Monthly Archives: October 2013

2013 Small Business and Community Awards

Community Futures Boundary hosted the Small Business and Community Awards during their Open House Thursday Oct 24 at the Grand Forks Curling Rink. This catered event was free and open to the public and nearly 100 people from the local business, government and NGO community were in attendance. Wendy McCulloch emceed the event while Sandy Elzinga hosted the awards portion. Our local Member of Legislature, Linda Larson, also put in a brief appearance.

Each year the awards are given out in connection with Small Business Week. 11 awards were given out: 2 internal to the Community Futures network and 9 to the community at large.
While the categories are chosen beforehand the nominations and voting are up to the public.

This unique experience for me – coming out to cover an event and then becoming part of that event. (I got one of the awards)

The Awards and their winners:

Business Service Excellence Award

Jogas Espresso Café

Retail Excellence Award

Thistle Pot Gifts

Family Friendly Business Award

Bored Room Bistro

Youth Entrepreneur Award

Maxwell Nicholson

Green Business Award

Kettle Valley Waste Ltd.

Individual Service Excellence Award

Cyndi Zibin

Community Impact Award

Grand Forks Hospital Auxiliary

Community Volunteer of the Year Award

Les Johnson

Business of the Year Award

Morrissey Creek Building Supplies

The two internal awards went to:

  • Community Futures Network Volunteer Award – Daniel Drexler
  • Financial Management Excellence – Lori Gruen

NOTE – correction: in the video the name of Bored Room Bistro is incorrectly spelled Board Room Bistro.


Council meetings Oct 15, 2013

What’s a Tangible Asset? Do you know? Do you want to know? What’s the city’s policy on Tangible Assets?

How about the Head Start for Girls and Young Women Program?

Are you curious what is in the Monthly Highlight Reports from Department Managers?

You can learn about those in the Committee Of The Whole Meeting from the Oct 15 council sessions below. For a more detailed explanation of tangible assets and how they are valued and dealt with, and why, and more full information in general about what they are discussing you might want to take a peek at the meeting agenda.

What have the councilors been doing? They give reports … every regular council meeting.

The city does not collect taxes from certain locations around town … like churches. And every year they have to vote on that – this vote happened at this council meeting. Council also has to vote on things like rezoning and they did that at this council meeting as well. So the old wildlife hall could be used by a church. For a list of what is tax exempt and more full information in general about what they are discussing you might want to take a peek at the meeting agenda.


21st Century Silicon Conestoga Pauses In town

Over a century ago the great migration of settlers to the West took place. The most often chosen mode of transport was the Prairie Schooner or Covered Wagon.  The Conestoga wagon was the archetype for the covered wagons of the era. Drawn by a team of horses theses wagons could travel, on average, 24 Km per day. Until the railroad was in place this was the mainstay of families heading out to homestead the West.
Conestoga wagon on Oregon Trail - NARA - 286056 crop

On Oct 11 I visited with a man who has come west in a modern day covered wagon. It didn’t carry as much freight and instead of horses it had an electric motor but it’s speed of travel was  twice as fast as those covered wagons of a bygone era. And it was covered. Instead of a canvas tarp this wagon was covered in Solar Photovoltaic Panels.

Solar Electric Tricycle

Solar Electric Tricycle

The man taking this trip is Rick Small and he’s come all the way from Thunder Bay Ontario on his Solarized Electric Tricycle. And in all that 3000+ Kilometers of travel he has not had to pay anyone any money to ‘fuel’ his vehicle. It gets ALL of the energy it needs from Sunshine.

With that cost out of the way all he has to worry about is food and lodgings. At an average of 90km per day a long trip will have many meals and sleeps. Sometimes he gets a room at a motel but his camping setup means that is a choice he does not have to take. A tarp, some well placed insulation panels, a cushioned sleeping bag and he has a bedroom. Add a small electric heater and he’s cozy. And if the battery gets low over night the Sun will charge it up come daylight.

Since he started his trip on July 31 he’s learned things about how to make it better the next time.

