On Tuesday March 14 between 6:30 – 8 pm the District of Vanderhoof hosted an informal open forum at the Integris Community Centre. The purpose of the evening was to give an update on various new developments, and community projects either underway or on their way.
Tables with displays and information handouts were manned by the relevant community champions from organizations and societies collaborating with the District of Vanderhoof on various initiatives. Mayor Thiessen, municipal staff and councillors were on hand to field questions in their areas of their mandate or expertise.
There was a steady flow of people taking the opportunity to have dialogue with the department heads and project coordinators. The couple of hours’ casual conversation, walking between booths and taking in refreshments went by quickly as there was plenty to learn and lots of questions to ask. The forum venue being the newly renovated Integris Community Building set the tone for fresh optimism for positive new developments for our town.
Councillor Kevin Moutray was available at the air quality booth alongside representatives from Northern Health’s environmental health department. Air quality in Vanderhoof is worse than one might expect due to a combination of airflow patterns, relaxed bylaws, grandfathered-in wood burning appliances, backyard burning and general heating habits of Vanderhoof residents. All these factors contribute to a risk of inhaling smoke and fine dust particulate.
Before stricter bylaws are put in place the District of Vanderhoof will be launching an incentive campaign to encourage residents to replace old wood stoves with newer cleaner appliances. Funding available through the Provincial Wood Stove Exchange Program to offer households cash back on a portion of the cost replace old outdoor wood stoves with upgraded, more efficient and thus less polluting appliances.
This program also helps deliver education on proper burning practices and how to operate wood-burning appliances efficiently. If wood fuel has a high moisture content from being stored without protection from rain and snow, then it emits a significantly higher amount of smoke pollution into the air. Every camper knows how badly a damp log smokes. It’s the same for wood stoves.
A study will be conducted to determine exactly how many wood stoves there are out there. Another bylaw change already discussed by Council is the possibility of banning all backyard burning within the municipal boundary of Vanderhoof, with the exception of campfires. To discourage backyard burning the municipality offers curbside pickup of yard waste twice each year, once in the spring and once in the fall.
Promoting good burning practices, Councillor Moutray spoke of the importance of storing firewood correctly, covering it, keeping it dry and only burning dry fuel. He demonstrated how to measure wood moisture using a digital moisture meter used in home inspections. Councillor Moutray showed so much passion for the subject he accidentally pierced his own hand with the sharp edge of the tool’s pin probe.
2017 Municipal Budget
Joe Ukryn, District of Vanderhoof Chief Financial Officer, was available with printed copies of financial statements showing the draft 2017 municipal budget. These numbers show the estimates of costs for current operations determined by using historical costs, along with projected costs of future requirement such as new services and capital requirements.
The open forum was an opportunity for public consultation, to ask questions and give feedback to ensure the document meets the needs of the community. This 2017 budget will be finalised and adopted by Council on or before May 15. The final adopted budget will then be communicated back to staff to ensure municipal work and approved projects stay within the budgeted goals.
Budget adjustments might occur because of new grant programs, inability to meet estimated costs on projections, emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances. If budget amendments do occur during the year, these would have to be reported back to Council and approved by them. Mr. Ukryn said that the municipality budget is pretty status quo as far as municipalities go. It is expected that municipal government operations are funded and managed in a way to ensure there are never any deficits and tax rates very rarely change after the initial budget is set. Mr. Ukryn confirmed that there will be no tax increases for 2017.
Taxation typically does not change unless Council make a community supported decision to invest more into capital and/or new services, such as the Vanderhoof Aquatic Centre. As a result taxes will be going up by an estimated average of about $86 per year to fund ongoing pool operational costs, but Mr. Ukryn said this tax increase is not anticipated until 2019. At this point the 2017 budget is very similar to the previous year’s budget. The only significant change is operating costs are up 4.7% compared to last year and this is mostly as a result of inflation.
The 2017 budget holds the assumption that expenses will increase by $200,000 with revenue remaining unchanged. Revenue sources for a municipality include taxation; grants; user fees; proceeds from debt; funding from financial reserves and miscellaneous income such as donations.
Trinda Elwert, Sustainability Coordinator, Nechako Waste Reduction Initiative (NVWRI) and Tara Beal, Community Inclusion Manager, Nechako Valley Community Services Society (NVCSS) were available to share information on curbside corrugated cardboard recycling. This is a free service currently being offered to a large area of downtown Vanderhoof on a trial basis through till the end of December.
The pilot project has come about through a partnership between the District of Vanderhoof, NVWRI, NVCSS and the Opportunities Fund. The idea of the pilot project is to gather gather information regarding how many people in Vanderhoof will participate in curbside recycling and at the same time it provides gainful employment for the Mobile Work Crew.
To receive this FREE service, Vanderhoof residents need to complete a registration form online at http://www.nechakowri.org., stop in at the District of Vanderhoof office (160 Connaught St.) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All cardboard must be folded flat and put out on the curb by 9 am to avoid missing pick up.
Ms. Beal explained why corrugated cardboard was chosen for the pilot project. Two reasons; the first is because corrugated cardboard is currently banned from the transfer station and isn’t allowed in municipal garbage collection. The second reason is because there’s no location or recycling depot to sort through different recyclable materials.
For participation in the curbside recycling service corrugated cardboard needs to be placed in a blue recycling bin, clear or blue plastic bags so that it is visible as a container that is obviously for recycling. The organisers are hoping that interested residents use the service, so that they have a good idea whether there is a demand and whether it might be viable to add other recyclable materials to the program.
NWRI will be looking at number of participants and changes in the recycling process in late summer to assess how the program will continue in 2018. At the Recycling booth there was examples of corrugated cardboard. Also on display was a place setting example of the Green Toolkit NWRI has available for anyone to rent for a small fee. This reusable crockery and cutlery is a way to avoid use of wasteful disposable styrofoam, paper, or plastic.
The Nechako Valley Historical Society (NVHS) held an AGM back in January and invited the entire community. It was an upbeat gathering of over 20 people and from that group they formed a brand new board of eleven directors with diverse backgrounds and interests but each one very committed and enthusiastic about being involved in the Historical Society.
This new board, unlike any before it, is working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the District of Vanderhoof (DoV). “As far as we know this has never been done before. It has given us a very positive working relationship with the DoV” said Tom Bulmer. Tom Clement agreed saying “The District is playing a bigger role and everyone’s enthusiastic”.
Collaboration with the municipality will give the Society access to different sources of funding and support with oversight in administration and responsibilities like building maintenance, insurance, museum staff payrolls etc.
The Historical Society will be developing a Strategic Plan this fall. The first step is to build membership; “we invite everyone to join. Being a member keeps you in the loop and gives you voting rights. We’re not expecting a heavy workload committment, just support” said Ginny Springer. The group will be working on various events for the museum site. They are setting up an email address so that the public can conveniently forward submissions of any kind of historical material, stories, information, suggestions and ideas so the society can fully represent the amazing history of this town.
The new board feels strongly that in order to document an authentic history of the area the Historical Society will be actively seeking involvement from all citizens including our Carrier First Nation. The Historical Society will work with the District of Vanderhoof to conduct extensive research and community consultation as part of the local government’s heritage conservation program. “We want to engage the community, hear what people say they want to see represented” said Claire Nielsen.
One initiative that’s on the radar is looking at developing what is called a Statement of Significance (SoS) for local places of historical significance which will enter them into a register which formally identifies them as having heritage value or character and records this information that community members already associate with the place.
The SoS shows how a particular historic place represents broader community heritage values that extend beyond the physical aspects of the historic place. The Heritage Branch of the B.C. government explains that in this process a community identifies historic places which are the physical manifestation of any aesthetic, historic, scientific, cultural, social or spiritual heritage values forming the diverse character of the community. This helps ensure the conservation, preservation, and appreciation of these places which represent the historic foundation of a community.
The Historical Society will have a general meeting 7 pm April 19 at the new Integris Community Centre and everyone is invited to come out and meet the new executive, find out what they are doing and bring input into the exciting direction this society is heading. This group plan to make the most of this fresh start, and going forward they want to see their work result in a significant positive contribution to our town.
Zoë Dhillon, Special Project Coordinator, used a touch-screen smart-board to provide a virtual reality tour, giving the effect of walking through the lobby of Aquatic Centre and on towards the pools, hot tub, sauna, change rooms and locker area. It was an effective way to bring to life the sketched plans and 2D architectural renderings and experience a sense of the space and interior dimensions of the building.
The ground breaking ceremony will take place on Friday March 31, 2017 at 11:00 am. This will be the moment signifying the first shovel hitting the ground, when the selected contractor,Greyback Construction Ltd. out of Penticton, is officially given the green light to begin construction.
The countdown to the official opening of the pool, the much anticipated ribbon cutting ceremony, will be a date 18 months later in mid to end October 2018. The site will bw fully fenced allowing acccess to arena No road Big action April
– Next week: Fire Department, Community Forest and new Community Transportation.