A touchy subject came up at Canal Flats Council, on just how much council members should be paid for their service to the community. On January 1st, the longstanding one third exemption of federal income tax to the remuneration to elected officials ceased. All of Council’s remuneration is now taxable, meaning there is less take-home pay now than before. Council voted to direct staff to compare Council remuneration rates in the village to other B.C. communities of similar size and taxation levels.
“In almost every municipality across the province, especially in rural B.C. I would say, we are not paid very much. If you’re a councillor that’s out there doing what you’re doing, and / or mayor, you do not do this for money,” said Mayor Karl Sterzer. “We do this because we love the community and we care about what’s going on.”
Lift Station Assessment
Urban Systems conducted an assessment of the lift stations in Canal Flats. The village owns and operates two sewage lift stations: Shaugnessy and Main. Both have been identified as approaching the end of their service lives, and were given a ‘poor’ condition rating. The assessment included recommendations, such as replacing the pumps, replacing corroded and poorly functioning components, bringing stations up to current standards and installing a dedicated standby power system at both locations. Urban Systems estimated the total cost of replacement for both pumps to be over $1.2 million.
Councillor Bill Lake asked if the Village had applied for any grants for this potential project. CAO Adrian Bergles pointed out that this assessment report was actually the product of another grant, and can be used as a tool to leverage further grant funding. The mayor added that the village is “always searching” for more grant opportunities.
Infrastructure planning grant
Council is looking to assess the sewage treatment plant, and approved an infrastructure planning grant application for the assessment. They also allocated $5,000 in the 2019 budget for the village’s one third portion of the project.
“Given its current, visual condition and age, there is a risk of eventual failure of the sewage treatment plant. A plan for its reconditioning / replacement should be undertaken,” reads the report to Council. If the village gets the grant, it will cover two thirds of the cost of the project.
Fire Chief’s Report
Council received the fire department report prepared by Chief David Ferguson for November and December, which showed several incidents in which the department responded. However, Mayor Sterzer used it as an opportunity to commend the chief and his crew for their response to the fire that razed the steel fabrication shop at the Canal Flats Technology Centre Thursday, January 24th.
“Chief Ferguson and his team, I think, did a standup job,” said Mayor Sterzer. “You could argue this was the biggest fire in 100 year history of Canal Flats.”
He said with data pods only being 50 metres away, the damage done could have been far more significant had the fire department not responded as effectively as they did.
“They responded incredibly well,” he concluded.
Regional Economic Operations Branch
Council heard a presentation from Gerri Brightwell, the regional manager of economic operations in the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Ms. Brightwell shared a little about her role in economic initiatives in the area, explaining she is one of about a dozen people across the province working with rural communities on economic development.
“We try to provide support with whatever goals you have,” she said, whether that be in tech initiatives, agriculture, manufacturing, or any number of other economic driver goals.
Ms. Brightwell’s department works on helping communities transition through difficult circumstances such as the closing of the mill in Canal Flats. A lot of Ms. Brightwell’s work is helping communities access rural dividend funding, of which Canal Flats has received $180,000 over the last three years.
“That has supported some of the new marketing and branding materials in the community, investment attraction work that profiles different opportunities here, business retention and expansion – so outreach to the business community – and then some of the new strategies and policies around downtown mixed use / the industrial land, looking at hotel feasibility,” said Ms. Brightwell. “These are all things that Canal Flats has completed, and that have been supported by the rural dividend program.”
Canal Flats is currently waiting to hear about the latest funding intake for this program, with another $80,000 requested. The village expects to hear this month whether that funding has been approved.
Mayor Sterzer commended Ms. Brightwell for her support during a challenging time in the Flats.
“Gerri is one of the all stars that came in and really helped us a lot surrounding around the mill closure. There was a ton of work that went on on her behalf and I think she represented our community really well. We’re eternally grateful for that,” said Mayor Sterzer.