Policy and Priority Meeting: November 10, 2015

Trent Ernst, Editor


Present, Mayor McPherson, Councillors Scott (chair), Krakowka, Kirby, Caisley, Howe


School report

Principal Blaine Broderick and Vice Principal Jan Proulx came to discuss what’s happening at Tumbler Ridge Senior Secondary. There are 135 students this year, which is the lowest enrolment in years. They are down a teacher and a half and have also lost some some support staff.

This year, a group of grade seven and eight students will be travelling to Quebec. The travel will be covered by the Canadian government, and the kids will be billeting with parents once they get there. This, says Proulx, is not the norm these days, as typically kids stay at hotels on trips like this. “It will be interesting for the kids.”

They had a group of students visit the Moberley Lake First Nations to meet some of the people at the band office, and while they were there, they talked to Twin Sisters Nursary; about planting some native species in the outdoor garden.

600 fish have arrived in the fish farm, says Broderick. The school will be hosting Senior’s Girls Zones this year in February.

These are the good news stories. But, says Proulx, It’s been a hard couple years; they’re trying to be creative and keep kids interesting and engaged. So, the foods class is doing a competition, with two teams making food. And next semester, they are doing a tourism class, which the school has never done before. As part of that, they are going to develop a tourism video for Gwillim Lake. And next semester, they will also be holding an Outdoor Education class.

There is no shop class this year, as there is no shop teacher. A community member is coming in once a week and volunteering his time to help the kids fix up an old engine. “We’re trying to be creative and build community  relations; these are even more important than before,” says Proulx. “Still there are kids in limbo; kids who don’t know where they are going to be. Some have told us that they are leaving in the next few weeks. Interesting times at the school.”

Mayor McPherson says the District brought up the outdoor classroom with HD when they were down in Vancouver, and they were interested in helping out with that. Broderick says the original classroom was placed where the fence was, but they had to move it because of the construction of Monkman Commons. “It’s not as outdoorsy as it once was.”

Councillor Kirby says at the PAC meeting, they talked about changing the way sponsorship happened with the school. “You can’t post info about the sponsor in the school, they’re looking at changing that.”

Broderick says the school board is looking at that. He says they can’t afford to pay for bussing, so the kids have to put up cash. They hope to address it at a board meeting soon.

Councillor Kirby proposes Council write a letter of support, as it’s hard in a small town like this.

She asks if the school has investigated participating in the Breakfast Club of Canada. Proulx says yes. The trouble is kids don’t want to be singled out, to have special attention paid to them She says with the foods class cooking, the school can put money into that. They don’t discriminate. “If you are hungry, come eat.” However, sometimes it’s just because they forgot their lunch.

Councillor Kirby asks how close is Tumbler Ridge to having our school in jeopardy.

Broderick says it’s very difficult to think long-term. He says nothing has been brought up. “I’ve asked the superintendent when we have to worry or when we may have to look at going to one school, but that’s not on the table yet.”

Councillor Krakowka says he’s totally in support of the fish farm. He asks about raising trout. Broderick says that’s still a long way off. “We have to show that we can sustain a fish population. Mr. Deeley really wants to move to that point. He’s been in contact with someone from BC Hydro around a grant.” Krakowka says Council can help with discussions with the ministry. “I’m totally in support, and we can see what we can do to push through.”

Councillor Caisley asks how many kids are coming to school hungry. “We’ve had a couple of presentations saying this is a serious problem. Do you have protocol to follow up on this?”

“We don’t have a protocol around supporting families, but we have had discussions,” says Proulx. “Being a small school, we have a fairly good understanding of who needs it vs who just forgot their lunch. For teens, it’s hard for them to come forward and say, ‘hey I don’t have anything to eat.’ Sometimes it’s just that they slept in and didn’t make their lunch, sometimes it’s because they don’t have any food at home.”

She says, at a guess, there are maybe ten kids of the 135 that need food on a regular basis. Proulx says it can sometimes depend on when the parents get paid, too.

Caisley asks how many kids are leaving. Broderick says three for sure, plus a few that may or may not leave.

