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Posted: January 20, 2014

Chamber hears from regional directors

Four of the five Columbia Valley Regional District of East Kootenay board directors addressed about 30 Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce members Jan. 16 during a luncheon at the Lions Hall.

Village of Canal Flats Mayor Ute Juras, Electoral Area F Director and board vice-chair Wendy Booth, District of Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft and Village of Radium Hot Springs Mayor Dee Conklin provided annual updates and offered glimpses at what is coming down the 2014 turnpike, concluding with the Nov. 15 election.

Juras noted the opening of the Discovery Centre as a highlight of 2013, as well as extensive renovations to the Canal Flats Arena, with a celebration planned Feb. 22. The village has also embarked on a $1.2 million water system combination project.

“We are a doing council, not a talking council,” she said, noting the village is now considering a Kootenay River dyke project following last June’s high water events.

“It needs to be done,” Juras said.

The village is also working on economic development initiatives and is creating a community profile that outlines “what makes us special,” she said. “We’re more the blue collar worker, hunter, ATVer community.”

Booth, who is also a Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) board member, as well as a newly anointed Union of B.C. Municipalities board member and chair of the Columbia Valley Community Directed Funds (CVCDF) committee, provided a range of updates.

The CVCDF has enjoyed a strong start, she said, pointing out the committee looks after $200,000 a year over the next three years, to be used on Columbia Valley projects.

In the last year the committee has provided $26,000 to the Family Resource Centre in Invermere and is “conditionally” going to be providing $100,000 to Columbia Valley Greenways, to help in the connection of the Greenway trail from Radium Hot Springs to Invermere.

The biggest fish on the table for 2014 – region-wide – is finding a solution to Windermere water woes, Booth said, noting it sits at the top of the regional government’s priority list, formally approved Jan. 10.

“It’s something very near and dear to my heart,” she said, explaining options are currently being considered.

Other matters being approached this year are an agricultural plan, the creation of an integrated community sustainability plan, which must be completed by 2015 in order to continue receiving Gas Tax funding, and the Upper Columbia Valley’s unsightly premises bylaw “is very outdated” and needs to be updated, Booth said.

Coldstream Creek, Fairmont.
Coldstream Creek, Fairmont.

Another important project is mitigation measures for Fairmont and Coldstream creeks in Fairmont Hot Springs, she continued.

“We know we are going to have more debris come down,” she said, adding it is a matter of where and when.

Booth also pointed out that CBT’s annual revenue, at $20 million now, is expected to grow to $45 million in a couple of years.

“We will be consulting with basin residents” on what to do with the extra funds, she said.

Taft told chamber members the valley’s regional board directors continue to work closely.

“Almost half of our time is spent on regional issues,” he said.

The past year saw the district take a leap forward toward building a new community hall/facility, with a successful referendum providing the initiative in November.

Open houses are upcoming in order to provide detailed design and concepts for the facility, to be built on the site of the old David Thompson Secondary School.

While it was great news the district received a go on the community centre, much public and energy was focused on the ongoing urban deer issue, Taft said.

“Deer – of all the issues we face in Invermere, the deer get the most attention,” he said.

Another highlight of 2013 was the district hiring an events coordinator with an eye on stimulating the economy, Taft said.

“So far the position has been really well received. Hopefully we can continue this going forward,” he said, explaining new events have been added to the district’s annual roster (Oktoberfest) and established ones have received support.

Radium Mayor Conklin, pointing out the contingent from Tourism Radium at the luncheon, announced the village intends to head into usually dark and stormy waters in 2014: it is going to update its sign bylaw.

Created in 1994, with no shortage of creaking and groaning, the sign bylaw was updated in 2004 and it’s time to once again bring it up to date, Conklin said.

“I’m really looking forward to delving into it,” she said, noting a survey is being done asking business owners what they think.

RadGlenTruckConklin also highlighted the working relationship between the village and Canfor.

“They’ve been absolutely wonderful to work with,” she said. Following a rash of complaints from residents about noise and dust, the company has worked with the village on mitigation, including the creation of a citizens’ advisory committee.

The re-opening of the mill has had a noticeable impact on the village’s economy, Conklin said.

“We are thrilled. Our businesses have noticed the impact,” she said.

Conklin told the luncheon that $2 million spent on the village’s sewer system resulted in such improvements to its operation that it allowed for the de-commisioning of a settling pond “because it’s so efficient.”

Like Invermere, the village is also hiring an events coordinator to work in conjunction with Tourism Radium, she said, adding the village also planted 21 new trees along the highway boulevards last year.

A new playground was added to the village and sidewalk lighting (solar) along Highway 95 – along the Sinclair Creek dip section – was completed to help try and join the north and south sections of the village together more, Conklin reported.

Electoral Area G director Gerry Wilkie was the lone absentee, though newly appointed alternate director Stephanie Stevens was in attendance.

Following the address, luncheon emcee Richard Haworth asked the elected officials they would be running for office again this upcoming November.

Booth promptly responded, “I am,” while Juras said she is “looking at it” and Taft said he “plans to” run.

Conklin admitted she’s not yet sure if she will seek a third term.

Lead image: Left to right Village of Canal Flats Mayor Ute Juras, Area F Director Wendy Booth, Village of Radium Hot Springs Mayor Dee Conklin and District of Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft at the Jan. 16 CVCC luncheon meeting.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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