RDCK board, April 21: Gas tax funds projects in region

·7 min read

It was a very abstract administrative meeting in April for Regional District of Central Kootenay directors, dealing with climate change policy initiatives, insurance contracts, changes to fees and procedures, planning policies, and hiring contractors to fix the roof of the RD’s headquarters.

Parental leave and daycare support

One administrative decision of interest was to provide $80/month to support directors needing childcare during board-related meetings.

The Regional District will also become one of the few in the province to provide parental leave for elected officials. The RDCK’s board voted to allow a director to take up to six months’ leave at full pay while caring for children.

The directors say these measures will help encourage others – especially younger people and women – to consider engaging in public service.

But it’s also going to create some interesting issues in the future. Right now, directors hand-pick their alternates – persons to represent them if they are absent from a meeting. However, those alternates aren’t elected by the public, meaning that taxpayers could be represented by someone they didn’t elect, for up to half a year.

In a report on the issue submitted in February, the committee said they didn’t think that was a problem, as the alternate “would have time to research the matters of the Board and be prepared.” (An alternate who needs parental leave, however, will not be eligible for the support stipend).

The Regional District will also write to the provincial minister responsible for municipal government, asking that the Local Government Act be amended to allow directors to take paternity leave without being disqualified from their positions.

Slocan fire halls get fixed

The regional government is going to spend $195,096 to upgrade infrastructure for fire halls in the Slocan Valley. The money will come from the Community Works Fund, which gets its money from the federal gas tax.

The RD says the upgrade project will improve energy efficiency in four heavily utilized fire halls, and will see the replacement of major building components that are at end-of-life.

The four valley fire halls are getting old – Crescent Valley, Passmore and Winlaw fire halls were constructed in 1986, with the Slocan fire hall in 2004.

“All four halls are home to several building components that are at end-of-life and require replacement,” said a report to directors.

The fire hall buildings improvement project will include larger infrastructure upgrades. Crescent Valley will get a new vehicle exhaust system and replacement of overhead and person doors, insulation, and improved fencing for $60,000. Passmore will also get a new vehicle exhaust system, new doors and windows, insulation, and standby system for $54,200. The Winlaw station will also get the exhaust extraction system, doors, attic insulation, and upgrades to the building envelope for $43,600. The Slocan fire hall, along with the exhaust system, will get lighting upgrades, water system improvements, window upgrades and floor improvements for $38,100.

“Collectively, these halls also face energy efficiency challenges; an energy audit completed on the Slocan hall determined that with lighting upgrades and the addition of heating and ventilation controls, energy usage and associated operating costs could be significantly reduced,” the report explains. “In addition, adding ceiling insulation and replacement of overhead and person doors could also aid in reducing energy consumption.”

Work is expected to take about two years to complete, though that may change “given the current volatile nature within the construction industry and supply chain challenges,” the report says.

Nakusp marina repairs

Work will continue this summer on repairing the Village of Nakusp’s marina, thanks in part to the Community Works Fund. The regional government will give $15,000 in gas tax funds for the Village’s Marina Breakwater Replacement Project.

“This disaster mitigation and tourism infrastructure project will result in economic, recreational and social benefits to the community, and will enable safer and improved recreational access to the Arrow Lakes Reservoir by the general public,” said a report to the RDCK board of directors.

Nearing the end of its functional life, the community’s former 600-foot cement breakwater started breaking up in 2019. While a 300-foot floating wave-reducing boom was installed in 2020 to mitigate the impacts, the marina has lost capacity in the meantime. Boats can no longer be housed on the west side of the breakwater given there is no protection provided.

This year’s project includes the construction and installation of a 300-foot log boom breakwater which will protect the Nakusp Marina foreshore area. Six bundles of logs with mooring chains will form the log booms. Graham Marine Construction will be responsible for all aspects of the project, including the supply and installation of the log boom.

Total costs of the project are estimated at $102,904, and the director’s report notes the balance of project funding is in place and the log boom breakwater is anticipated to be installed in May.

Money for Doukhobour archives

One Community Works Fund project prompted some debate, as the board of directors voted to approve funding a project that might cost future gas tax projects hundreds of thousands of dollars in support.

The Kootenay Doukhobour Historical Society is planning a $1.173 million project to “provide an open and public archive that the general public and students can come to in order to learn about the experiences of the Doukhobor immigrant, ethnic and religious minority group.” Included in the project is space for visitors where they can review and study the archival material. The archive will also create a museum-grade storage space for the volumes of historic material the KDHS receives.

The directors agreed to let Areas I and J put up $200,000 in Community Works Fund to support the establishment of a Doukhobour Archive and Research Centre at the Doukhobour Centre in Castlegar. Directors made the decision, even though they’ve been told for the last year that the project doesn’t meet the Gas Tax program criteria for support.

“We received written information from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), that because this project is focused solely on one group’s history, that it might not be eligible for Community Works funding,” said the RDCK’s Chief Administrative Officer Stuart Horn. He added that previous audits by the funding agency have found some other RDCK projects shouldn’t have been funded with the gas tax, but they were not asked to return the funds.

“I don’t think this has anything with it being a religious group,” added Horn. “It is the scope of it the UBCM felt was not broad enough in terms of what the UBCM was showcasing.”

Staff warned approving the project could have consequences down the road. While the RDCK wouldn’t have to pay the money back, future funds up to that amount might be withheld.

“If this project is audited by UBCM in the future and ruled again as ineligible, the risk is that the funds awarded to the project may then be withheld from the total amount of Community Works Funds received by the RDCK in a subsequent installment,” staff warned. “The amount withheld will apply to the total amount of funds disbursed to the RDCK and all electoral areas will be affected, not just the contributing electoral areas of I and J.”

Despite the warnings, the project has broad endorsement of directors, and they voted unanimously to provide the funding.

However, the KDHS won’t get the money without having to do some more leg work. They have to secure the rest of the funding for Phase 1 of their project – close to $700,000 – before the RD will release its promised funds.

If they manage to do that, work is expected to begin in the fall and be completed in the summer of 2023.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

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