With an increasing percentage of the Columbia Valley’s population being retirees, creating more accessible urban environments is an increasingly important economic action, a representative from Accessibility on the Community for Everyone (ACE) told Invermere council on Tuesday, September 9th.
“Accessibility is about people having spaces that are adapted and ready to use,” said ACE’s accessibility ambassador, Wendy Rockafellow, who highlighted the fact that the population of retired people in the East Kootenays has grown from 36 per cent to 44 per cent in recent years.
She also presented at the Village of Canal Flats council meeting earlier this week, where she informed councillors that ACE is winding down, and will be donating all of its assets to the Panorama Adaptive Snow Sports Society.
It’s now time for local governments to press for inclusion, diversity and accessibility in the Columbia Valley, she emphasized. Ms. Rockafellow highlighted Accessibility 2024, a ten-year plan released by the provincial government in June, aimed at making B.C. the most progressive province for people with disabilities.
ACE has compiled a list of all businesses on 7th Avenue in Invermere that are fully accessible; many businesses still have issues with entrances that aren’t accessible to those in a wheelchair.
Valley-wide visitor services
Regional District of East Kootenay area F director Wendy Booth briefed Invermere council on the proposed funding formula for a Columbia Valley-wide Visitor Services strategy, which would see the streamlining of the Visitor Information Centre operations in Invermere and Radium Hot Springs.
Assuming an annual visitor services operating budget of $200,000 for a new regional district service (to be called the Columbia Valley economic development service), the proposed funding allocations would include $115,473 from Area F, $43,056 from Invermere, $18,531 from Radium Hot Springs, $16,962 from Area G, and $5,978 from Canal Flats.
The new service would be based on a tax rate of $0.0457 per $1,000 of assessed residential property value.
The funding formula still needs review from Regional District of East Kootenay staff, and has been presented to all Columbia Valley municipal governments and both Chambers of Commerce to seek feedback. The Fairmont Business Association will also be consulted to gain feedback, added Ms. Booth.
The project falls under the umbrella of the Columbia Valley Community Directed Funds Committee, who produced an April 30th report that Ms. Booth presented to the valley’s various local governments last week.
“The valley’s two Visitor Centre programs, run by the respective Chambers of Commerce, are very different in terms of their use of Chamber membership fees and in the value of program revenue to overall operations,” reads the report, which contrasts the Radium Chamber of Commerce (“almost entirely a visitor services focused organization”) with the Invermere-focused Columbia Valley chamber, which has “a primary focus being business development and support services.”
Council apologized several times to part-time Invermere residents John and Joan Rouse, who will be unable to cast a mail-in ballot for the second straight municipal election.
August 5th was the deadline for bylaw amendments that would have been needed to make the mail-in voting option available, explained chief administrative officer Chris Prosser, who contacted other communities and learned it costs about $9 per mail-in voting package, making the option a significant budget item.
“There is a path, but we just can’t do it for this election,” said Mr. Prosser, referring to the November 15th general voting day and the advanced polls earlier in November.
District staff initially thought a voters’ list would need to be compiled to allow for the mail-in ballot, however more research showed that wouldn’t be required.
“This is a bad decision; it’s a point of principle,” Mr. Rouse told council.
Councillor Greg Anderson noted that electronic voting is likely coming in the future, but people should still be allowed to “exercise their franchise” to vote using whatever method they prefer.
Residential paving is still needed, council agrees.
After having pavement on their streets torn up and replaced with gravel nearly a decade ago, residents and property owners living in the area of 21st Street and 12A Avenue in Invermere made their case for re-paving in a letter to council.
Four homeowners signed their name to a letter that speaks of dust issues, and potholes and cracks in the pavement that remains. Council agreed the area should be made a priority for re-paving, and commended the homeowners for bringing attention to the issue early enough to make it a priority in 2015.