Nakusp council, June 27: Volunteer awards, a new hire and an innovative water project

·7 min read

Fire Service awards

It takes commitment to be a member of a volunteer fire department, and a dozen Nakusp residents were honoured at the June meeting of council for their dedication.

“A lot of people don’t realize you are on call 24 hours a day, getting up at 2-3 in the morning… but you go with no questions asked, to fight that fire or make that rescue,” said Mayor Tom Zeleznik – himself receiving a 15-year jacket that evening for his service. “It is amazing what our little fire department does. It keeps growing, and we are fortunate and proud of you all.”

Besides the mayor, Greg Bobicki, Dean Zanier and James Peterson also received 15-year jackets. Eight members of the department were recognized for 20 years of service with a jacket and a lifetime pass to the Nakusp Hot Springs: Bob Cann, Arnie Herridge, Gord Matchett, Art Olson, Richard Cann, Bill Regner, Reg Gustafson, Terry Warren.

Council and the volunteers’ families and friends attending the ceremony all gave a warm round of applause in thanks.

“For you folks to give what you do is absolutely amazing, an unparalleled service that should inspire every young person to give back to the community, and do it for a long time,” said Councillor Joseph Hughes. “Hats off, well done, you are an inspiration.”

Raw water project on tap?

The Village is going to study the feasibility of using untreated water to irrigate municipal parks, cemeteries and flower beds in the downtown.

The project could save hundreds of thousands of litres a year in water that has to be filtered and purified, only to be used on lawns and gardens.

Council approved applying for a $527,000 grant from the Union of BC Municipalities Strategic Priorities fund for the what’s being called the Nakusp Raw Water Project.

Councillors called the project “innovative” as they voted to support the application.

It takes advantage of two important elements: the Village has an existing water licence to draw water from Kuskanax Creek, and has already built an intake plant and pumping station for the water source. It was part of a project from years ago to draw drinking water from the creek, but was abandoned due to technical issues.

Now, however, staff think they could re-design the intake, and extend the feeder line to supply untreated water to the municipal lands downtown.

“Staff estimates that irrigation accounts for 25-30% of summer water demand and this represents an area where demand can be offset, preserving the high-quality drinking water the Village enjoys,” says a staff report.

The existing 8" mainline from the creek ends at the soccer fields, the report notes. An additional 1.7 kilometres would have to be built to connect the mainline to the different properties, and provide for future expansion. All major irrigation users in the Village core will be connected to the system, including the soccer and baseball fields, the beach, cenotaph, cemetery and both the elementary and secondary school playing fields.

“This is a great opportunity. It’s one of council’s strategic goals, to make sure there is enough water in the future,” said Zeleznik. “Great idea. Glad it’s finally happening.”

The total cost of the project will be roughly $725,000, with the Village required to put up about $225,000, or a third of the cost. The money would come from the Village’s gas tax fund.

Communications survey

Homeowners are going to have a new way of keeping abreast of the goings-on in local government. The Village plans to produce a bi-monthly, two-page newsletter, and send it to every mailbox in the community. The first newsletter should be mailed out this summer.

A mail-out was the most popular choice for communications by respondents to a survey on how the Village keeps its citizens informed. More than 130 people responded to the survey, conducted in May.

The survey found most people get their municipal government news from the Village Facebook page, ‘village gossip,’ the Village website and the newspaper. But snail mail continues to be the most popular form of outreach.

“Nearly 80% of respondents expressed an interest in receiving a newsletter in their mailbox,” says a staff report. “We can only assume many people not on Facebook would benefit from receiving a newsletter.”

So that will be the cornerstone of a new communications policy being developed. Changes to provincial law are allowing Villages to use social media, Voyent Alerts and other platforms to reach out and inform the public.

Staff is proposing to publish public notices in the Valley Voice, on the Village Facebook page, on the Village website and on the message board in the Village office.

A new website will be put in the 2023 budget plan as well.

“The current website is out of date, hard to navigate, and now experiencing a lot of downtime due to the age of the web design platform,” notes a staff report. “A new website will allow for news and announcements to be placed in a more visible location for ease of access.”

Council received the report as information.

Planner hired on contract for 2023

The Village is going to hire a lead planner to help ease the workload on staff and make sure the important function is done properly.

Council approved hiring Patricia Dehnel on a one-year contract to provide professional planning services for the municipal government in 2023.

“Planning and Development services are becoming an increasingly busy function of Village administration,” notes a report to staff. “Applications are coming in at levels that have not been seen by the Village for several years and the indications are that numbers are going to increase.”

The workload is making it difficult for the CAO to attend to all his duties, and is overall degrading the quality of work that staff can do.

“Also the most important issue, for me, is if we carry on as we are, we are using staff that are not trained professional planners,” he says. “And there’s a significant amount of liability that can come from the planning process.”

Dehnel has worked with the Village recently on a review of its planning, subdivision and development procedures, so will fit in smoothly, the CAO said.

But her work doesn’t come cheap: she’ll be paid a little over $56,500 annually for the work, or about $4,000 a month. She’ll work one day a week, for 10 hours a day – working out to about $100/hr. She’ll also be available for supporting the Village beyond the day-a-week, Robinson said.

The extra salary will add about 5% to the tax bill for next year.

While it’s expensive, not having a qualified planner can be even more expensive, Robinson argued, as complicated lawsuits can arise from disputes. A professional planner can help avoid those errors from the outset.

“Mistakes can be made and it can cost the village in different ways such as legal, financial and reputation liabilities,” he told council. “…And by having a professional planner I believe is our best chance of avoiding that.”

Council approved the hire. She begins January 1, 2023.

Rights-of-way granted

Two utility companies are being granted right-of-way to install infrastructure on municipal lands. Telus and BC Hydro are planning developments and improvements to service, but need access to those lands to install their lines.

“This is for the Village's benefit for the operation of a new domestic well and other potential future developments,” said a report from staff.

The rights-of-way will be granted to areas around Centennial Park, including the recreation complex, playing fields, and municipal campground, amongst other facilities.

CAO Wayne Robinson noted that the land grant doesn’t give ownership or control of the properties to the utilities, and the Village will still be able to use the area any way it sees fit.

Steel memorials

Council adopted its revised Cemetery Operation and Administration bylaw, which allows stainless steel monument markers in the Nakusp cemetery.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

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