Fort St. James mayor looks back on 2019

Looking back on 2019, Fort St. James Mayor Bev Playfair says there are a number of successes to highlight.

One of those is the development of a new strategic plan for the new council which included working with staff, First Nations, the forest industry and tourism, she says.

Other things Playfair mentioned, included placing the Chamber of Commerce in the Visitor Information Centre, creating a Tourism Committee, creating a Community Forest Committee and Community to Community with Nak’azdli for two days in June.

Playfair also highlighted the announcement of a new Primary Care Facility and the New Hospital moving forward, the latter of which was first announced on Oct. 9, 2018. The next phase at that time was the development of a business plan which was expected to take 12 to 18 months after which the project would proceed to procurement and construction.

She also noted that they received $3.2 million from the Northern Capital Planning Grant which was placed into water and sewer reserves (in total $100 million was split between four regional districts and 22 municipalities).

B.C. Minister of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development approving the transfer of Conifex Timer’s forest license to Hampton Lumber (Oct. 28) was another success according to Playfair, as well as the offering of summer programs to students and the hiring of a house planner with a grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

Council attended a resource forum in January where they met with Premier Horgan, attended the Local Government Leadership Academy (for training), the Council of Forest Industries in April (for the downturn in the Forest Industry), the North Central Local Government Association in May where they met with Donaldson and the Union of BC Municipalities in September where they met with Premier John Horgan, Donaldson and various other ministers.

One of the big challenges this year has been the workload placed on staff and council to deal with the downturn in the forest industry, she says.

“This created an incredible amount of time which led to other priorities not getting done, however, the outcome with the government’s approval of the Conifex – Hampton could not have been better news for our community.”

Another challenge is the temporary cancellation of the Rural Dividend fund that communities like Fort St. James rely on to fund many projects, she says.

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