Those who enjoy needling Invermere council members and administering them with a good old tongue lashing for their latest moves may be delighted to learn they will soon have the opportunity to do so twice per evening, following a council decision at its most recent meeting.

During the Tuesday, March 14th meeting, members discussed and, eventually, after making an amendment, gave initial readings to an updated procedural bylaw that will allow a public question and comment period both at beginning of council meetings and at the end.

The updated bylaw was put forward for council consideration by district staff after research into what other communities do, and to reflect changes to the B.C. Community Charter. Initially it simply proposed moving up the question period from its current spot at the end of the meetings to a much earlier slot, which would come right after calling the meeting to order and adopting the minutes from the previous meeting (which take a matter of seconds) and after petitions and delegations(of which there usually are few, if any).

“We feel it is important in terms of allowing questions to be asked about the agenda coming up,” Invermere chief administrative officer Chris Prosser said.

Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, however, expressed concern about the potential for grandstanding before a meeting can even get going, and also worried about the potential for people to come in to a council meeting after a public hearing on a given topic has been held, but before council has formally made a decision on that topic (which can only be done during the following council meeting). Council is not supposed to receive any additional information after a public hearing is concluded, yet if somebody came in at the start of council meeting and launched into a monologue, it would be impossible to simply ignore everything the person said, said Taft.

“It could create an awkward situation,” he said, adding not having a question period at the end of the meeting also leaves the public unable to comment or ask about items that arise during the course of that meeting.

After some discussion, council members agreed to amend the updated bylaw to have both before and after question periods, and then gave it three readings. It will likely be adopted at the next council meeting.

The updated bylaw will also allow an unlimited number of council members to participate in a council meeting, a committee of the whole meeting, or a special meeting via electronic device, and formally requires all councillors to turn off cell phones and other electronic communication devices, unless otherwise approved by the mayor beforehand.

RCMP update

Council members received a letter from Columbia Valley RCMP Sergeant Bob Vatamaniuk at the March 14th meeting,outlining the detachment’s policing priorities for the April 2017 to March 2018 financial year.

Taft said he was glad to see Vatamaniuck adding drug policing to the detachment’s priorities in light of the fentanyl crisis sweeping across Western Canada, the effects of which have been felt here in the valley.

“The key is that they are involved in and working on the issue. They are concerned about it,” said councillor Al Miller. “It is a touchy subject because of things that have happened in the valley as of late, because of kids getting hurt, or worse passing away. So you want to see that priority rise to the top and we are. Sergeant Bob made it clear he would relish getting any information that is reasonably accurate.”

“The more the community can have a conversation about (fentanyl), the better,” said Taft, adding some residents have in the past few months expressed frustration about what they perceive as a lack of action in terms of dealing with supply and dealing with rumoured drug dealers, but that residents also need to engage in a dialogue about why demand exists in the first place.

“We need to encourage people to be open about it,” said Taft. “The worst thing we can do is pretend (demand for fentanyl or the consequences of its use) doesn’t exist.”

“The community can help take back our neighbourhoods by participating, not ignoring,” said Miller.

A quarterly report from Vatamaniuck to council will occur at one of council’s April meetings.

Reimbursed for sewer backup

During the meeting council members unanimously decided to reimburse a local resident for expenses incurred because ofsewer backup.

Sylvie Janin wrote a letter asking the district consider paying a $500 bill for a water backup at her house at the end ofJanuary, saying in the letter that “as the blockage was not on my property, I feel I should be reimbursed for this invoice fromMr. Rooter (Pumbling). The district built a clean out on the limit of my property several years ago. We have already hadsimilar problems, as have some of my neighbours in the same street.”

Prosser told council that district staff were not entirely sure if the blockage was in fact on the district’s side of the propertyline or on Janin’s side, because she had first called Copper City Plumbing and then Mr. Rooter and that both companies haddone work before district staff had been out to the scene two days later.

“Usually people will call us first, and we go over there with our camera to determine where exactly the blockage hasoccurred,” said Prosser.

“So we just have to go on her word then,” said Miller, before council members voted unanimously to pay back Janin, withMiller saying he hopes word gets out to people experiencing backups that they need to call the district first.

Population push-back

Invermere resident John Payne attended the March 14th meeting, and in the public question period at the end askedcouncillors about the purpose of having a permanent resident attraction plan.

“It was about 2,800 people when I moved here and I liked it that way,” said Payne, adding the latest census puts theInvermere population at close to 3,400.

“Our economy here has a lot of highs and lows. Our aim (in attracting year-round residents) is to fill in the lows a bit. Weknow we’re not going to have summer levels of business and of employment in November, but it would be nice if wecould get it to a place where people keep their jobs in November instead of getting laid off. That’s the thought processbehind the plan,” councillor Paul Denchuk told Payne.

Taft added that although Invermere’s population grew from 2,900 in the previous census to 3,400 in 2016 census, a gooddeal of that likely came from what were once recreational second homes becoming primary residences, and that consequently the population growth has not occurred in tandem with the rash of development in the district. He pointedout that in fact, Invermere has seen extremely little development since 2009.