Policies and Priorities Meeting: March 11, 2015

Trent Ernst, Editor

 

Present: Mayor McPherson, Councillor Caisley (Chair), Councillor’s Krakowka, Scott, Kirby.

DELEGATIONS

VETERANS SIGN

Dr. Charles Helm came before Council to discuss the design of the newly proposed Veterans Sign. Larry White from the Geopark Committee and Jim Cullen from the Legion came along as well.

The Geopark is all about partnerships, says Helm. It’s been a real delight to work with the Royal Canadian Legion on this. The new sign, he says, is 72 inches square. “It’s a big sign, probably the biggest one we’ve ever done. We’ve got this remarkable history in Tumbler Ridge with all these sites that are named to remember these fallen veterans from the Second World War.” This new sign, he says, will commemorate them.

The sign will have a map, showing the locations of all the features, and descriptions of these fallen veterans. “We’ve managed to track down photos of 13 of the 21 veterans that are represented here.”

He says there are three things that the Geopark is asking. First, they want the District to partner with them, and allow them to put the District of TR logo on the sign. Secondly, he says, they would like to place this next to the cenotaph, which is District property. Finally, the Geopark would appreciate if District staff were able to help put the sign up, because it is a really big sign.

Helm says if the walking route gets developed, this would be a stop along that. In addition, they are talking about putting up three signs, pointing to the features that you can see from town.

Jim Cullen says the Legion is 100 percent behind this. “With the sign, locals and visitors will learn about where the names of some of the streets come from.” He says the Legion are asking Council to consider partnering with the Legion to develop an area near the Legion as a park. He says the Legion would get the grants for establishing the area, but would need the District’s help with putting in paths and some other features. The big issue with this, says Cullen, is the grant closes at the end of this month.

He thanks Council for providing access to the grant writer. “Our grant from last year was approved, and so later this month the legion will be closing for major renovations.”

Larry White says it is apropos for them to be discussing this today, as the Canadian Flag is flying at half-mast because of Sgt Doiron killed in Iraq three days earlier.

He says the Geopark presented a list of mountains and lakes and waterfalls named after veterans at Remembrance Day. “It was very well received as many people didn’t know where the names of these came from.”

He says that local outdoorsman and veteran Dan Cassan has taken it upon himself to start working on setting up cairns at the trailheads to these features to honour these veterans.

Helm says that the sign is basically ready to go to print, and could be ready in as little as two weeks. However, he says, it will never be truly finished. He says that as time passes, new information comes to light. He says there is a teacher in Dawson Creek who is writing longer biographies of some of these veterans.

Councillor Scott asks about the Legion’s proposed park and the cost to the District. Cullen says only the cost of maintenance for the paths and benches.

MINING TRAINING CENTRE

Blair Lekstrom from HD Mining and Doctor Loren Lovegreen from Northern Lights College came before Council to provide an update on where both the mine is at and the proposed Mining Training Centre. To begin, Lekstrom gives a basic overview of the project, which is still in the exploration phase. They are still drilling the decline. The coal is at 1.5 km, and they’ve made it to 1.1 km. They expect to hit coal by late summer or early fall. From there, it will take some time to do a safety analysis for coal bed methane.

To date, says Lekstrom, we’ve employed over 1000 Canadians. We have spent considerable dollars in the local area and provincially. In fact, they’ve spent over $100-million so far on project, he says, much of that locally or regionally.

There are 47 international workers, but the rest are Canadians. All the above ground work, he says, is done by Canadians. “I know that you hear things that aren’t always factual, so it is good to have the opportunity to set it straight, he says.

Once operating, the mine would create 600-700 jobs directly, and generate about $90-million in tax revenues annually. “We have and continue to build on a very positive relationship with the District,” says Lekstrom. “Chairman Yan made it very clear that HD Mining was a part of the community.”

He says as the mine gets going, it will need both underground and above ground workers. While there won’t be any special training needed for working above ground, underground is highly specialized. “Training is something everyone is concerned about,” he says. “We are 63,000 people strong on this side of the Rockies, and whether you are here in Tumbler Ridge, in Dawson, Pouce Coupe, we will all see benefit. We are working with NLC to develop a curriculum. The training will be unique in many ways and very personalized.”