  1. Part of the structural components in his vehicle are Steel. He estimates that using alternative materials he could shave 100 to 130 lbs of weight. This would improve speed and distance.
  2. He forgot the adapter that would allow him to charge the batteries from A/C in a house. Without that the electricity for his whole trip has been supplied by the solar panels. He says he has run the trike for 6300 Km this way.
  3. The solar panels make much more power when they face the Sun. Initially they were laid flat facing upwards. He got much more power when he changed them to tilt to the south and face the Sun. After he left the prairies he found that the roads in the mountains go north and south as well as east and west. That means with panels fixed to tilt to the left of the direction of travel you get Sun when going West but not as much when you have to travel in a North or South direction. He plans to devise a more robust tilting system to cope with that.
  4. Using more powerful panels would make a real difference. The panels he has now are rated for about 50 Watts. (actually 48 Watts). He has 6 so he’s getting 288 Watts of power delivered to his motor. If he’d used 60 Watt panels he’d have close to 360 Watts – virtually another panel’s worth of power. That would allow for speedier travel for longer distances.

He’s planning on making it to Victoria – hopefully before the snow flies. And next year he might do some touring around his beautiful new home province of British Columbia. And being off the grid maybe he’ll figure out how to modify it to serve as a solar ATV …

Here’s my interview with Rick Small.

And he mentioned he had a few videos on his YouTube Channel already.


Wildlife and Townlife

We live in a place that calls itself a city but enjoys the benefits of a small rural town. Traffic and crime problems we scoff at. Not big enough for the regular headlines from the bigger cities. Nope. What we hear about most of all are the wildlife and the problems that come from having it inside the city.

Take a look at the map of Grand Forks and it’s easy to see that creatures from the bush can penetrate right to the downtown core without having to roam the streets much at all. Two rivers pass through town. There are a number of lowland creek areas that also cover long stretches. The Trans-Canada Trail passes through town. All of these are natural avenues for wildlife to pass into and out of town.

Year round we have the Usual Suspects: the Deer, the Marmots, the Raccoons and the Coyotes. All creatures that have come to some accommodation with Man. And ones that Man has grown accustomed to seeing around in town. Some never leave town at all because they get fed by Man. In the fall we add the Bears to that list. And that’s when people get concerned because unlike the other animals on that list Bears can be dangerous.

Take that above situation. Add people who’ve moved to our little ‘city’ from a bigger ‘city’ but still thinking they’ve moved to a ‘city’. Add Social Networking like Facebook. Voila! One person sees a bear and everyone they know knows about it. And if they have children … and the bear gets a bit too unafraid of human beings … you have scared parents with dangerous animals prowling their neigbourhoods. And that’s the ind of thing that just gets scarier the more you think about it or chat about it.

Kim Sorin is a mother who lives close to downtown. One evening in the end of September she heard a noise at her front door and found herself confronted by a bear when she opened it. She also has deer and raccoons in her yard like many in Grand Forks. But when the raccoon snarls at her because she has nothing to share she feels her neighbour’s habit of feeding the animals exacerbates her problems with them.

So when the bear is at the door who ya gonna call?
Kim says the number she had for the Conservation Officer didn’t work so she called the cops. Well the police don’t deal with wildlife unless it’s hurt bad  OR there’s an ongoing threat to humans. And by the time they arrived it had left. Later that night, about 3AM, they were called to another house not far away. Someone was trying to break into a window – that turned out to be a bear. When the cops arrived it scampered away and up into the trees.

The RCMP are called to put down one to two deer per week – this is always from a vehicle / deer altercation. When there’s a bear situation, unless it hangs around to continue to be a problem when they arrive, the RCMP will call the Conservation Officer.

Which is what we all should do when there’s a problem bear. But there is only ONE C.O. to cover the whole Boundary area. That’s correct: That one officer has to respond to calls from north in the Christian Valley, down in Rock Creek, eastward past Christina Lake and northward to Edgewood. One guy for this whole area is not enough BUT that is what we have.

This situation we find ourselves in is not the best but there are things we can do to keep it from being getting worse.

The first thing I hear from people is complaints directed at the ever present ‘THEM’. THEY who run things. THEY who take our tax dollars and don’t provide service, security and safety. The problem is many, if not most, of those doing the complaining do not know which level of government is responsible for what services.
So some self education would help.
First – the CITY has nothing to do with BEARS (or Cougars). That’s the province, specifically the Ministry of the Environment (a.k.a. the M.O.E.).
Second – the RCMP has nothing to do with BEARS.
Third – The number to call about BEARS (and Cougars) is the RAPP line: 1-877-952-7277
(IF you’re mobile and a Telus customer you can use #7277)
That line is available 24 hours a day (so they say) and the people there know how to get the message to the Conservation Officer and where he is. And there’s another reason to use that line instead of whatever other number you might have: The M.O.E. tracks the counts of calls for service to a given area and those counts are considered when they analyze where they should spend their valuable resources. So if you try some other number the Ministry won’t know you did and it won’t count come allocation planning time.
It is the fall and if the Conservation Officer has to come out due to problem bears then he will likely kill that bear. Relocating problem bears does not work – a problem bear just ends up as someone else’s problem that way, If the bear is causing property damage, has lost its fear of humans and or has become a threat to humans then that bear is a problem bear. IF you like bears then don’t be nice to them and help them become problem bears.

You can find out more information on the web from various sites:
Ministry of the Environment Conservation Officer Service
M.O.E RAPP page – for anything you see that is a violation of provincial law regarding wildlife
Bear Aware BC – useful information about bears and living in their area
WildSafe BC – the successor site to Bear Aware (it is a work in progress)
Shara Cooper did an interview with our local Conservation Officer Dave Webster and published that in the Boundary Sentinel.

The Bears need to fatten up for the winter. So they forage more in the fall. Help everyone and don’t make it so easy for them that they want to come back to town. If they are a problem call the number above. We all want to do the right thing but sometimes the proper decision is to kill the bear before someone gets hurt. That’s just a fact of life.

Really. There are a number of things wrong with doing this.

YOU ARE NOT HELPING – You might think this is a humane thing to do but it is not. The wildlife can fend for itself without the need for human assistance. In fact it’s often the case that the food they get from humans is not the food they require. Deer fed the wrong type of food at the wrong time of year will eat food they cannot extract nutrition from and feel full and so not eat the food they really need. Starving with full bellies courtesy of ‘kind’ humans.

YOU ARE HURTING YOUR NEIGHBOURS – Leaving food out for your furry friends to help themselves is extending an invite to every animal around. That includes the ones you may not want like rats and bears. And by doing this you also invite those same animals to check out your neighbours’ property because if they live near you they too might be ‘nice’ humans who put out food too. And when your furry friends do not find it just waiting for them in your neighbour’s yard they might do a bit of searching and digging and damage. Now your kindness is causing damage to your neighbours. And if the animal in question is a bear then your kindness may result in the Conservation Officer being called and the bear being shot to death. How kind of you.

YOU ARE HURTING EVERYONE IN GRAND FORKS – Oh, and everyone in Grand Forks owes you a vote of thanks for the really high auto insurance premiums they all pay because they live in the same town as you. Why? Because your ‘kindness’ tells the deer they never have to leave and because they don’t we enjoy more deer / vehicle collisions than almost anywhere. And subsequently higher insurance rates. Thank you for that.


All these Pears from one small tree

All these Pears from one small tree

– the animals are browsing for food. Fruits and nuts grow on trees and Grand Forks’ rich agricultural past has left us with a bounty of fruit and nut trees. It’s not uncommon to move into a house and find you have fruit trees in the yard. If you don’t know the animals will show you by coming around to help you harvest all that fruit. Which you don’t want because that’s almost as bad as feeding them. These are what are called attractants.

The animals are attracted to the delicious smelly things in your yard. And on the way to your yard, or from it, they’ll be visiting your neighbours’ yards as well.

Another thing that is an attractant – DEER. Deer can be an attractant to a larger predator such as a Cougar. Grand Forks has a herd of deer that, apparently, never leave the valley. The numbers of deer in the bush near town have dropped over the past 4 decades but the number in town has not. In fact there are likely more deer in town than ever before. They only have one predator within town – cars and trucks. They have lots of upsides to remaining in town and no real downsides. So they never leave. And if the numbers are down in the bush and the larger predators get hungry enough … they’ll come looking for a meal. Which is what Gary Kennedy thinks he came upon just across the river from downtown back in September.

While we didn’t encounter the Cougar we came across signs of animals using the area. bear_coyote_tracks
Tracks in the sand were independently identified by two wildlife experts as being Bear and Coyote. Many spots showed long grass bent over by animals laying down.

As we wandered through the long grass we came across a small shelter that somebody had placed there. animal_shelter It had a roof (with some sort of roofing material) and small entrance with arched top. Gary said he’d first noticed it months ago but the sawdust in the entryway was clean and fresh. We decided not to lift the lid and see who was making it home. But it appears to be another case of some well meaning human taking action out of a sympathy for wildlife.

There are rules about this behaviour. There are laws prohibiting the feeding of wildlife. For large predators like Bears the province has laws and they are enforced. For the deer in town the city has laws. But that’s where things get complicated: the city has bylaws but for a period there was no bylaw enforcement officer. Both the laws and bylaw enforcement are relatively recent so a lot of people just don’t know what is wrong or right and who will do something to correct them and what form that will take. Maybe listening to the head of the Deer Committee Gary Smith will help sort that out.

Ok, let’s see if I got this right: There is a bylaw that says feeding the deer is against the law. Previous laws were intended to be ‘educational’ and had no ‘teeth’ … and no effect either. So now we have a Law with ‘teeth’ … sort of. We’re just not sure of the size of those teeth (fines) yet and that’s going to require some back and forth between deer committee and council and staff and council and in a few months the teeth will be in place. And then feeding the deer will really be against the law. In some way. But for now I leave you with the view through Kim’s fence …









Speaking of attractants: Green Bins anyone?

Last year the City of Grand Forks started a residential Kitchen Waste Redirection Program. This is a project done in conjunction with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. And Grand Forks is the first community outside the lower mainland to adopt this program.

It has some good, Green, goals like: composting all that kitchen waste for use in the agribusiness sector, extending the useable lifetime of our landfill, promoting more recycling knowledgeable citizenry.

Unfortunately it has aspects that aren’t so lofty and clean. It uses two plastic bins to hold the decomposing food stuffs. A small one for in the house and a large one for outside / curbside. The users are advised to use bin liners but they are under no obligation to do so. In fact the the example use in the video on the RDKB’s own website shows no bin liners,  And that can lead to the green bins becoming attractive aromatic billboard signs calling all the hungry critters to your yard. I asked one of the workers picking up these bins how many used bin liners. His answer: “Not enough or my liking. Probably under 30%”. That means 7 out of every 10 bins get messy and stinky.

(from ShawTVKootenays on YouTube)

In the end of the previous interview video you might recall Councillor Smith pointing out that the same trash used to be out by the curb mixed in with the rest of the garbage. That’s true but the situations are not exactly the same. The big difference is this: Previously all this was in one or two bags. These bags left the premises when the garbage was picked up. Now the truck empties your Green bin BUT it leaves it behind. And if you do not rinse out the stinky bits sticking to the inner walls and floor the biology keeps working and the bins keep stinking. At least with the old system the stink left with when the bags left. In Vancouver they use a similar system and some attribute it to the increase in the rat population. Of course the Mayor of Vancouver is quick to point out that the same garbage used to be out by the curbside mixed together before in the old way. Wait – where have we heard that before?
Did you notice the flies this summer? Did it seem like there were more than previous summers? It might be those Green bins … check out this Vancouer Sun story on magoots.

Wildlife is here to stay.
And it should stay Wild.
We’re a small collection of humans living in the middle of a wilderness area surrounded by wildlife.
Wildlife does what it does. It does not read signs or obey laws or property lines.
Humans make rules. Animals make babies.
We humans talk and reason and can change our behaviours IF we want to.
We cannot change animals’ behaviours with talk and reason so we must do it other ways. Like not making it so hospitable for them. Or making it inhospitable.

At one council meeting when the contentious deer problem was being discussed a life long resident pointed out: “Back in the seventies we didn’t have a deer problem. We had a dog problem. Now we have no dog problem. But we got a deer problem.” The solution to one problem might just open you up to another problem.

And those feeders?