The Tumbler Ridge News had a chance to meet up with town councillor and Mayor Darwin Wren, in this busy time of year, and ask them what they will be focusing on during these last 11 months of their mandate.
Here is what they have to say:
Mayor Wren – “As we enter 2014, I think it is important to reflect on the past year. There were some important accomplishments and initiatives that deserve mention. On March 1, we celebrated the first load of logs harvested from the community forest. We also celebrated the opening of the sliding hill at the golf course and outdoor skating oval and rink. In addition, a modern outdoor playground was constructed at Chamberlain as well as a new toddler’s playground in the Community Center. Late in the summer the District purchased the Jehovah’s Witness Hall, which, now houses the seniors’ center and will provide space for other community groups for their activities.
In July we saw the result of hard work and community collaboration with the unveiling of a new playground at the Lions Campground. Thank you to the Lions for your amazing community contributions. The District was proud to partner in this great initiative.
Despite weakening coal prices we saw increased optimism with continued hiring by local mines and new business development in the community. We saw the resurrection of the Chamber of Commerce. Council engaged the Community Development Institute (UNBC) to undertake a community sustainability process, which will provide a comprehensive plan to chart our future.
In late October an application to become a UNESCO Geopark was submitted by the TRMF/PRPRC. If successful, we would hold the distinction of being the second Geopark in the entire country. This indeed would be an amazing accomplishment for our community.
We move into 2014 with optimism. Council is committed to continuing to build a healthy sustainable community that provides state of the art amenities and recreational opportunities. We have a vision of diversification through increased wind energy, tourism and forestry, to name a few. We will continue to promote an environment that encourages growth, development and community spirit. Council will continue to evaluate tax levels and make adjustments as necessary to keep Tumbler Ridge not only competitive with neighbouring communities, but the choice community for people to work, live and play. We will be aggressively exploring all our options to attract new retail business to Tumbler Ridge, this is a priority.
The greatest asset of our community continues to be the people of our community and their spirit. The volunteers and amazing service groups and clubs define us as a community and set us well ahead of others. There remains much work ahead of your Council in the final year of this term and I look forward to working with all of you to move Tumbler Ridge forward. It has been truly an honour to serve as your Mayor and I look forward to your continued support.”
Councillor Tim Snyder – “Looking at the last year of this council’s term there is much work to do. There have been many good things happen so far; playgrounds redone, sliding hill, community centre playground and more. One of the main things to finish in this term is the sustainability plan for the town. We all want to see the town prosper with or without the mining sector.” Councillor Snyder explains one of his focuses for last year and the one coming up, is to begin to build more infrastructure in town. “It is a major job to accomplish and will take cooperation by all to achieve this,” he says.
Councillor Chris Leggett – “I am very much enjoying my role as councillor and I wish to thank the Mayor, Council, LVCU Executive Team, DTR Staff and the community for the opportunity to have served in 2013. I look forward to continuing to serve the DTR in 2014 with great enthusiasm. I feel that the current DTR council is working extremely well together. My colleagues and I have a diverse skill set that compliments each other’s strengths and we are working collaboratively to serve the residents of Tumbler Ridge.” Councillor Leggett continues, “We [council] have been made aware of many high value projects that are proposed for the DTR in the coming year and I feel this community is poised for excellent growth and prosperity in the near future.”Councillor Leggett has recently completed his Certified Management Accountant and Chartered Professional Accountant coursework and passed all the required exams. “As we enter the budget season for 2014, I feel that this training and knowledge will assist me in providing sound budgetary advice and guidance to the members of the Credit Union and the DTR,” he explains.
“Lastly,” says Councillor Leggett, “I wish to thank the Tumbler Ridge Community Forest Corporation for the opportunity to serve as a Director in 2014. I have a substantial forestry background including a diploma in Forestry and I am excited to be able to once again put that knowledge and training to good use.”
Councillor Bev Litster – “I am focused on building healthy communities, and putting together speakers that will inspire and hopefully engage community members to look at themselves in a different light. We can all use a little help.”
She continues, “What I see is important is some long-term planning around taking care of our assets and making sure we are funding the long-term projects that have to be there, like roads and infrastructure, making sure we are putting money away, using preventative measures.”
Councillor Litster says she is enjoying council. “I knew there was a lot to it, and I thought I wasn’t prepared, and there is even more, but that’s ok and all part of learning. I know I still have lots to learn to understand. That only comes with time. The big thing I learned at UBCM is how many layers there are to government,” she says.
Councillor Don McPherson – “This is a really exciting year, a lot of stuff is going to happen,” says Councillor McPherson. “We have a good council now with the two new seats. They brought another look to council, with their knowledge about the money end of things. We still have to fill some positions in staff for example the economic development officer.”
One thing he would like to focus on is tourism. “The Geopark is going to be the biggest thing, what that is going to bring is more business, tour operators, river boating, AVTing, hiking, horse back riding,” he says. Councillor McPherson is also hopeful to get a good start on the Visitor’s Centre, “and maybe even finish it,” he says.
In regards to the Geopark he says, “If and when it happens, the federal and provincial governments won’t be able to overlook what is going on here any more. It will make a big difference to the taxpayers of Tumbler Ridge.”
Another focus for Councillor McPherson is the redevelopment of the downtown core. He says, “We have to work at getting some retail space, make some changes to make us more competitive. Tumbler Ridge has a good track record of local businesses doing well, we just don’t have enough. How to get it here? A bank is number one. Once you have that….I’m not running down the credit union, but it is a credit union. We need a little more.”
The last objective for Councillor McPherson for the year, is getting a car wash going, that is funded by industry to help keep the coal dust levels and mud out of the town. He says, “It’s bad enough with two mines, if we have more mines, it would be really bad.”
Councillor Mike Caisley – The main focus for Councillor Caisley is the Sustainability plan for Tumbler Ridge. He says, “The completion of the plan, I think is our number one priority in TR. For a year and half we have been working with that and there is another year to go. What I want to make sure happens is we complete the plan in its entirely. Start to implement the recommendations within the plan, and ensure whatever councils come forward for the years to come have a game plan they can revise, change, update with information, but not have to start back at square one again.”
The sustainability plan has seen in-depth discussions including, public consultation, stakeholder consultations, and workshops. “We will be in a much better position to provide answers to questions about what our future will look, when this plan is complete,” says Councillor Caisley.
Councillor Rob Mackay – “At present Tumbler Ridge is in the enviable position of being one of the most fiscally responsible communities in British Columbia, however, we still have the distinction of being a single industry town. Our most important goal has to be that of diversification that would enable us to withstand the natural downturns in the resource industry,” says Councillor Mackay.
He continues, “To better understand the challenges required to achieve this goal we have been working with the Community Development Institute (CDI/UNBC). This work will be completed before the end of this term to enable the new Council to benefit from the direction received.”
Some of Councillor Mackay’s priorities include: Assisting in establishing a healthy Chamber of Commerce; focusing on infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewer line upgrades; working closer with volunteer groups that promote healthy communities; and help in the enhancement of the hiking and RV trails within and around our township.