May 30, 2023

Grand Forks TV

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Council Meetings of Feb 10 Analyzed

The serious stuff was in the evening this time. But there were some things of note in the COTW session …

The first delegation was from the MAAP, Multi Agency Accommodation Project. They’re coming before council to get a 10 year lease on the property they occupy. They need that or Funding will not be granted by BC Housing. The decision was referred to the evening meeting.

The next delegation (at 13:00) was Graham Watt of the Regional District. He was here to ask council to endorse the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan. The RDKB has already endorsed it.  Decision was referred to the evening meeting. There was a fair amount of discussion with one member of the public asking council to decline to endorse it unless and until the native community has.

WSP Canada was the next delegation (51:30). They have been consulting Grand Forks on the Development Showcase initiative. That is the effort to deal with marketing of Surplus Lands that the city owns. These would not be all land owned by the city, it would be the land that the city has no current or foreseeable strategic use for, hence the designation as surplus. This was started a year ago.

CAO Report

Just after the break in the morning session the CAO gave a short report (at 1:20:45) on her conversation with Mr. Zachary May on the water meter installations. When it became clear that Mr. May’s words were not only NOT saying the installs were invalid; that there were alternatives available to the City because it is the Authority having jurisdiction … well that’s when Councillor Butler decided it was time to shut this down. Let’s be clear here, this was after the CAO had been speaking for almost a minute and a half. It didn’t look like Councillor Butler was distracted or not paying attention …  The CAO reminded her that in a previous meeting she, Councillor Butler, had asked Staff to look into the matter further in order to clarify the situation regarding Mr. May’s words.

So if the answer is not the one she wants to hear she doesn’t want us to hear it as well? It’s not as if she was not aware of the subject of the CAO’s report. She wasn’t absent the room for the minute plus that the CAO was talking, at least not physically. No – her decision to try and stop the report apparently happened right after it was clear where the report was heading.

Wasn’t Transparency in local government one of Candidate Butler’s main campaign planks? Later on in the evening meeting she says “… how disappointed I am with the transparency at city hall.” How ironic. I can only guess that Councillor Butler’s definition of Transparency is as arbitrary as the Mayor’s idea of what can be discussed and when.

In the question period a member of the public asked for more information about the mention of Grand Forks on digital signage he saw in Kelowna. Is it the city’s work and if so how much did it cost? And then he went on to question the effectiveness and suggested that council rethink this expenditure. That opened a discussion on tourism and marketing the town.

Another questioner asked what the status of the Slag Fund is. And added: What is the life expectancy of the slag left at the current rate of consumption? And: Was any of the money from the Slag Fund used in any part of the water meter contract?

As of the beginning of 2015 there was $1,340,000 in the fund. The 30 year agreement the city has with the company that purchases our slag, Pacific Abrasives, runs until 2036. I didn’t catch if there was an answer to the last part or not.

In the evening meeting things got interesting.

The council reports section of the meeting is usually where councillors tell what they’ve been up to since the last meeting. Functions that they’ve attended, progress in committees they’re on, congratulations to people and groups in the community – that sort of thing. Such as: A number of the councillors mentioned the Family Day festivities – one of them attended the Scotch Tasting. Sometimes they bring motions before council. Sometimes they let council, and the public, know what’s on their minds.

Well that’s what Councillor Butler began the evening’s round of reports with. Read about my take on that in this article.

The next Councillor Report worth remarking on was Councillor Wirischagin’s. He’s come back from vacation and sees council is still stuck in water meter mire. So he makes a bold move – he makes a motion that council re-affirm its commitment to proceed with the project even though it is not one he relished. And that gets passed! (only Councillor Butler and the Mayor opposed it) As a tax payer I’d like to say Thank you Councillor Wirischagin for trying to restore direction and motion to council.

At the tail end of this section Councillor Thompson proposed an adjunct resolution to Councillor Wirischagin’s that the Select Committee on water billing rates be invited back. She had a number of names and suggested that this group include two members of council. That passed. Councillor Butler then put her name forward for this committee. This prompted Hamett to put Ross’s name forward for the Environment Committee. And Thompson put her name forward as the other councillor on the water rate committee.

Once again the Mayor had no report.

In his RDKB report Councillor Krog mentioned attending the West Kootenay District Hospital meeting. In the Boundary Stakeholders Budget meeting where there was a strategic planning session. In that session they were asked two questions: What are the major health care issues affecting your region? And What do you think the issues other regions face are? It’s worth listening to if the health care system in this area is a concern.