He says that the curriculum continues to be worked on. He says that in the plan for the mine, they estimate a ten-year transition to a Canadian workforce, but the company wants to train locals and get them working as quick as possible. “If we can transition to a Canadian workforce faster than that, we will.”

But, he says, an open pit miner is not an underground miner and safety is the most important element. “If they want to work with us, we’ll provide training. We’ve committed to hiring local where we can. A lot of my friends are interested in the mine, but always say ‘I wouldn’t work in the mine itself.’ This longwall mining technique is safest form of mining, and we are the experts.”

He mentions Monkman Commons, saying the company continues to work with Council. They have nearly finalized what needs to be done there, and hope to have that resolved this year. “I think it is a nice addition to community, but it is unfinished.”

Mayor McPherson asks why they can’t start training now. “We have to make sure all our permits are in order,” says Lekstrom. “It will be vitally important then to be in a position to begin training. It is not our intent to wait until we have a viable mine and then say “oh, here’s what we need.” By the time the mine is ready, we’ll be in a position as a company to have the information.” But now, he says is too soon. He says above ground positions will be Canadian from Day 1.

“We don’t think it would be fair to begin training today, not knowing if we have a viable mine,” he says. “We don’t have our permits. There is an example in Northern Ontario where they did all the training and they got to the other end and the mine didn’t go through. We don’t think that’s fair to the people who go through the program.” He says people the company trains will expect to be employed by the company, and right now, they can’t guarantee that.

Councillor Kirby asks how long the training course will take once the curriculum is set.

He says he can’t really answer that until we know what is needed. “I see it as a mix of short term and long term training. It’s hard to say today.” And, he says, different positions will require different levels of training.

Mayor McPherson says he can see why HD doesn’t want to invest, but says this is the future: underground is where everyone is going. “This isn’t something that will go away,” he says. “I would think the sooner the training starts the better.”

Doctor Lovegreen says as far as the college goes, there are a lot of different factors. “We have a mandate that a certain part of our operating budget goes towards jobs in high demand,” she says. “Many different factors go into why we develop a program, but one of them is ‘are there jobs?’ More than ever we have to prove that. And right now, there aren’t.”

Lekstrom says if the Province wants to put money forward to start training before the mine is ready, the company is all in favour of that.

The mayor asks if the low dollar and low fuel cost helps?

Lekstrom says it helps, but they are comfortable with their numbers right now. “We’re not in a position where we’ll say we’re not continuing forward. We are continuing forward, and the work we’re putting in will prove it.”

Still, he says, there’s a lot of unknowns, but they are confident we can make this work. “I do think it’s a big part of the future of Tumbler Ridge.”

Councillor Krakowka asks how many people will be above ground. 270 at operations, says Lekstrom. Krakowka asks about the environmental impact. “There are parking lots in Vancouver that are bigger than this will be,” he says. “Our impact is minimal. We are a resource rich country and province. Every day we get better at extracting those resources. This is the next step.”

Councillor Krakowka asks if there is a timeline on the completion of Monkman Commons? Lekstrom says originally, the plan was to bring in 200 international workers coming, but that shifted. “We are not planning on building more houses right now,” he says. “Our goal is to have it completed this year.”

Councillor Scott asks what are the target dates for the bulk sample to be completed, and once that is done, how long before the training. Lekstrom says they hope to be at the face this fall. After that, there is a three month window to test for methane. “The best case scenario,” he says, “is by the end of this year we could be in a position to make the decision, though we still have to get the EA permit and the Mines Act permit before moving forward.” He cautions that the best case scenario rarely happens, and it could be longer than that.

Councillor Scott asks if it possible that TR could become the centre for underground mining training, or would it just be for this mine? Lovegreen points out there is a mining program at Northwest Community College. “Our space in town is at the high school. For something to be more than that, it would be dependent on getting funding from the ministry. We can’t say we want to go out and build a building. We have to have support,” she says. She mentions that because the Tumbler Ridge campus is so small, some training might have to happen at some of the other campuses.

