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RDCK board roundup: Allocating money for infrastructure projects

All the news from the June 15 meeting
The Regional District of Central Kootenay board office in Nelson. File photo

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

The Regional District of Central Kootenay’s board of directors approved a spending plan for the almost $4 million the RDCK received from the province earlier this year.

The province’s Growing Communities Fund (GCF) was a $1 billion pot of money divided up among local governments across B.C. for infrastructure projects that enable community growth.

But spending the money in the RDCK was a lot more complicated than receiving it. There are nine municipal governments and 11 rural districts. Each has its own needs and priorities; many share services or infrastructure that would be eligible for funding; and each has its own financial capabilities.

Ultimately, the RD’s financial officials allocated three-quarters of the money to rural areas, and a quarter to municipal governments. Those municipalities also received their own share of the GCF in separate grants.

“The proposed allocation of GCF funds will enable each service to reduce future taxation directly, or indirectly by reducing borrowing, reducing the use of reserve funds or freeing up other grants for other purposes,” notes a report from chief financial officer Yev Malloff.

The largest share of the money will go to fire protection ($1 million) and water utility services ($595,000). Three-quarters of a million will be spent on projects to improve the recreation centres in Castlegar, Nelson and Creston. Recycling and organics programs will also get about $765,000. Parks and Rec will get about $150,000 for projects, as will the South Slocan Schoolhouse demolition, a new roof for the Riondel rec centre, and a new firehall for West Creston.

The RD will also spend $100,000 of the money on developing its asset management plan.

In total, the grant will trim $4 million off nearly $36 million in planned infrastructure projects.

“The RDCK has a responsibility to maintain, replace, and retire the assets that are acquired to operate its services that have been legislatively established,” noted a staff report. “This grant provides an opportunity to support those assets without a cost to the taxpayer.”

Even the directors were impressed by the work done by finance officials to divvy up the money in a reasonable fashion.

“I did not know how we were going to be able to pull this off,” admitted board chair Aimee Watson. “Congratulations to staff.”

Vaccine mandate

The RDCK won’t wade into the issue of vaccine mandates for the province’s health care workers. In a close decision, the board of directors voted against a motion that would have seen the board ask B.C.’s municipal lobbying organization to call on the province to rescind the vaccine mandate for health care professionals.

“This has nothing to do with labour, or unions, or anything like that,” said Area H Director Walter Popoff, who moved the motion. “This is a broad resolution to fall in line with other provinces. The science is the same right across Canada. It does not change in British Columbia. … But the consequences we suffer in the meantime is a shortage of health care workers in our emergency hospitals, etc.”

But other directors disagreed.

“I just don’t think this is something as local governments we are in a very great position to be dictating the minutiae of this, even though this minutiae has very real and not inconsequential impact on individuals in our community,” said Nelson Director Keith Page.

“I have great sympathy for that, but I don’t think we want start telling our doctors and nurses and health care professionals how they should be running their organization. I don’t think we’re in the right lane.”

The motion was narrowly defeated.

Popoff’s original resolution, moved at the May board meeting, not only asked the province to rescind the vaccine mandate, but also to rehire health care workers who were terminated for refusing the COVID-19 vaccination. That phrase was soundly rejected by directors then.

New Winlaw fire engine?

There will be public consultation and then a referendum on whether to buy a new frontline engine for the Winlaw fire hall. The purchase would involve a $750,000 loan, to be paid back over 20 years. No date has been set yet for the referendum.

Ride the bus for free

West Kootenay Transit will be free on election days (local, provincial and federal), Earth Day, Go by Bike Week, Clean Air Day and Seniors Day.

Remote community, high-speed internet

A $50,000 grant from Area D’s Community Works Fund will support the extension of the fibre-optic line north of Kootenay Lake.

The application by the Kaslo infoNet Society will see fibre-optic service to about 30 residences in several remote or boat-access communities north of Kaslo – Salisbury Creek, Birchdale, Murphy Creek, and Campbell Bay.

“By bringing our fibre-optic network through the lake itself, we will be able to upgrade these residents from 10 Mbps fixed wireless service to 1,000 Mbps fibre-optic – a 100-fold increase!” notes the society’s application. “The fibre-optic cables used for this project have an expected lifespan in excess of 25 years, and can support speeds of 10 Gbps using currently available hardware, allowing this technology to always remain cutting edge.”

The money will go towards the total project budget of $268,000, which Kaslo InfoNet Society is working to raise.

Edgewood water upgrades

Residents of Edgewood will see $20,000 in improvements to their water system to better serve the community in emergencies. The funding will come from Area K’s Community Works Fund.

Edgewood, on the southwest shore of the Arrow Lakes, had a full rebuild of their water system back in 2019, leaving the existing wells and distribution system redundant. But instead of just shutting down those wells, the RDCK will retrofit the plumbing system to allow the untreated water to be used for irrigation or fire emergencies.

About 92 residences draw drinking water from the Edgewood system.

One more year for moratorium on water systems acquisition

The board extended the moratorium on the acquisition of water and wastewater systems until June 30, 2024, and directed staff to get ready to lift the moratorium at that time. Staff will present updated plans and policies to the Water Services Committee on or before the end of June 2024.

In August 2011, the RDCK suspended intake of acquisitions from new water and wastewater systems due to the significant demands placed on staff. However, over the years staffing levels have increased and the water group has been restructured to handle a manageable growth rate in the future.