Cake and photo ops marked the opening of a new service for the Fort.
A FrontCounter BC was opened locally by Steven Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad and Mayor Sandra Harwood on Wednesday, August 17.
“This helps support the overall objective of our provincial government in terms of working with the natural resource sector, creating integrated decision-making processes, improving our timelines and service to authorizations of permits to clients making good, informed decisions,” said Thomson.
Rustad gave the example of the Endako Mine’s recent expansion, which required 11 different permits they needed to apply for dealing with multiple ministries. Now they would be able to accomplish the same process through the one office.
The FrontCounter service will be available in the Fort St. James Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations building on Stones Bay Road.
Another FrontCounter was also being opened later in the day in Vanderhoof.
The service offers a single point of contact for people wanting to deal with any number of natural resource ministries and agencies and is aimed at improving natural resource-related ministry services in rural communities.
While in the past, dealing with provincial government permitting processes may have involved trips to various ministries and even trips to larger centres like Prince George, now the staff at FrontCounter BC can help with over 100 natural resource sector authorizations and permits from over 13 partner agencies.
The single point of contact hopefully allows staff to get the answers people need to navigate the different regulatory processes of the entire natural resource sector.
There are multiple FrontCounter offices across B.C., some in larger centers offering a wider range of services such as business registration and livestock registration, but the one in the Fort will be able to provide the natural resource authorizations related to things like forestry or fish and wildlife.
There will be four staff assigned to Front Counter, who will also be performing other functions, but will assist with FrontCounter services as needed.
There will be a forester, a technician and two clerical staff working for Front Counter, with a range of skills and knowledge.
“That’s the real beauty of FrontCounter is they use the existing staff,” said Lauri Deveau, who will be one of those assigned locally.
While she and the other staff will be performing duties they did before off of the side of their desks, they will now have a greater ability to draw on the expertise of the office and serve people across ministries, giving them greater leeway to provide more thorough service.
“It’s the follow-through really that’s important,” said Mark Hayter, who will also be working for FrontCounter.
Thomson said since the initiative began in 2005, client satisfaction with the service offered has been high and has produced more timely results.