Radium pools sorely missed

Radium council members expressed concern about the ongoing closure at the Radium Hot Springs pools at their meeting on Wednesday, January 22.

When council members had a tour of the facility, they said they saw damage where flooring samples had split in half and where a membrane intended to prevent water damage had slipped out of place.

Parks Canada is “cognizant of the impact on our local community,” said councillor Mike Gray.

“They got the message loud and clear that the community was hurting because of it.”

In an email, Parks Canada officer Lesley Matheson said: “Parks Canada is aware of the importance of the Family Day weekend for businesses in the Village of Radium Hot Springs,” but declined to speculate on whether the facility would be operational by the holiday weekend.

Kristin McCauley, who owns Inn on Canyon and Kootenay Vacation Rentals, wrote a letter to council to ask them “to see if anything can be done to mitigate the damage and impact this additional closure is going to have for the business community.”

She found news about the closure “heartbreaking” and said the last closure resulted in a 96 per cent cancellation rate “and irate customers that found themselves here.”

She went on to say that her family and those she had anticipated employing struggled during the recent closures.

“It impacts the renos and maintenance I can no longer afford to do, the contractors I cannot hire and the work that I now cannot complete in order to get ready for the upcoming summer season,” she wrote.

“Nobody really knew how big of a draw the pools really are during the shoulder season,” Mayor Clara Reinhardt said after the council meeting.

Even so, she empathizes with Parks Canada officials and said “they’re taking a beating from both sides.”

Churches and taxes

Should churches automatically receive tax exemptions or should local politicians choose which places of worship get tax breaks on a case-by-case basis?

It’s a question Radium council will be asking their regional counterparts to consider at the upcoming Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG) convention, which the village will host in April. Gray said it’s time to re-evaluate the exemption for churches, which has been in place for over 100 years and started up when the vast majority of the population went to church. Speaking as a member of the LGBTQ community, he said churches are “not as progressive as I would like to see” and that the tax exemption seems like “the state encouraging citizens to go to church.” Even so, he said his main issue with the exemption isn’t personal. Instead he’s after equality between churches and other groups that provide services for the community. Currently, non-profit organizations have to keep applying for tax exemptions, which council may or may not offer. Gray would like see both religious and community groups treated the same way, with tax exemptions approved at council’s discretion.

Councillor Dale Shudra said churches benefit society, encourage congregants to behave well and provide communities with economic benefits worth far more than their tax breaks.

Reinhardt said she was inclined to see what other regional officials think. “It’s a real unfair playing field,” she said. “Our intention is to open the conversation and see what happens.” Council voted 4-1 in favour of carrying the resolution forward for discussion at AKBLG, with Shudra in opposition. While Jesus instructed his followers to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” his tax advice is open for lawmakers to interpret.

Roundabout discussion goes in circles

Council wasn’t crazy about any of the proposed designs they received for the centrepiece of the roundabout the Province will be bestowing on the community. While the Province wanted the final design by the end of the month, Reinhardt said: “We’re under the gun if we want to even make an effort.”

Each council member had a different stance on the issue. Councillor Todd Logan said he would like to pick a design and move forward, but councillor Tyler McCauley said none of the designs seemed like a fit for the community. Gray pushed for a grand icon to welcome visitors.“Let’s take the time. Let’s do it right instead of having something that we’re just ho hum with,” he said. Shudra questioned if the design should be iconic and asked if the centrepiece should be more than a practical piece of infrastructure. “Everyone has a bit of a different vision,” Reinhardt said. “Are we overthinking this? … If we scrap it and start over, I guess I wonder what would change.” The next step, she suggested, was to figure out what kind of cost they would be looking at, so council agreed to cost-check their least-disliked option. “If I may say, we’ll be talking about this some more,” Reinhardt said.

RCMP on the streets

In Sgt. Darren Kakuno’s RCMP update to council, he said that property crime is down, that the local detachment will be holding a substance abuse course in February where RCMP officers across the province are requesting spots, and that – as requested – he’s been scheduling additional traffic patrols for the Radium area. Gray commended Kakuno for the RCMP presence on the streets in the evenings. “I’m impressed by the number of times I’ve been pulled over,” he said, adding that he’s pleased to see the RCMP working hard to keep the roads safe at night. Kakuno also said the detachment has been receiving a substantial number of false alarms and abandoned 911 calls.

Long time for short-term rental decision

Council won’t be making a decision on policies around short-term rentals in time for the summer season as planned, said Reinhardt. Instead she anticipates new rules coming into place for 2021.