed, but council has asked staff to see what it would take to make the usable area available for industry.

“The land is not serviced (no water or sewer) so there are limited uses available at this time,” staff said in a preliminary report to council. “However, it may have potential for certain industrial uses without further developing.”

The exact cost of clearing the land, connecting utilities and doing the other development work is unknown, but the Village could make about $14,000 selling the lumber from the property at current prices to offset some costs.

Staff asked that council to put the project into the 2023 budget and work plan, and council agreed, so no work on the issue is immediately planned.

EV everywhere

Council has directed staff to apply for the CBT Basin Charge Up Grant, a program encouraging small communities to convert from fossil fuels to electric power.

The Village will seek money for an electric pickup truck for public works, and an EV charging station and energy retrofits at the hot springs.

Emergency readiness grant

Staff will be applying for a Community Readiness Program grant that will help make Nakusp better able to support the community in times of emergency.

While the rink may seem a good location for providing mass emergency services, it has air quality, logistical and safety issues, and would cost far too much more to improve than could be applied for through this program.

Instead, staff say it might be a good time to focus on the auditorium in the sports complex.

“Currently, the auditorium does not have any means of cooling or filtering the incoming air, nor does it have a backup power supply or generator for use during a power outage,” a staff report notes. Staff says installing the HVAC to improve air quality and provide cooling is the priority.

Past consultants have estimated the cost of installing HVAC in the building at around $150,000. Staff said council wasn’t committing to spending the money by making the application, and if estimates turn out to be too high, it can drop the project.

Support for SAR

The reinvigorated Arrow Lakes Search and Rescue Society wants to rebuild its communication system in the region, and is getting moral support from council for the project.

“The reason we are looking at doing this is because our current system is not compatible with regional standards being rolled out in several other communities,” ALSAR volunteer Daniel Abraham wrote to the council. “These standards allow long-range communication on a wide area network and real time GPS tracking, and would be beneficial in any mutual aid scenario…”

Abraham said the organization had nearly dissolved last year, but now is “a young and devoted group of over 20 members with a very dedicated board.”

The Village will provide a letter of support to the group, which is applying for a “very large” BC Gaming grant for the work.

Council pay

Council gave first three readings to a bylaw to provide a pay increase for the mayor and councillors. The raises kick in in the new year. The next mayor will receive $17,719 annually, while a councillor will make $9,550. Future increases will follow the increases for unionized Village staff. The increases are in about the middle of the salary range for elected officials in a community Nakusp’s size.

Travel and per diems

If you’ve travelled at all this summer, you’ve probably experienced ‘sticker shock’ at the rising cost of gas, accommodations, etc. It’s the same for municipal governments, and Nakusp is increasing its per-diem rates for staff, volunteers, emergency workers and councillors travelling on local government business.

The Village will increase the mileage rate from $0.53/km to $0.61/km and mileage rates will now be tied to the rate approved by the Canada Revenue agency.

Meal per diems have also been increased to reflect current pricing, and travellers can now stay at the homes of friends or family when on the road, which “saves the Village money on accommodations,” notes a report.

The increase represents about a 15% increase in the travel budget for the Village, which will stand at about $2,400 annually.

Staffing levels

The Village has new rules on how many staff can be on leave at the same time. Council has approved CAO Wayne Robinson’s policy that will ensure that “any given Village department has sufficient staffing levels to ensure it can operate effectively and respond to emerging situations as they arise”.

A report by Robinson said absences from work can negatively impact the Village’s capacity to get work done, though it is largely out of anyone’s control when it’s a medical or family leave.

Under the new rules, at least three staff will have to be working in the public works department, arena/parks, hot springs, and main office. Only one person from a department will be granted a vacation request for a given time period.

Robinson said “qualifiers and exceptions” have been worked into the policy to make it flexible when needed.

No kissing babies at council

With the municipal elections only six weeks away, council is taking steps to ensure no one uses council proceedings as a political platform.

“Council is a continuous body that exists before and after an election. Its duties are not tied to who the members are that make up the governing body of the organization,” says a report provided by staff to council. “Therefore, no one should be afforded the opportunity to use a council meeting to forward their own campaign, especially immediately prior the election period.”

In order to level the playing field, councillors won’t give their regular reports on their activities until after the October 15 election. It’s a common practice in other municipalities, the CAO told council.

Also, the mayor should take care to ensure no new candidates try to use council’s public question time for political grandstanding.

Council received the report as information.

Woodstove program

The Village is hoping it can convince some homeowners to swap out their old woodstoves for new ones. The BC Woodstove Exchange program is offering incentives for people to get new stoves, reducing air pollution overall. Last year, the program prompted three Nakusp homeowners to upgrade their stoves. Participants get a rebate of $200-$650 from the provincial fund, and $100 from the Village to sweeten the pot. The village is putting up enough for 10 people to take advantage of the program this year.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice