Fort St. James municipal office. (Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)

By-election to be held once more clarity is provided by the province: District

Municipal council discussed the by-election, Official Community Plan, CAO Melany Helmer’s resignation.

A by-election for Mayor will be held soon in Fort St. James once the district receives guidance from the province.

Duncan Malkinson, interim corporate officer for Fort St. James said that due to the virus pandemic, the BC government suspended all municipal elections and by-elections until further notice.

“The District is currently awaiting guidance on the safe conduct of elections from the Province of BC, or further clarification from the Centres from Disease Control or the Provincial Health Officer that influences the conduct of elections in order to move ahead. District staff are currently reviewing election procedures to ensure that once this further guidance is given, that the District will have the flexibility to strike an effective balance between community health and electoral access,” he said.

Mayor Bev Playfair had stepped down from her position in March, and Dr. Paul Stent, a councillor, took over the role of Acting Mayor.

Other council discussions

In 2019, council had identified the revision of an Official Community Plan through their 2019 strategic plan, however, this work was delayed, Malkinson said, due to the local financial crisis that Fort St. James went through and then the virus pandemic.

The OCP is a document that shows the current aspirations and future desires for the community and guides decisions on planning and land use management.

Malkinson said the work is in its preliminary stages, where information and early discussions have been had with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako. RDBN has indicated their willingness to assist the District with this work, Malkinson said.

“Once some planning of the project with timeliness is established, residents may get a better sense of their opportunities to provide their input and express their ideas for a future of Fort St. James,” he said.

Also, the Official Community Plan of any municipality can only be passed through a bylaw.

Chief Administrative Officer Melany Helmer resigns

Melany Helmer resigned from her position of Chief Administrative Officer “to pursue other opportunities” and on June 17, Fort St. James council appointed David Schroeter as acting CAO until a replacement is finalized.

“This resolution was made by Council to ensure continuity and clarity around the performance of these statutory obligations while Council considers next steps and timelines for transition with the position. If there are further notices, the District will post press releases on that and make sure that we advise the Courier,” Malkinson said.

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