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Posted: September 18, 2017

Council backs Mayor in coverage application

What Happened at Invermere Council This Week?

By Carol Gordon

The regular meeting of the District of Invermere council was held on September 12 at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Office.

In attendance were: Mayor Gerry Taft and Councillors: Greg Anderson, Paul Denchuk, Al Miller and Justin Atterbury.

Staff present were: Chris Prosser, Chief Administrative Officer and Kindry Luyendyk, Corporate Officer.

Gallery: 10 people

PETITIONS AND DELEGATIONS

Elinor Florence

Elinor Florence and Sandi Jones updated council on the “Honour Our Veterans Banner Program Invermere.” They brought in a sample of one of the 37, two-sided banners, being produced to honour 74 Columbia Valley veterans.

Here’s some background information on the program, as it appears on Ms. Florence’s Facebook page: “Veterans of World War One, World War Two, and the Korean War who resided at one time in the Columbia Valley will be honoured by the hanging of individual banners from light poles in Invermere, B.C. from the first week of October to the second week of November 2017. The program is being sponsored by Branch No. 71 of the Royal Canadian Legion. For more information, email Elinor Florence at [email protected] or Sandi Jones at [email protected]”.

Ms. Florence warned council to “Be prepared. The only problem I foresee in the future is demand,” as soon as people see the banners, they will want to know why one of their family members wasn’t included, she said. The banners will be up from October 1 until after Remembrance Day.

Council members expressed how impressed they were with the quality of the banners and the speed at which they have been produced.

PUBLIC QUESTION AND COMMENT PERIOD:

In response to Chris Evans’ comment from the public gallery regarding chairs in the new Community Centre, Mayor Taft explained that a grant from the BC Museums Association for $34,000, applied for with the local Legion, was received for some of the “retractable seating seats in the new Community Centre because some of the seats are going to have names of veterans on the seats.”

BYLAWS & PUBLIC HEARING REPORTS:

Permissive Tax Exemption Bylaw No. 1529, 2017 was given unanimous approval by council to receive three readings.

“A permissive tax exemption (PTE) is a means for council to support organizations within the community which further Council’s objectives of enhancing quality of life (economic, social, cultural) and delivering services economically.” The two renewal applications for the 2018 taxation year were Pynelogs Cultural Centre, who received an exemption for the entire assessed value of the property, and the Royal Canadian Legion #71, who received an exemption for the non-profit portion of the assessed value.

REPORTS REQUIRING ACTION:

Motion of Support – Neutral Coverage Evaluation Application – Gerry Taft

Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft applied to the District of Invermere for a letter of support for his Neutral Coverage Evaluation (NCE) application to the Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia (MIABC). During the discussion and vote on this matter, Mayor Taft and Councillor Justin Atterbury left the meeting due to a conflict and possible perceived conflict of interest.

Background information as outlined in the council meeting agenda: Gerry Taft is proceeding with NCE with the MIABC and requested that the District of Invermere’s liability insurance coverage be extended to cover his legal defence costs and the damages awarded in the Kazakoff v. Taft defamation lawsuit; the RDEK has adopted a resolution and submitted a letter of support for Gerry Taft’s NCE application; Council is of the opinion that Mr Taft made an error in legal terminology.

Mayor Gerry Taft

Gerry Taft’s sister, Shari Taft, was in attendance at the meeting and spoke on Mr Taft’s behalf. She explained that the requested letter of support “may or may not be of any consequence. It may not result in the Municipal Insurance Association covering some or all of my brother’s legal fees, but if a letter is provided, it will serve as a well overdue act of good faith towards one of your own who made a mistake.”

She added: “I think we all know that nobody would have tried to sue him if it weren’t for his position as Mayor and deer cull spokesperson.”

Councillors spoke to the motion.

Councillor Miller: “It wasn’t appropriate what was said and that frustrated me…and because it was done electronically, it was there to be seen by the world. Although I disagree with how Gerry handled it, I do disagree that he should have to have his house leaned or anything else and so I am going to support the motion, but I certainly had to make my feelings known. I’m older, and Gerry is a young fellow, and that’s one of the learning lessons of people along the way, and it was a hard lesson to learn and a costly one.”

He added that “anytime someone throws a comment out there (on the Internet), I don’t think you always have to respond. You can let some things go without any response at all or keep it as polite as possible. Hopefully, that lesson has been learned, and like I say, I do support the motion.”

Coun. Paul Denchuk

Councillor Denchuk: “Very well said. We all, as he said, are feeling it around the table. It’s a very sensitive issue. He’s our mayor; he speaks for us all the time as a council. He’s our voice, and he definitely made a mistake because we talked about our communication on this subject quite a bit right from the beginning, before Councillor Miller was on council and Ms. Hawes was sitting across from me. We talked about being careful online and to the public, and we need to stay on point because we are vulnerable once we leave this office, these council chambers, it becomes very tricky for us to be covered.”