Lekstrom says the training for HD Mining will happen in Tumbler Ridge. Beyond that, he says, the District needs to talk to the ministry.

Mayor McPherson asks about access to the mine. Right now, the workers are walking in and everything is going in by hand, though they are working on building a hoist.

Councillor Caisley says “I don’t want to continually bring up the past, but when we first heard about the training, it was all going to be all done here,” he says. “It was going to be big. I don’t get the sense that is going to happen. Knowing there is uncertainty, I don’t get the same sense of commitment now.”

Lovegreen says it’s hard to say anything definite at this moment. She says she wasn’t in this position back then. “We have every desire to offer training here where feasible, but if it is training that needs more space, it may need to be in one of our other campuses. I’m not saying it must be. We’re not dealing in absolutes, and I don’t know exactly. I’d rather say that than say 100 percent yes.”

Lekstrom says he doesn’t expect Northern Lights to move their welding program to Tumbler Ridge if it is offered elsewhere. “If it can be delivered here and it’s specific to our mine, then I don’t see why it can’t be delivered here. Whatever we can do here, we will deliver it here.”

Lovegreen says welding is an interesting example, as they have taken the program to Chetwynd, but we have space to do so there. “Where would we do it Tumbler? There are certain things we could bring here. Mining specific? We can do here? But other things? It will depend on space and availability.”

Councillor Caisley says as long as they have the discussions before the decisions are made. “In the past, we’ve had those discussions, but if we have an idea what you need, we’d welcome the opportunity to have the discussion to see if there’s something we can set up.”

He asks what is the best way for local businesses to find out what HD will need, so they have some time to set up so HD can deal with local businesses. “Right now, we don’t know,” he says. “Is there a way we can make that happen beforehand?”

Lekstrom thinks so. “I think we could work through the Chamber and put something together,” he says. “I’ll go to work on that. But just know that, if in three or four months we are able to present this, businesses have to know that it’s no guarantee. Our goal without question is to do our utmost to accommodate people from this region. We’ve got families here that are feeling the pain. If they are interested in working for our mine, we are interested in having them. But there is no guarantee.”

Caisley asks about the mining training. “There is not a single mine training program,” says Lovegreen. “Everyone who gets hired will have an individual training plan. There are some overall plans. We did some research; mining companies tend to do their own training. The idea was for Northern Lights College to become the centre for underground mine training, but most mine companies will say you don’t train a miner in the classroom. They have to be working on the job for 18–24 months before they are considered to be fully competent.”

She says this changes what is possible to do, but it brings opportunity, as well. “Things are getting more complex, it becomes harder for companies to do training, because that’s not their core competency.”

Someone asks about worker accommodations. “We’d work with you on that,” says Lekstrom. “Having someone coming in and building 300 houses in town that will be vacant in three years, that’s a bad thing, but it’s our intent to work with the community on a housing strategy. That has changed as the current conditions change.”

Mayor asks if there any other college looking at long wall training? Lovegreen says Northwest College has underground training, but not longwall specific.

REPORTS

RECYCLE DEPOT PARTNERSHIP WITH PEACE RIVER REGIONAL DISTRICT (PRRD) FOR THE MULTI MATERIAL BC (MMBC) PROGRAM OF RECYCLED MATERIALS

Operations Manager Doug Beale made a presentation for Council to consider entering the District of Tumbler Ridge (District) into a partnership with the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) to become the Recycling Depot for collection of materials for the Multi Material BC (MMBC), and for the District to be placed on the Multi Material BC (MMBC) waiting list to be considered for the Packaging and Printed Paper (PPP) curbside collection program for recyclable materials. Provided for Council review and discussion. See cover story.

DRAFT TOWN HALL MEETINGS POLICY

Report dated March 11, 2015 from the Administrative Services Manager entitled “Town Hall Meetings Policy – EO7” which is a draft provided for Council review.

WEIGHT ROOM POLICY

Report dated March 11, 2015 from the Administrative Services Manager provided for Council review and discussion.