Community Forest

Duncan McKellar came before Council to answer some questions that they had. He says the Community Forest has an annual cut of 20,000 metres. Chetwynd’s is 17,000. “They harvested a significant amount of their wood because of the mountain pine beetle.”

He says that right now, they’ve been harvesting a lot of pine beetle stands, which are lower value stands. Over time, he says, the value will increase.

Some of the things the Community Forest has done is developed chip trails in local forests, planned a recreation area around pond, and worked with the town to develop mountain bike trail on wildfire treatment area. They removed over 5,000 danger trees in local trails in and off town lands at no cost to the community. This project would cost over $250,000 if done in a fall and burn fashion, says McKellar. They cleaned up spruce blowdown on two properties on town lands at no cost to the community and harvested dead pine on community owned Lot 1 and 2 near cemetery at no cost to the community.

This year, the community forest donated $750 to Success by 6, $3000 to Grizfest, $500 to outdoor classroom, $5000 to minor hockey, $10,000 to Geopark and $10,000 to local food bank.

There were some questions on the visual impact and why trees are left where they were left. McKellar says that some trees are left for visual impact, but not all of them. “There are other values,” he says, and other reasons for leaving certain trees behind. But they’ve worked hard to keep the visual impact as low as possible.

He says the biggest issue the Community Forest is the volume of harvest. “We still need volume to make this work,” says McKellar. “I can do the technical part of this, but we need to deal with the political side of things as well.”

He says right now, they are allotting the cut for the Peace Region. “There’s volume there; we want a piece of it.”

Mayor McPherson says they talked to the Province recently, but it’s hard to convey this information. “The Community Forest is a success story,” he says. “I think that when we go to these meetings, you, Duncan should be there. We can go and talk to them and say ‘you’ve set us up to fail’, but we can’t argue that because we’re not foresters. We’re spinning our wheels here. We’re not going with enough information.”

McKellar says the Province wants to have this volume allocated by the end of the year, so that doesn’t leave us much time. “If they give us another 10,000 cubic metres,” he says. “That might be enough.”

However, he says, allocation is not just based on numbers. It’s on political need and on public perception.

Mayor McPherson asks if the town would have better luck if it partnered with Moberley Lake. McKellar says there are benefits, yes, but there are also minuses, and he can’t say it would help chances.

Councillor Howe asks if McKellar sees a day when a sawmill would open in Tumbler Ridge. McKellar says it’s a tough sell. “Industry is going the other way, consolidating into supermills,” he says. “If you are sending 2X4s to New Orleans, it doesn’t matter where along the way it gets milled. You might get a niche mill here, but I can’t see a mill here in the long term.”

What about a co-gen plant, asks Howe? “Is there any economic sense of collecting all the waste fibre and create a co-gen plant?” Yes, says McKellar, that’s a good idea. “That’s where I would start. We have access to a lot of fibre. We are looking into it on some level. Co-gen doesn’t work so well when you have access to natural gas or another fuel source, though.”

How about a log sort, asks Howe. This one, says McKellar sounds good, but probably wouldn’t work. “I investigated the idea thoroughly,” says McKellar. “I sat down and talked with Dunkley Lumber. I had real hopes about that, but it’s very problematic. It costs about $7 to $10 extra every time you drop logs and  pick them up again. There would be pushback from major licencees, because as soon as you have a log market, they can go elsewhere. I don’t thing we could make a go of it. Other community forests have tried and haven’t been able to make a go of it. Besides, these days, loggers do the sort in the bush anyway.”

Howe says he’s disappointed, because getting another 10,000 or 50,000 cubic metres doesn’t provide more employment. It does provide more money, though, says McKellar. And you have to factor in the economies of scale. Right now, there’s not enough work to keep someone employed for more than a few weeks. “If you have an extra 50,000 cubic metres, then you have the chance of more people willing to move here with the equipment.”

The advantage for the community to have the community forest get these areas is that the community then controls the visual aspects of the cut around the community, too. “A major licencee will just come in and take it.”

“I was lead to believe that we would get more employment with the uptick,” says Howe. McPherson says it is not sustainable at 20,000 cubic metres. Howe says the reason he supported the push to expand the community forest was because it would create employment.

