Mayor Lawrence Chernoff and three of Castlegar’s city councillors have returned home after spending most of last week in Victoria attending the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual conference. Chernoff, Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff, Florio Vasssilakakis and Dan Rye spent a busy week attending meetings, forums, lectures, networking and considering the 177 resolutions that were on the table at the conference. Castlegar’s CAO John Malcom also attended the conference.
Most days started out at about 6:45 a.m. with breakfast followed up immediately by clinics and forums throughout the day and then receptions in the evening. Castlegar’s delegation tried to make the best use of the time by splitting up to attend different events. Mayor Chernoff was also representing the Regional District of Central Kootenay, so also attended meetings relating to his responsibilities there.
Delegates heard from provincial sector leaders such as Finance Minister Mike De Jong who spoke about the need to diversify the economic base in order to grow the economy. They also heard from other provincial ministers and had a chance for a chat with Premier Christy Clark.
They also attended a forum for mid-size communities where they learned that if every community in the province were to fix its aging infrastructure, the price tag would be about $200 billion. “Every community is struggling because of old infrastructure and putting a small reserve away every year is not getting the job done. You basically have a deficit in your infrastructure planning,” explained Councillor Heaton-Sherstobitoff.
They were also instructed on the benefits of having a strong asset management plan for each community. “We have that — we have asset management plans, so we are actually better off,” said Heaton-Sherstibitoff. “We have master plans for our water, sewer, storm — all of your infrastructure. A lot of communities don’t even have master plans.”
Several of the resolutions brought forward were of particular interest to Castlegar. The emergency program resolution will ask the provincial government to work with local governments to provide for physical and human resources to assist with emergency response in the case of disasters. “A lot of communities have a small resource of emergency response people, and when something happens that takes a long time — those people just get burned out,” said Heaton-Sherstobitoff. The province would then send in some key people to help out the community.
Another resolution asks the government to look at rules regarding train idling.
A resolution that would benefit Castlegar’s fire department asks the government to change the rules regarding what a community can spend their gas tax funds on. The request is that those funds be opened up to include fire protection services and equipment.
The municipalities also asked that the province remove the restriction of public entity debt that currently applies to post-secondary educational institutions. The restriction makes it difficult for schools to build new student housing.
Castlegar’s delegates had the opportunity to meet with different ministries — Jobs/Skills/Tourism, Environment, Advanced Education, Transportation, Technology. “We use those meetings to advocate for Castlegar,” explained Heaton-Sherstobitoff. “We talked about the West Kootenay Regional Airport, the Columbia Ave. development and then MMBC with the recycling,” she added. “We went to a ministry of education event to advocate for Selkirk College. [These meetings] give us a valuable face to face with them to reinforce how we are moving Castlegar ahead.”