“This is a very straightforward proposal to address issue of youth who want to be able to access the weight room.” Aleen Torraville says. “There isn’t a policy around weight room currently for younger teens.”

In the past, she says, kids that are 12 and 13 year olds have been going in with signed consent forms from their parents. Recently there have been even younger kids accessing the weight room. That’s a concern as under age kids are still developing, so, she says, the new policy will limit access to people 16 years and older.

Teens 12–15 can still get in with signed consent and with orientation from attendant, but kids younger will not be allowed.

Elliott says this is still a draft, and that staff has given thought about having them accompanied by an adult.

Councillor Caisley says he is concerned about the fact that the weight room isn’t supervised all the time. Elliott says we don’t allow people into the facility unless its staffed. But they move around, monitoring weight room periodically, and when the weight room isn’t staffed, it is under video surveillance.

Councillor Krakowka asks about the weight equipment down by the pool.

Torraville says she was appalled about that. She says she asked why they were there. She was told it came out of the weight room, and it was put there so that parents could work out while waiting for their kids, but it will be removed, she says.

Krakowka asks about the scanner card. “Can we set it up so we know the age of the person who has the card, and have only certain times it will work, like when the faculty is manned?”

Torraville is not sure if the system can do that or not, but will look into it.

DISCUSSION ITEMS

CAPITAL PROJECTS INITIATIVES – COUNCIL (ON TABLE)

Jordan Wall makes a presentation summarizing all the projects that are currently part of the Sustainability and Tourism plans.

This is to help Council understand how much work is involved in these plans and to provide the start of a structure for decision making, he says. Today is not to choose or rank projects, but to take a look at the macro level.

There are four main areas, he says, that these projects can be grouped into: business development, education, tourism and community development.

Wall has gone through the 130 recommendations and given each a ranking of between one and five, rating how difficult it will be to accomplish. Something that is rated a one could be done right now, while something that is rated a five would be a multi-year plan.

“There are 130 recommendations of what we can do to improve economic diversification,” says Wall. “That’s a lot. There’s no way we can do that in one year. So where are we going to start? When I look at Tumbler Ridge and the challenges we face, the three main are building us as a tourism destination, managing worker transition and preparing for future expansion.”

Future expansion? Yes, says Wall. Because while we are currently going through one of the largest per-capita job loses BC has ever seen, we could have a number of major mines starting up in the next few years.

Economic Diversification is a long term process, he says, and previous Councils have put a lot of work into this. But what needs to be done is determining what Council wants to do and when.

“We have a huge breadth of projects, and we need to narrow it down,” he says. “Do we take a shotgun approach, aiming at whatever is closest? Or do we take aim at not just our short term goals, but at long term goals, too? We don’t want to miss out on things by putting resources into something else.”

Councillor Caisley says we should look at taking those things and prioritizing them. “We’ve had public input, so this should encompass all the ideas that have come to light,” he says. But he is wondering how Council can identify our priorities this late in the budget discussion? One idea, he says, would be put a line item in the budget but not identify an amount yet, this would give Council time to get priorities in place for next year and the year after that, and figure out the costs moving forward. This way, he says, Council has time to boil it down to what they want to work on next year and the year after that.

Mayor McPherson says he has had the chance to talk to all of Council. “Everyone has good ideas,” he says. “I think we need to sit down and come up with some pet projects for this year, but this year will be mostly planning. There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done, but some of it overlaps, so we need to do a lot of work on getting our ducks in a row.”

Councillor Kirby suggests there are a number of projects already started. “That’s one option: to start with those. It’s also a great topic for our first town hall meeting. We should also have a list of projects that are ready to go if we can get a grant.”

COUNCIL PROCEDURE BYLAW

Report dated March 11, 2015 from the Chief Administrative Officer entitled “Council Procedure Bylaw – Proposed Amendments” provided for Council review and discussion.

Elliott says these are suggestions for changes to move Council into this century. Some things need to be removed, some things need to be added. “Right now there is no deadline for when meeting items need to be added to a meeting, for instance,” he says.