The mayor says it may still do that. “We have had someone come in discussing putting in a small mill here.” McKellar says there’s not going to be a major investor come in to town and plop a multi-million dollar mill here, but there is room for a specialty mill. Something that would employ maybe six people. A hand run mill. “It could work. It would be hard work, and as soon as the mines come back, all those people will run back to the mine, but it could work.”

Howe asks about the Silvaculture work. Duncan says the community forest planted 400,000 trees this year. “Do you know how long that took?” McKellar asks. “Fourteen days.”

Councillor Krakowka asks if other companies have to follow the same visual guidelines. McKellar says yes, but the Community Forest goes over and above.

Monkman RV Park Update

Terry Cosgrove came before Council to discuss how this year has gone at Monkman RV Park. She says she started looking after the park as a camp attendant on July 6. Since then, she has met people from all over the world. “One thing I have learned is that campers like to talk,” she says. “Most people say they loved their time here at the campground and in the town of Tumbler Ridge and would definitely return.”

However, the last three months has given her a unique perspective on things, and she has a few suggestions. First, although she has been told by almost all the visitors that the bathrooms “are the best in Canada,” there were a few things that would have made them even better like hooks for towels and clothes, bath mats, a bench or chair (especially for seniors). “The biggest complaint was that there is no Wifi (especially for long term residents),” says Cosgrove. “Lack of privacy and absence of firepits were also mentioned quite a bit. A lot of the picnic tables are in rough shape and will probably need to be repaired or replaced.”

Most people, says Cosgrove,  thought the $27/ night was very reasonable. “People thought that the town of Tumbler Ridge was very well promoted but when they arrived they found that most waterfalls were too difficult for seniors to get to,” she says. “The road to Kinuseo Falls was awful. Some had said that the museum was kind of interesting but they expected more. They said there was not much for kids to see or do there (and mentioned there was not really any cute souvenirs for kids or simple things like coloring books, toys, etc). Some had mentioned they would like to see more of the history of Tumbler like the “big housing sale”, mines “opening & closing”, windmills, etc. With this being said, people remarked how gorgeous Tumbler Ridge was.”

One of the busiest weekends this year was Grizfest. “People loved how they could reserve camping and were guaranteed a spot for the weekend. All power sites were reserved in advance and another 74 non-power sites reserved in advance by both me and the community centre. In addition, 30 additional campers showed up without reservations. This means, says Cosgrove, that the site brought in just under $8000 for those three days. There were some issues with the bathroom door locks, though, she says, as only three of the seven worked properly. “This did lead to very long bathroom lines and some unhappy

people.” There were an additional three porta potties on site, but she says, that was not nearly enough.

The next Friday, she says, a tech came in from Oliver, BC and fixed the locks. “We’ve had no problems since.”

She thanks Council for the opportunity. “It was a very interesting and rewarding experience. If it was decided that this position would be offered again I would love to be considered.”

Councillor Kirby says she likes the idea of having a camp attendant out there. She’s glad it went well. Mayor McPherson asks Cosgrove for permission to forward her report to the museum, Geopark, VIC, public works. “They are all involved in this,” he says. “It would be great for them to see the feedback.” Absolutely, she says.

Council then breaks for a short closed meeting. After the break, they come back to discuss a new Proclamation policy.


Proclamation Policy

Occasionally, the District receives proclamation requests from organizations, including interest groups and organizations that do not have a local or regional affiliation. Some of these people do not even bother to show up. These are time consuming for both Council and Administration. The new policy seeks to clarify parameters for accepting proclamations. The new policy states Council will only consider proclamation requests from groups and organizations with affiliation with the District, and will only be considered if presented as a delegation to Council.

Discussion items

Youth Member of Council

Council reviewed the Youth Member of Council policy manual.

Council Governance and Responsibilities

Fred Banham came before Council to discuss Council’s role. He says Local Government is not a standalone form of governance. “We battled really hard to get recognition,” he says. “Local Government is the responsibility of the Province. The Community Charter and Local Government Act created municipalities and give us the authority to give us legal laws in Canada. Community Charter came in around the year 2000. Before that, had the Local Government Act (LGA), and then before that the Municipal Act.”

