Slocan council, Nov. 7: Inaugural meeting, campground contract and water/garbage rates

The Village of Slocan held its first post-election council meeting on November 7, welcoming new councillors Joanna Van Bynen and Jordan Knott. The two new councillors, returning Mayor Jessica Lunn and Councillor Madeleine Perriere were all sworn in during the session. Councillor Ezra Buller had been sworn in earlier, as he had to attend this meeting remotely.

Back in June, Village staff realized that by law, the first council meeting after the election must be held before November 10, forcing them move the meeting from its original scheduled date of November 14. This change meant Buller had to attend remotely as he had a previous trip planned.

Buller wins ‘draw by lot’ after tie vote

Ezra Buller won re-election after a tie between him and Nicol Berinstein forced a ‘draw by lot’ on October 24.

A review of the vote-counting took place in front of Provincial Court Judge Craig Sicotte at the Castlegar courthouse. After confirmation of the tie, Village of Slocan Chief Election Officer Michelle Gordon drew the winner’s name.

Committee appointments

As the new council gets underway, numerous duties need to be divided up. Some are as simple as providing a contact for outside organizations while others require attending meetings and travelling.

Appointment to the RDCK and West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital District boards went to Mayor Lunn, who will return to this role with Councillor Buller as the alternate. Lunn is particularly interested in continuing work with the RDCK on joint bylaw enforcement discussions.

“I really want to push that forward,” she said. “It’s something that’s just now getting to the table.”

Councillor Perriere will continue in her role liaising with the Slocan Valley Housing Society while new Councillor Jordan Knott will sit on the Slocan Affordable Housing Commission with Lunn as the alternate. This commission is where local issues around the Village’s new affordable housing project can be raised, though most likely anything major will be brought before the whole council.

Councillor Buller will join the Village of New Denver Health Committee to work towards recruitment and retention of health care workers. Lunn said this is of particular importance as Slocan’s only nurse practitioner recently retired, leaving a “big void.”

Springer Creek Campground

Council passed a motion to enter into negotiations with the current operators of Springer Creek Campground to keep running it through next season. The contract will not be open to new bids but details like pay still need to be ironed out before finalization.

The 2022 season was a definite financial success, with campground revenue increasing by 28.4% to $97,326.

“It’s actually super exciting to see the increase in revenue since the expansion (in 2017),” Lunn said. “We’ve more than tripled our revenue.”

This prompted Knott to advocate for further expansion, though for now council settled on smaller items like pricing out new bike racks and exploring options for better Wi-Fi service. They also decided to hold future discussions about a request from operators for a pay raise. After those negotiations are concluded, a new contract can be signed.

Garbage and water rate increases

The Village is raising fees for garbage pick-up and water service. The fee hikes are recommended by Chief Administration Officer Michelle Gordon and the amounts take into account inflation and the historic patterns for rate increases.

Garbage rates were not raised at all for 2022 and will now be increased by 6%, bringing the flat fee up to $143, while garbage tags will go up 15% to $3.50 per tag. This takes into consideration a planned 10% increase in RDCK tipping fees, the amount the district charges to dump waste based on weight.

Rates for water will go up by 3%, which is close to average, though some years it can be as high as 5%. This brings the cost of residential water up to $533 for 2023.

Council pay increase held off

While raising rates for public services, the new council members decided to hold off on giving themselves a pay increase. This is despite the recommendation from the CAO to bring their compensation closer to the average for a town the size of Slocan. Her recommendation included raising the amount paid out for travel and meal expenses.

Perriere said she feels it is better when an outgoing council raises pay so it doesn’t look like they are just trying to get money for themselves. Knott also expressed a desire to get to know the budget and financial health of the Village before paying himself and other councillors more.

The compensation for mayor and councillors in Slocan is about 75% of the average for a town of its size, with the mayor getting paid $5,500 and councillors $3,500 annually. It is, however, on par with nearby communities such as Silverton and New Denver. The council decided they may revisit this at a later date.

Access to naloxone

Knott said he was concerned about access to naloxone in the village. The drug is used as a lifesaving intervention in cases of opioid overdose and can be administered with training by people with no other medical expertise.

Both the Village office and community centre have naloxone available, but Knott said most overdoses happen within a private setting. Council moved to ask the ANKORS organization to present on how to expand access and/or training. ANKORS is a harm-reduction service based in Nelson that provides care for those using opioids.

Mark Page, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice