It was a packed house at the Town Hall meeting which was held at the Community Centre April 28th, 2009. Mayor White and Councillors Schembri, Beale and MacKay welcomed comments, questions and even a bit of criticism during the evening.
Mayor White explained the Town Hall meeting is a means to maintaining the campaign promise to be accessible and to be ?ready to talk about projects?. Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Mayor White stated, ?the best way to predict the future is to create it?. Mayor and Council are currently working on many large projects and there have been many substantial grants received to help with these projects. Upgrades to the airport, subdivision planning, tourism, tree planting, and community health projects have all been aided by grants received. Mayor White commended staff for all their hard work in obtaining these grants. Even with many projects on the go, Council has decided to resurrect the Theatre Project.
The budget has been completed and the main problem that has arisen is the infrastructure of the town, explained White. In the past, there have been no plans for maintaining the aging infrastructure and because of this, there is no money in the reserves. Thus, municipal taxes will be rising. Mayor White explained there is a need to build up the reserves to be prepared for long term planning. On average, municipal taxes will increase $70/household this year.
Councillors Schembri, Beale and MacKay each spoke briefly about the last five months to their roles as Councillors. Beale stated the ?last five months of Council has been a very educational? experience. MacKay explained Council does have a lot on their plates and because of this, one of the objectives of Council is to obtain as many grants as possible. Schembri noted there has been an increase in police calls in March and April and wanted to ensure residents that ?cat traps are in the works?.
There were some very exciting announcements before the questions started. The Seniors Needs Committee, which was started by the previous Council, has been recognized by the province of British Columbia for their hard work and dedication to seniors. Tumbler Ridge has been chosen as one of 19 communities in British Columbia to receive new housing units that will be more senior friendly and more accessible for people with disabilities. In total, BC housing will build 1000 units throughout these 19 communities. The units, which will be available as rentals, will be approximately 980 square feet. Tumbler Ridge needs only to provide the land and the BC government will provide the funds to build these units. It is not known how many units will be allocated to Tumbler Ridge. However, this announcement is one that will help Tumbler Ridge residents for many years to come.
Mayor White also announced Tumbler Ridge will host some very special people June 11th-17th, 2009. The Canadian Women?s Olympic Hockey team will be in Tumbler Ridge that week to carry out their dry land training. The team has chosen Tumbler Ridge for the beautiful scenery, trails and facilities. Also, Tumbler Ridge is a bit out of the way and will be more quiet for them, Mayor White explained.
Confirmation was given by Mayor
White that Council has given their full support to the ?proposal for a fuel production plant? in the Tumbler Ridge area. The proposed plant would be in the Bullmoose area. Tumbler Ridge is one of three communities interested. If it goes ahead, it will be the only biomass fuel production plant of its kind in Canada, explained White.
ATVs were a hot topic at the Town Meeting. Several residents had questions and/or comments and concerns with regards to misuse of trails and the rules attached to ATVs. Councillor Beale welcomed individuals to put their name in to Town Hall to join his standing committee for transportation to help address the issues surrounding ATVs in Tumbler Ridge. One resident commented that ATVs are being ?squeezed out of town? and would like Council to look into licensing ATVs . Beale commented there is a ?choice few that ruin it for the rest?. An ATV enthusiast, Beale stated he ?firmly believes that there is a need for an ATV club? to lobby for trails and encourage positive use. Mayor White stated it is ?not the will of Council to ban ATVs?. Also, the government of BC has intentions to start licensing ATVs and snowmobiles. ATVs will also be discussed at the next Policies and Priorities Meeting.
Business in Tumbler Ridge also managed to heat up rooms 4 and 5. Lynn Way asked Mayor White if Council had ever considered ?purchasing the downtown building? to provide affordable and reasonable square footage for businesses that want to operate in Tumbler Ridge. Mayor White answered quickly with a definite ?No?. He explained Council is ?not in the business of being in business?.
The Lakeview Inn and Suites is scheduled to be fully completed by August 31st, 2009, including the paving and conference centre. Mayor White explained there are still plans for a restaurant in the hotel. White commented that progress is being made even if it is not the schedule that Council would like. Mayor White stated Council has had several meetings with the hotel and they are encouraged the hotel will find the funds to finish.
The cost of building permits in Tumbler Ridge and the need for permits here in town that are not required anywhere else in BC(i.e. For a roof and fences) was brought to Council?s attention. Mayor White explained there have been complaints from people buying houses where renovations had been done, but done wrong. Also, people not properly disposing their deconstruction materials(shingles) was a concern. Mayor White promised to take a look at permit fees.
Bullying, BC Ambulance, the Pine Beetle, economic diversification, restaurants and advertising were other topics of interest that kept Mayor and Council on their toes throughout the Town Hall Meeting. The meeting provided residents the chance to question Council on decisions that have been made and also give residents the chance to offer Council food for thought. Council plans on holding their next Town Hall meeting October 22nd, 2009.