General · 30th June 2010
Here it is June 28th and I just finished planting the last seeds in my garden for this year. I am just a little behind with everything! Maybe we will have a nice long fall with enough growing days to allow for good crops.
I have lots to report, but will try to keep each item brief.. and I am sure I will miss a number of topics. So here goes.
Federation of Canadian Municipalities
This took place the end of May and the first part of June in Toronto. It is the annual general meeting and convention of all of the local governments across Canada and is incredibly stimulating to meet with my colleagues from all over this land. The other reason for being there is to try to gain access to the Federal government leaders and the Opposition. I came within a number of feet of having a word with Prime Minister Harper as I followed him out of the building down a back corridor before his security finally clued into the fact that I was not with his party. Two of them showed me the way out! I wanted to bring to his attention the policy statement that he signed on behalf of the Conservative Party, stating that he fully supports staffed lightstations and intends to keep them that way. Too bad his Ministers haven't read it! Oh well, I was able to meet with the leaders of the Liberals and the NDP a number of times and a number of their MP's. I was also able to have numerous good conversations and make some good contacts regarding connecting rural areas to high speed internet. So we will see where that goes from here. Lots of new infrastructure funding is being made available through the FCM and hopefully we will be able to get hold of some of it.
Grant in Aid funding
I have received many emails and calls regarding pending Grant in Aid applications. I have been responding one by one to applicants but I think it is necessary to say something here. The process for getting a Grant in Aid has always been fairly simple: the group applying sends me a request; I send it on to the SRD staff immediately for them to check it out and make sure that it meets all of the criteria; it then goes to the Board for a vote and is passed: then it goes to staff for processing of the cheque, which is usually mailed out within three weeks. So, what is the hold up? Well, first of all, as I am sure many of you know, when the regional district was split, we were thrown into a fairly chaotic working situation with no staff. When we finally got our new Chief Administrative Officer, he was not only faced with learning about this regional district and all of the history, but he was in the position of doing all of the work of all of our previous senior staff. Long story short; it has taken quite awhile to become familiar with the process and now that we have control of our financial matters at the SRD rather than the CVRD, to be able to make the old process work. So, I am sorry that some of the cheques have been slow in processing but I can assure you that they have been submitted promptly and are now being dealt with more efficiently at the staff level. You patience is appreciated.
Quathiaski Cove Sewer Tax
The people who live inside the Quathiaski Cove sewer area will have noticed by now that there is an additional line item on their property taxes that is for sewer. This is the first year that this has been there and I can assure you it was the subject of much debate with staff. This is not for the operation of the sewer service. That is billed separately later in the year. I discussed this at the Board and asked that a public meeting be held to explain this new tax to the public. Unfortunately there was not enough time to put that meeting together prior to the notices going out. My fall back position was that the staff send out a detailed flyer to all residents in the service area explaining why this new tax has appeared. It was agreed at the board that this would happen. Unfortunately there was a bit of a miscommunication about when the flyer was supposed to go out. My direction was that it go out prior to the tax notices. Staff mistakingly interpreted that to be prior to the annual operational fee notice. So, the tax appeared prior to the explanation. I apologize on behalf of the regional district for the poor timing. So, what is the tax for? As I understand it, the operational fees cannot cover the extraordinary expenses that occurred in this past year. There was a major breakdown in the treatment plant and major costs were incurred to fix the plant. I am going to let the SRD staff explain the finer details of this issue. If you live in the Cove sewer area, please look for the flyer in your mail.
Quathiaski Cove Village planning process
On Tuesday, June 29th, we will have the last in a series of public meetings regarding the Cove plan. There will be a complete write up in all of the island publications afterwards. This meeting will give a brief overview by the consultant and then some more detailed analysis by the SRD staff who will be in attendance. After this meeting there will be a period of time for the planners to go over the plan in detail and we will come back to more public meetings in the fall. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the members of the steering committee who worked so hard for so long on this project. It was far more time consuming than anyone could have imagined. A very special thanks to Sue Beattie and Mary McIntosh for being the co-chairs of the steering committee, and of course a special thanks to our consultant, David Rousseau, for his good work and eternal patience! This plan is going to be something that we can all be proud of as Quadra Islanders. It will address the needs of seniors, families and youth and bring it all together in a setting that people will be pleased to live in. I am proud to have been part of this amazing process.
Evan's Bay wharf
We have finally (after about 10 years!) gotten everything in order regarding the takeover of the Evan's Bay wharf on the east side of Read Island. This is a key access point for islanders and we now have the money in place from the Federal government and it is in our account and has been allocated for specific projects in the next year. There is a society in place on Read Island that the SRD will contract to operate the wharf and arrange needed repairs and maintenance. So, this is one more project that we have completed and can now just deal with the operation of it. A piece of cake compared to what we have been through for the past ten years with the Federal govrnment.
BC Ferries Parcel Service
What a joy this one was! I was approached by a number of residents when I was up at the Cove who told me that BCFS was going to discontinue allowing parcels to be picked up and dropped off on the vessel due to "security concerns". Of course, I jumped on this one right away, by emailing David Hahn, CEO of BCFS, directly, telling him that this will not work. After a number of media interviews (picked up by the media from our local web based media, I might add!), and numerous emails back and forth with David Hahn, he explained that it was a misunderstanding, that it was about other issues and that they were just "reviewing it". We will be having a BCF advisory meeting next week and I am sure it will be a topic of discussion. I felt that this proposed change in our service would have a serious effect on residents and all businesses and that it needed to stop immediately. So, thanks to the folks that brought it to my attention for immediate action.
Granite Bay Hydro
Well, it has finally happened after many years of lobbying, discussing, negotiating and most of all fund raising: the eleven kilometer new hydro line to electrify the Granite Bay / Kannish Bay area is just about complete. The residents have pitched in consistently through work parties, donations and continual optimism, led by Granite Bay resident Chris Toulmin. My sincere appreciation to Chris for all that he has done to make this project happen.
The Scallop Farm
This is just to let you know, without going into the details at this time, that I have been working on this very distressing issue continuously since the Board turned down the application by the Cape Mudge Band for the scallop farm off of Rebecca Spit. I have been to Victoria to meet with three MInisters and their staff, I have had the issue at the Board table a number of times and we continue to have the Chief refuse to meet with the SRD to discuss some sort of resolution. The Chief has also met with the same Ministers that I have and he has stated that he sees no reason to meet with the SRD or to follow our rules. Our Board passed a motion to set up a meeting with the Band Council and the Council of Elders as soon as can be arranged. We also suggested that the meeting be facilitated.
I am only telling you this at this time just to let you know that the issue has not gone away and that I am doing everything possible to come to a satisfactory conclusion to this very divisive situation. I will keep you posted as the matter proceeds.
OK... that's it! Feel free to call me between the hours of 8:30 am and 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday (not on weekends, folks!) at 285-3355, or you can fax me at 285-3533 or you can email me anytime at jimabramxplornet.ca , or by mail at Box 278 in the Cove, V0P 1N0... Lots of choices.
Please note my new email address.
Director, Discovery Islands - Mainland Inlets (Area C), SRD