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General · 22nd February 2013
Jim Abram
It has been an extremely busy month and the next two months are going to be just as lively. Hopefully this report will give you some idea of what is going on in Area C.

Budget time!

Every year, starting in October, we start work on the SRD five year financial plan. It is a tedious process with many hours and meetings being put into it by directors and staff. It is not an easy process and rarely leaves anyone feeling one hundred percent pleased. In the end, this is what determines your tax bill, in conjunction with BC Assessment Authority valuation of your property, Fire Dept. taxation and the line items that are determined by the Province for policing, highways, schools, hospitals and other services. As a local government we only have a certain amount of control over what the final product looks like. Read your tax notices carefully in June and be clear on where your money is going.

One new item that you will see added to this year's budget is a taxation component for Solid Waste Management. This is a tax that was adamantly opposed by me and by a number of other directors at the most recent Solid Waste Board meeting. This is a joint service with the SRD and the CVRD as participants. The total for 2013 for Area C comes to $7,758.00. This works out to be about one cent per hundred thousand dollars of assessed value. It is not a lot of money, but the principle is the point. This service has always been run on tipping (dumping) fees and has always been "user pay". There has been enough surplus for all of the other programs, such as the entire recycling program, to be paid out of that amount. But not anymore!. Despite the objection of many directors on the Board, the item passed. This item will be before us again at the next meeting and our opposition will still stand.

The other meeting that took place on that day was the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District Board. (When the CSRD was split in 2008, the Hospital Board and the Solid Waste board were not split, so we meet jointly). The voting structure at this larger board is weighted in favour of the Comox Valley Regional District (hence the Solid Waste taxation passing). The Hospital Board is still pushing ahead with the construction of the two new hospitals for the north island and for the Comox Valley. Some of us are still concerned that this process is moving too quickly just before the Provincial Election and we are locking ourselves into hospitals that may or may not be sized correctly for 20 to 50 years in the future, and the Provincial directive that the hospital be built as a Public-Private-Partnership (P3). This is very concerning to many of us who believe in public health care. You can read as much as you want about the P3 model on the internet. Just search it and you will get more than you can imagine.

Lastly on the Budget, the Quathiaski Cove Sewer Service user fee is once again up for approval. My vote was against it. My meetings with staff have not been able to reduce the amount, so higher powers need to be brought into this discussion, hence:

Meeting with Minister and his staff
Due to the intransigence on the issue of the Sewer Fees, I have made arrangements to meet with the Minister responsible for Local Government, his Deputy Minister and ADM for Infrastructure Funding on February 26th. This will hopefully be a very productive meeting with some solutions coming out of it that will benefit the user community of Quathiaski Cove. Should the SRD not be able to lower the user fees after this meeting then my vote will be against the budget, while continuing to explore other funding opportunities.

Meeting with Telus
A meeting is scheduled on February 25th with the Area Manager for Telus, in Victoria. My prime reason for meeting is for an update on the work that is being done on Quadra and is almost complete and to discuss a new proposal that will make the service even better for most of the people on the east, west and north sides of Quadra, the west side of Read Island and the west side of Cortes Island. If accepted, the cellular / data service for all areas will be top notch! Letters, maps, drawings and photos are all part of my presentation.

Q Cove Water Study and Bylaws
As prescribed in our recently adopted Local Area Plan and Official Community Plan, a water study needed to be conducted prior to any major development proceeding in the Q. Cove area. That study was just completed and was paid for out of the Community Works Fund (Gas Tax money). The gist of the study is that there is sufficient water for the build-out of the Q. Cove LAP area and that a water supply system could be put in place with a number of wells supplying it. So, this is very good news for all of the worthy projects that are waiting in the wings to get started. My thanks to our staff for taking this on and making sure that it got done as soon as it possibly could.

Related to the entire service area for the Q. Cove sewer, there are two by-laws that the staff have been working on diligently. These would be the Sewer Connection fee for new hook-ups, which was woefully inadequate, and the Development Cost Charge by-law for the same area. Both of these will help the sewer fees by adding to the reserve fund that is so desperately needed.

Upcoming Public Hearings

There are three Public Hearings that will be scheduled at our next Board meeting and that you might want to watch for in the SRD advertising that will be done: two on Quadra and one on Sonora Island. All of the details will be provided by staff in the ads.

Other business
I will be attending on your behalf, the following meetings in various cities, in addition to the ones listed above:

Union of BC Municipalities Electoral Area Directors Forum in Richmond, (today), February 18th through February 20th
Parcel Tax Board meeting, Thursday, February 28th
Strathcona Regional Board, Thursday February 28th (more budget!)
Regional Marine Advisory, March 3rd through March 5th in Richmond (SRD Board appointment)
Marine area Planning Partnership, March 6th through March 7th (SRD Board appointment)
Electoral Areas Services Committee, Wednesday, March 13th
Strathcona Regional Board, Wednesday, March 13th
Comox Valley Solid Waste Management Board meeting, Thursday, March 14th at the CR Museum. (this will be the taxation "discussion" again and your attendance would be greatly appreciated)
Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District meeting, Thursday, March 14th
Centre for Civic Governance Annual Forum in Harrison, March 21st through March 24th
Strathcona Regional Board, Thursday, March 28th (final approval of the Budget)

That is probably enough for now! If you need to contact me, feel free to call me between the hours of 8:30 am and 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday (please, 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 do not use my residential phone number for SRD calls. All business calls should be on 285-3355. Many thanks!

Respectfully submitted,

Jim Abram
Director, Discovery Islands - Mainland Inlets (Area C), SRD