There were several heated exchanges at Monday’s Castlegar City Council meeting over the urban chicken debate. In the end, council voted 4-2 against permiting chickens within Castlegar city limits.
Before the vote, there was another motion to table the decision on chickens until the city could have a public forum. That motion was tied at 3-3 which meant that it would not go forward.
“We’re now going to have no public meeting on this issue after we said that we would,” said a heated councillor Deb McIntosh. “I think we’re really missing the boat on this. We talk about sustainability and all that. We talk the talk, we should walk the walk.”
Councillor Kevin Chernoff was the strongest voice against the chickens. He said enough research was done and he didn’t think the residents of Castlegar wanted chicken farming in the city. Councillor Chernoff received the brunt of Peter Wulowka‘s angry diatribe during question period.
Wulowka, who brought the urban chicken question to council in the first place, demanded Chernoff explain what he had against chickens.
Also voting with McIntosh against the motion were councillors Gord Turner and Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff.
“I believe we stated that we would have a public process for both sides of the coop to have their say,” said Heaton-Sherstobitoff after the meeting. “To me the staff report didn’t give the whole picture because we didn’t have that public process. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘we want to explore the possibility of having chickens.’ We didn’t do what we said. We said we’d have a public meeting and we didn’t.”
Don Simpson of BDO Canada LLP gave a presentation at Monday’s council meeting about the city of Castlegar’s 2011 annual financial report.
“Castlegar’s in great shape financially,” said Mayor Lawrence Chernoff after the meeting. “It’s really about management. The auditors clearly state that council is managing the money really well. Our staff is doing a really good job on allocating the funds. If you look at the financial statements it clearly states that we’re doing a good job and we’re keeping the city well apprised on how we’re doing things and how we’re spending our money.”
Chernoff is proud of the fact that Castlegar has no long term debt. “We’re heading in the right direction,” he said. “We’re getting things done. We’re doing infrastructure projects which is great because you need to move ahead.”
The mayor notes that the city is spending $3.5 million on the water to the airport lands project. “At the end of the pipe, you have to remember there’s families, taxes, and buildings, and all those good things there. We know the economy’s tight but it’s still a good time to move on these things and get things done.”
The Stats: Housing – Current number of households in Castlegar = 3,200; Average household size = 2.3 people; Homes owned = 2,405; Homes rented = 660; the majority of homes in Castlegar are single family (approx. 75 per cent), while the rest are a mix of multiple family houses, small apartments, and other types of homes. Land Use and Development – 60 per cent of residents responding to a poll feel the city should promote development by pre-servicing currently under-developed areas; More than 90 per cent of residents felt that diversification is necessary in the city’s permanent employment base.
The financial assets for the city for 2011 are $14,765,375. The number is slightly lower than in 2010 ($15,598,727). Liabilities for 2011 are $6,519,760 versus $5,835,511 for 2010.
The net financial assets for 2011 are $8,245,615, which is lower than in 2010 ($9,763,216). The accumulated surplus for Castlegar in 2011 is $73,970,351, slightly more than 2010 ($73,469,865).
City revenues for 2011 (actual) are $14,834,807, up from 2010 ($13,663,018). City expenses for 2011 (actual) are $14,334,322, up slightly from 2010 ($13,263,756).
The tangible capital assets for Castlegar (as of Dec. 31, 2011) are $113,744,856. The largest assets are roads ($28,356,593) and sewer ($22,013,311).
Also on Monday, council members heard a presentation from the Castlegar-Embetsu Educational Exchange Committee which included group leaders Curt Kutschera, Yuri Kutschera, and Maria Burton, and student delegates Tori Apostoliuk, Dante Enewold-Deary, Kyra Gedig, Cody Sloot, and Kyle Stetsko-Kallin.
The group will be heading from Castlegar to Japan on July 11 for two weeks. The first week, the group will be at Castlegar’s sister city of Embetsu. For the second week they will travel throughout Japan and visit places such as Sapporo, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Kamakura.
“I think it’s important for those kids,” said Mayor Chernoff. “When they get there and look outside it’s a shock. It doesn’t matter what you’ve read, when you go to a different country with a totally different culture it’s great. They’ll tour a little bit of Japan and the students will get a chance to see things they’ve never ever seen before in their lives.”
The student exchange program between Castlegar and its sister city Embetsu has been operating since 1998.
At the recent FCM (Federal Municipalities of Canada) meeting, Mayor Chernoff entered a draw and won an electric car charging station for the city.
“More people are going electric than ever – so we have the ability to step up,” he said. “It’s part of the city’s green program.”
Chernoff said the city will look into a possible location and the costs in setting up the station. The Castlegar and District Library is one possible location.
“It takes about three or four hours to charge up a car,” said Chernoff. “So you could park it there and then go to the library and then check out the downtown core. The idea is to set things up along Highway 3. This company (Plug in BC) sees a lot of electric cars coming down the highway. The move to electric is huge in vehicles. It’ll really help tourism.”
Mayor Chernoff said to council and those in attendance Monday that support among the West Kootenay communities for the WestJet proposal is very good, with the only dissenter being Trail.
“I don’t think it’s non-support, it just wasn’t support,” he said. “From my point of view I don’t want to create something between Castlegar and Trail. We’re dealing with the West Kootenays, and Trail is part of the West Kootenays.”
Chernoff says that having WestJet come to Castlegar’s regional airport would be a boon to the entire region.
“I’ve talked to numerous people in Trail that support WestJet (coming to Castlegar),” he said. “It’s reliability, costing, the idea is if you operate a business that’s what you’re looking for. We’re hearing from everywhere – Greenwood, Grand Forks, Midway, Kokanee Springs, Kaslo – people are interested. We’re getting ten letters a day. It’s a big economic tool. To me, it’s a huge opportunity for us to say to WestJet – ‘hey, we want you to come here for the many reasons.’ They have a great business plan; They have a great reputation. We hope we can be a part of it.”
The mayor and John Malcolm, Castlegar chief administrative officer, will travel to Calgary to meet with WestJet officials on June 28. Castlegar is among 39 cities that will be making proposals to the popular carrier.
Water Treatment Centre upgrade
City council awarded the contract for the Water Treatment Centre Upgrades and UV Retrofit project to the sum of $869,161 to Venture Mechanical Systems of Castlegar.
Of the total cost of the project, $760,000 will come from a provincial grant the city received last year.
Councillor Gord Turner noted that it’s great that the city will only have to pay $109,161 of the cost of the project.
The project includes the installation of three UV reactors as well as a new chlorine injection system. In addition, a backup generator will be installed at the site and will be capable of running the facility should the power fail.
The majority of the work for the project is expected to be completed in October and November.