By James Rose

On Oct. 26, council for the Village of Canal Flats held the second of two October regular meetings. Sgt. Darren Kakuno began the meeting by giving a presentation to council overviewing the Columbia Valley RCMP’s second quarter report.

Kakuno informed council that come November, his detachment will be rolling out a new online reporting platform for citizens to report a low-level crime. “I don’t think we are getting an accurate picture of what crimes are being committed in Canal Flats,” said Kakuno. The new online reporting system is meant to address this concern. Four property offences were reported in July. One theft was reported in August. In September, one possession of stolen property was reported. “I have a feeling more crime is occurring,” Kakuno said. Still to be determined is how Kakuno’s staff will be trained to use the platform.

After the presentation, Councillor Bill Lake asked whether the RCMP would reach out to a complainant after filing online. “When the system was first brought to my attention, that was one of my first concerns,” replied Kakuno. “That was the reason for our unit not moving forward with the system initially.” Kakuno didn’t want his officers to lose personal contact. But he assured council that his supervisors will have the option to file for a follow-up. “Within a day or two of the online complaint,” Kakuno said.

Compared to the second quarter of 2019, Kakuno said this year has been busier for Columbia Valley RCMP. To date, there have been 1,307 filings. In 2019, there were 1,076. In Canal Flats, which accounted for ~5% of the valley’s calls for RCMP service, 32 calls were made in July. For each of August and September, 20 calls were made. “But the stats can be misleading,” said Kakuno. “Five or six of the calls in July came as a result of one individual. In August, eight calls concerned one person.”

Kakuno’s detachment priorities for 2020/21 are road safety, crime reduction, youth and substance abuse. Kakuno pointed out that given his detachment’s stretched budget, focusing on road safety can help with the other priorities. “Recently, after stopping a vehicle, it was determined that the people in the car were violating their no-contact order, which is a criminal code offence,” Kakuno said. “Drug paraphernalia was also observed in the car. And so we moved to a drug investigation, and it all stemmed from one traffic stop.”

Councillor Doug McCutcheon was curious to know more about boat patrol on Columbia Lake. Kakuno said next summer, there will be one more trained boat craft operator to bring the total in his detachment to two. He added that having the sole RCMP patrol boat moored in Lake Windermere makes it difficult to offer ongoing patrol on Columbia Lake.

Reports received by council included the building permit report, fire chief report, external funding tracker, bylaw enforcement report and a report on the next steps for the village’s sewer infrastructure upgrade. The external funding tracker showed that for 2020, roughly $500,000 worth of grants have been awarded to the village. Applications have been submitted for $1.4 million of additional funding. The lion’s share of which relates to upgrading Canal Flats’ outdated sewage system. Chief administrative officer Adrian Bergles wrote in his report to council: “A potential failure of this system is a worst case scenario, which would lead to sewer service disruptions and could, per an estimate provided to the Village Public Works Department, cost the village up to $45,000 per week to cover in an emergency fashion.” Bergles later clarified that the $45,000 figure includes the cost of equipment and personnel working 24 hours per day for a full seven days.

Council next considered three requests for the decision as prepared by village staff.

The first concerned a UBCM Community Emergency Preparedness Fund grant application for $25,000. Staff recommended council to submit the grant application for evacuation route planning. The motion was carried.

For the second motion, staff recommended council to support an application to the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) Rural Economic Recovery stream for construction and paving of the Shore to Shore Pathway. “And [for] Canal Flats to commit to cover project cost overruns, if any.”

Bergles wrote the following summary information: “The CERIP grant application is a 100% funded B.C. provincial grant created by the province to support economic recovery from the Covid pandemic. It’s designed to contribute to infrastructure projects supporting place making and B.C.s tourism economy. The maximum application amount for CERIP funding is 100% up to $1 million.” The Shore to Shore pathway is estimated to cost ~$700,000.

Bergles pointed out that the engineering firm responsible for the pathway plans to include in their estimate a 25% contingency. This came after McCutcheon expressed concern over the risk to commit to “overruns, if any.” At this juncture of the meeting, he jokingly offered to wear a kilt as an homage to his frugal Scottish heritage at the next council meeting. Mayor Sterzer thought it’s a fine idea. “You could stand up and let us know what you really think,” he said, laughing. The motion was carried.

The final motion of the meeting was also carried. Canal Flats’ Fire Chief Zacc Farrell suggested the purchase from Kootenay Communications of an upgraded digital radio system and seven radios for the village’s fire rescue service. The total: $17,880, before tax. “This will come from money already budgeted to CFFR equipment this year,” wrote Bergles.