He says it’s hard to understand why the LGA is still in effect after the Community Charter came into force, but the regional districts still fall under the LGA. “The Charter refers to the LGA for elections, for borrowing money, etc.”

In the Community Charter, he says, it outlines the roles and responsibilities of council. Members are mayor and council. During changes, elections, people quit, but the municipality carries on.

Council, he says, is bound by all legislations that local government has to abide by, Highways Act, Cemetery Act, etc. But Council can do what they want under as long as the Province allows it.

He spoke for well over an hour on Council’s roles and responsibilities, covering a wide range of topics. He discussed the role of the mayor as Chief Elected Officer, which is confusing as CEO typically stands for Chief Executive Officer. The mayor is spokesperson for council.

He talked about what makes a council run well: focusing on mandate, not getting caught up in the day-to-day minutia and getting its collective head around what is important. “Understand the difference between leadership and management. You are elected to steer, let others row the boat.”

He talked about the role of individual council members, who need to see others as colleagues and treat them with respect. “I’ve seen councils that don’t respect each other, and it’s a gong show.”

He talked about Council’s relationship with administration: “You need to see them as colleagues. They are supporters and professional advisors. I don’t know any administrator that comes into council to pull the wool over their eyes. When they give advice, they give it with full intent. Councils need to get this treating with respect thing happening. You need to focus on their roles and seeks clarification. If you have questions, question the report, the facts, not the person.”

This is important, he says. “Strongly support managers and administrators. You don’t always get to hire all the people who provide the reports for you, but respect the time that they put in to their work. They’re not going to bring something to you that they’re not going to stand behind.”

He reminded Council that the municipality is an organization in motion. Decisions that previous councils have made, says Banham, will affect you now. “It’s a little frustrating that you may not have had a say in what colour the street light lamp posts were, and now you’ve inherited those light standards. Accept that and move on. Things that happen now might be from decisions that happened two or three or five or six councils ago. You inherit what they’ve done. Suck it up buttercup; you have to accept what is going on. The planning that you are doing now may not have results until next year, or years down the road.”

He spoke on how meetings work. “Recognize what drives actions are resolution. It’s not an action until it’s a resolution. You have to come back to the fact that actions function on resolutions. After tonight, staff is going to be looking for resolutions. If you don’t make a resolution, then you’ve wasted your breath.”

This caused some conversation with Council, as they don’t make decisions at P&P meetings, but they want to create actionable items. Banham says financial decisions and bylaws and important decisions are not made at a P&P meeting, but Council can make a resolution to, say, send a letter of support at a P&P meeting. “You’ve not been voting at P&P meetings, but that’s wrong. All the rules of a council meeting apply to all your committee meetings. How do you get an action? You have the rules set in place. You are allowed by statute to have committee meetings and make resolutions to action things. If it requires spending money, it has to go back to a regular meeting of council.”

Councillor Howe asks whose responsibility it is to have informed Council of this. Is it staff, or is it Council’s responsibility to know it. “It’s your bylaw,” says Banham. “It was created here in Tumbler Ridge for you. You should be aware of it. But you should be getting help from staff. The way I would handle it is mention at the time that you need a resolution. Different councils are set up in different manners. Some council chambers have a chair right beside the mayor where the CAO or Corporate Officer sits, so they can kick the mayor under the table so they make a resolution.”

Banham says Council is violating its procedures bylaw, though with good intent. “If you want to do it right…”

Banham says Council needs to show respect for Chief Elected Official. “Make the mayor look good, you’ll look good.” He says this doesn’t mean that you have to always agree, but says everyone is on the same team. “There is nothing wrong with a good debate at council. At the end of the day, the decision is made by the majority. Accept this, then carry on. Next item is a fresh slate. Respect each other both publicly and privately.”

He cautions Council about discussing politics on Facebook. “It is about bite sized bits of information, not a place to discuss policy.”

He cautions Council to refrain from slate voting.

He said more, but this reporter had to leave.