The District’s year in review

Trent Ernst, Editor

This year was a big year for the District. In fact, says CAO Jordan Wall, this year has been the most productive year the District has seen in the last twenty years. “It’s crazy what all got done,” he says.

However, much of this may have passed without notice as the District has been focusing on infrastructure. “One of our key focuses this year,” says Wall, “was asset management. We needed to assess what we have and replace what needed to be replaced.”

One of the biggest things they’ve done, says Wall, is create a Strategic Plan. “That informs what we’re doing day to day,” he says. “Probably 80 percent of the work staff does is to keep the water running and the Province happy. But the other 20 percent of what we do can make community a better place. Our ability to use the strategic plan has allowed us to produce the results that we have seen here.”

Mayor Don McPherson agrees. “The biggest thing for council this year was we focused on what our job in and getting this town ready for the future. We did a lot of work on asset manage- ment. That’s really where we want to go. And we’ve had all council pushing in the same direction. This is the best working relationship between council and admin that we’ve seen in a long time.”

Behind the scenes

Because the focus was on asset management, a lot of what has happened or is happening so far, says Wall, has been behind the scenes. “The waste water system was near failure. Now, it is being upgraded and people can flush their toilets. The clean water system was so outdated we couldn’t get parts for it anymore. Now, people will be able to get clean water when they turn on their taps.”

The asset management committee has been reviewing the condition of all the major assets in the District of Tumbler Ridge, and determined which work should be done before streets are paved, including assessing the in-ground water and waste water systems, sidewalks, streetlights, and drainage.

“For asset management, we needed to figure out what we had and replace what was out of date,” says Wall. “We also needed to create long-term asset management strategies so that the assets we have last as long as possible.”

The asset committee also examined and prepared recommendations to Council regarding the repair of Town Hall, Public Works, and Fire hall build- ings. The committee also examined and  created recommendations for finishing the cemetery upgrades.

However, not everything the town was hoping to have done will be done by the end of the year. For instance, says Wall, one of the major projects is the lagoon blower system, which aerates the town’s waste water to speed up the breakdown of waste material. This has been delayed until next year, as the District is current- ly waiting for the replacement blowers to arrive. “It has taken about six or eight months for us to receive them after we ordered them,” says Wall, “but we’re expecting an installation running date of February, 2017. This is just in time, as we’re down to one blower that needs parts swapped out every time it breaks down.”

As well, work on the SCADA System, which controls the fresh water system, should see Phase One of repairs done by about February. This will see the radio and transmitter system replaced. Phase Two, for an updated software manage- ment system, is going out to tender shortly, says Wall.

While this year saw a lot of work crack sealing pavement on the middle bench, residents have been asking for years now when the roads are going to be repaved. The typical answer has been that the District needed to figure out what was happening with the pipes underground, as it would be a waste of money to pave the road, just to dig it up to replace the pipes.

The good news, says Wall, is both the leak detection survey and the pavement assessment is complete. “We just received back the Pavement Assessment document, which should be going before Council in January,” says Wall.

This should mean the District will start to move forward with replacing some of the worst pavement around town. “All the timelines line up for getting roads paved this summer,” says Wall, though he cautions there is still six months before that happens, and things can change.

Phase 1 of the cemetery expansion is also in progress. This was delayed due to bad weather.

Another change that most residents will notice is the light replacements around town, especially the street lights. Gone are most of the orange sodium vapour street lights, replaced with new, higher efficiency and longer lasting LED lights that should save the District thousands of dollars per year in electrical costs.

The lights have also been replaced in the Community Centre, including in the library.

Wall says a lot of work has gone into the Aquatic Centre to repair the back-end. “We had some major safety concerns with the electrical there,” says Wall, and the control panel has been replaced.

Long term management strategies to make sure repair and replacement of assets is done on time are underway, says Wall. Something that will need to happen, he says, will be to hire a

Geographic Information System (GIS) Technician. “This will part of Council’s 2017 budget considerations,” he says.

A new team

In 2016, the District saw many of the senior staff replaced.

At the end of last year, the District ended its relationship with then-CAO Barry Elliott. Jordan Wall took on the position at the start of this year, the first of many such transitions.

The position that Wall vacated, Economic Development Officer, was later filled by John Powell.

2016 saw the departure of the District’s longest serving senior staff member. Fire Chief Matt Treit left the District after 27 years in town and seven years in the role as Fire Chief. He was replaced by another long-time resident, Dustin Curry.

Another vacancy happened when former Chief Financial Officer Chris Leggett left to become Chief Administration Officer for Pouce Coupe. He has been replaced by Laura Sanders, who was hired by the District of Tumbler Ridge in July and began in her new role in September.

In January 2016 Aleen Torraville was hired as the Corporate Officer for the District in Tumbler Ridge.

According to Wall, the dispute with the previous Community Centre Director has been resolved. The role has been filled by Boyd Clark, who takes over as Community Services and Facilities Manager, while long-time District employee Joy McKay has taken on the role of Recreation Manager.

Still to be replaced is long-term Building Service Manager Ken Klikach, who retired earlier this year.

And more

And that’s just the start, says Wall. The District has launched its new brand.

There are new directional and trails and signs in development that should be going up next spring.

There’s a new Animal Control Bylaw that allows people to keep backyard hens. The traffic bylaw has been revised. Last year, Tumbler Ridge became the first community to adopt a new ATV bylaw that lined up with the province’s new ATV regulations.

And the list keeps going on, from per- formance reviews to a complete overhaul of the District’s Website, which will go live in the new year.

Mayor McPherson says it’s impressive what the town has accomplished. “We’ve come through a low point in our econ- omy, and we are sitting today in a better position than when it started.

“Towns of our size don’t normally have what we have. Keeping those things going: paved path, playgrounds, rec centre and pool. It’s something that staff and council take seriously to make this a nice place to live.

We are looking at an upswing, and we’re ready. We’re on the top step already. We are in a position to have a really good 2017.”

But, says McPherson, the vision extends far beyond just next year. “Our goal is to work on this town so we hand our children a community that is in

the same or better shape as the one we were handed, so that 50 years down the road the community is still a top quality community.”