Aimee Watson is entering her third one-year term as chair of the Regional District of Central Kootenay after being acclaimed by the 20-person board in November.
Watson is the elected representative for Area D (North Kootenay Lake). Walter Popoff, who represents Area H (Slocan Valley), was acclaimed as vice-chair.
The board chair and vice-chair are elected annually by the board and serve a one-year term. This will be Watson’s third term as chair.
Asked what she is doing right to inspire the confidence of her fellow board members, Watson said she guesses it’s about conflict management and efficient running of meetings.
“I’ve spent a lot of time and really trying to hear and understand when there might be conflicts, or when there’s misunderstandings,” she said. “And I’m pretty forensic with ensuring I understand what we’re doing so that meetings can run smoothly without me being confused.”
She said she is strict when running meetings, and that has been challenging when everyone is at home on Zoom.
“So if I had to guess, that would be my guess.”
The Nelson Star asked Watson to name the biggest issues that will face the board in 2021. She said there are hundreds of those, but agreed to give us a list of the most complex or important ones, not in any particular order. All of these issues are exacerbated by COVID-19.
• Organic waste. The RDCK is continuing its plan to have compostable waste trucked to a central facility, while figuring out how to deal with the waste that is too far away to truck, and how to organize curbside pickup in some areas.
• Water systems governance. There are hundreds of rural water systems in the RDCK, 20 of them owned and operated by the RDCK. But the province wants the RDCK to operate all of them. Governance of water systems has to be worked out with the province.
• Hazard mitigation. It all started with the Johnson’s Landing slide in 2012, with gradually increasing risk elsewhere because of climate change across the region. The RDCK has identified high-risk areas and now the task is to do land-use planning to reduce risk.
• Wildfire mitigation. The province has taken much of the responsibility away from local governments. What is the RDCK’s role now?
• WorkSafe BC regulations. These are changing and they apply to many operations including garbage, recycling and recreational facilities. COVID-19 has added a new layer of regulations and risk.
• The new provincial Fire Safety Act. Some of the proposed regulations are unfeasible in rural settings, Watson says.
• The new provincial Emergency Program Act. Many of its proposals would see local government taking on more responsibility, and this still has to be worked out.
• Building code changes. These are made by the province for cities, and they are challenging to meet in rural areas, Watson says.
One of the common themes is “regulatory download,” she says, in which local governments are expected to take on more responsibility for regulations that were written for urban areas.
“The regional district gets to be the vehicle to try and figure out how to implement those. And oftentimes we don’t have the discretion to say, ‘That doesn’t work, could we amend it this way, could we make it this way?’”