When council got to the question of whether or not to extend the MAAP lease to 10 years Councillor Hamett made a motion to defer this to a later meeting so council could discuss it in depth but this desire was apparently not shared by the rest of council. Councillor Wirischagin suggested they could discuss it at this point rather than later. So they did … and Councillor Hamett’s thinking is that the disposition of prime riverfront real estate in the downtown is something the city should take extra care with. That they should seek CAO input on this topic as it pertains to strategic planning regarding such things as riverside trails that the city has been putting in over the years. When it came to a vote her motion was carried and the matter was referred to the next council meeting.

The Information Items section of the meeting showed the results of both Mr. Koch (and the Mayor) asking for people unhappy with their water meters to let the city know. It also had the results of my plea to the public to let the city know how they feel about the water meters and lack of progress at city hall. And those results? 4 times as many letters in support of the water meter program as opposed.

CUPW requested the city show their support of efforts to get the government to reverse course in their recent plans to change the service and fees of Canada Post. The letter contained a resolution: Stop The Cuts. But there was much discussion about what the city’s letter should say and whom it should be sent to. In the end they voted to send the letter.

When they got down to the request to endorse the Kettle River Water Shed Management Plan Councillor Butler spoke against it. She had various reasons beginning with the lack of inclusion of clear cut logging in the document. The verbiage on ‘water storage areas’ worries her that it could give an in to dams being considered. Then she mentioned that she sees one of the biggest threats to our watershed right now is the province’s water pricing and how Fracking companies and Large Bottled Water companies are using up our resources. A viewer pointed out to me that during her speech on this right after she mentions big water bottling companies the person next to her, the Mayor, takes a swig of water from one of those bottles … as they say it’s the optics and timing that is curious.

She has other concerns and it’s worth listening to her talk. Councillor Ross, while agreeing with Butler’s concerns, spoke in favour of what she sees as the Plan version 1.0 leaving open the idea that it will be an evolving thing which Councillors Hamett and Thompson agreed with.  RDKB Area ‘D’ Director Russell was in attendance and confirmed that the plan is a living document. The result of all of all this was that council endorsed the Plan with Councillor Butler being the only dissenting vote.

The only Bylaw in front of them this time was Bylaw 2009 – Electrical Utility Regulatory Amendment Bylaw. And the only discussion was prompted by Councillor Butler regarding clarity to potential manual meter read customers that they can also be on the equal payment plan. The bylaw was passed.

The Question Period.

The first questioner, Mr. Hamilton, was asking(?) about the water meters and Insurable Interests. This prompted a response from council and staff to clarify that the city owns the meters and issues about them are covered by the city’s insurer. It wasn’t clear if that satisfied the questioner or not. He continued on to warn council and the public about what he sees as a global movement to use devices like the universal water meter program to achieve control over essential resources like water and electricity in order to control the people.

Mr. Koch was up next with questions about the water rates Bylaw. Would it be changed or amended to take out the fines? And will it be changed to ensure that every meter to be installed be done according to the BC Plumbing code this time?

Staff answered that alterations to the Bylaw related to Fines would be up to council to revisit but unfortunately Mr. Koch has a hard time hearing the staff and said he would wait for a response. He suggested that they be given microphones like council has to help with that problem.

When the Mayor asked if council wanted to address these things now, he found they would rather deal with it in another meeting. Mr. Koch added his praise of Councillor Butler’s ‘elevated level of consciousness’ with regard to secrecy in city hall. He suggested that the problems council has faced in this are largely due to the previous council and their actions. And added that he hoped the CAO selected would have the same take on this as Councillor Butler. I won’t go into why I disagree, but I do.

This prompted Councillor Krog to state that all the ‘secret meetings’ that have taken place are all covered under Section 90 of the community charter which lays out which topics must be discussed in closed meetings and he’s not sure where all this worry about secrecy, and heaping of blame on the previous council, is coming from. To which Councillor Butler suggested that those things under section 90 that can optionally (May) be done in-camera could also be done in public. And since no one on council can tell us what those things are we cannot make up our own minds on it. Which means it comes down to who do you trust …

The final questioner was Gloria Koch who asked if there was any way that council could offer different options for people with regard to the water meters. When Councillor Thompson suggested that this could be something the committee setting rates could deal with Ms. Koch said it wasn’t just the rates but alternatives to water meters that she was seeking. Alternatives that could accomplish the same objective of reducing water use.

The Mayor spoke about wishing this issue would become resolved because it has been a divisive one in the community. Councillor Butler chose to read out a letter by the Mayor of Metchosin BC regarding the Electrical Meters BC Hydro has been installing.

It’s good to see that council is taking steps to make forward progress.