He continued: “So we did ask Gerry to speak for us when we were questioned by reporters and newspapers and such. It’s a tricky one once you enter a chatroom. What you’re saying to people, to the general public, it’s a very slippery slope, and like Councillor Miller said, I do hope Gerry has learned something from this. I too am okay with the letter at this point and the way this motion is worded. I’m fine with it, but it has to be known that we talked about being very careful. Quite frankly I found it a bit reckless what Gerry did, and I just cannot engage with certain people online and feel comfortable with saying whatever you want, especially in our position, we’re under the microscope all the time and social media, it’s a tricky place. I think politicians all over the place are finding out that you can’t just type something and send; it’s forever there. I’m okay with this right now, but I’m certainly not taking this lightly. This is way too important for this council and this town.”

Councillor Anderson: “It has been a difficult summer for the three of us who are speaking to this and as far as council is concerned. And I am absolutely comfortable that the three of us, representing council, the quorum that’s left, that we did our due diligence. We had extensive legal opinions given to us, about the options and what we could do and we didn’t pay for the legal opinions not to take it to heart. And the legal opinions are what’s in front of us right now basically. We had to at the same time consider liability for our taxpayer, and be thoughtful about that as well. And we’ve done that, too, and I think we’re mindful of that, but that said Gerry is part of our team. We have a good council. We’ve done a lot of good stuff, and we will continue to do it. We’re a strong team largely because Gerry has led us really well. But that said, I’m prepared to support the letter as well, but at this point, that’s the extent of it. I’m going to heed the legal opinions we’ve had, and I absolutely support the motion. Gerry is our leader, but we have to be mindful of our other responsibility to the taxpayer too.”

Mayor Taft’s request for a letter of support by council was approved.

External Equipment Charge-Out Rates Policy 2001-02 Revision #11 was unanimously adopted.

Background: The External Equipment charge-out rates were last updated in 2016. In 2017, the municipality purchased four pieces of equipment, as approved in the Financial Plan. In addition, the hourly labour rates have been adjusted for increases in the Collective Agreement. For work performed during regular hours, rates were increased from $37/hour to $38/hour (and the appropriate increases for overtime or double time), which is inclusive of all overhead. FINANCIAL: These new rates ensure that the municipality is recapturing the cost of doing business when charging out a piece of equipment.

Financial Statements for the period ended June 30, 2017 were unanimously received as presented.

For further information: RFD; General Balance Sheet; General Income Statement; Water Balance Sheet; Water Income Statement; Sewer Balance Sheet; Sewer Income Statement

Financing Agreement with the Municipal Finance Authority

Council unanimously authorized the District of Invermere to enter into a short-term financing agreement with the Municipal Finance Authority in the amount of $107,012 (including trade-in and tax) for 20 sets of Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) equipment.

During the discussion, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Chris Prosser, in response to Mayor Taft’s question as to why the number of replacements were required, said: “This will put us ahead. We had always tried to budget for three sets to be changed every year. We were going through that process and there’s always backup equipment as well. Everything just started to fail at the same time. The fire department came to us about a month ago and said we’re having some problems and this is a great opportunity.”

REPORTS FOR INFORMATION:

Bylaw Report – July

Bylaw Report – August

CORRESPONDENCE REQUIRING ACTION:

Selena Garies – Request for a speed bump along 13th Avenue in front of Westside Park.

Bob and Brendan Garies spoke to the request: “We purchased our house in Westside Park last August, and we never noticed very many speeders throughout the fall and winter and spring. But it’s in the summer that they increased with tourism. There are quite a few blue plates there as well. Right through there, there’s a park as well, and there are signs posted for 30, but people are tired doing 30 all the way out of town, and they get to that area, and they just fly, 90, 100. I see people passing. So just a speed bump on either side of the park would be really, really helpful. There is a fence but it’s not a complete fence, there are gaps, and it wouldn’t take much for a little kid to run out there.”

Mayor Taft, councillors and CAO Prosser, discussed possible options: crosswalks, speed bumps, a speed dip, collecting speed data, increased law enforcement, a stop sign and finishing the park fencing. They also discussed past attempts made to address the problem in the whole area and how the public responded to them.

Councillor Anderson asked to have this looked into and options brought back to a future council meeting.

Mayor Taft added: “Before any final decision is made, I believe that the topic of garbage in Westside Park has been very heated, perhaps some consultation with that neighbourhood before anything is done would make sense because I don’t think we want to rush into something and all of a sudden have half the people saying they like it and half the people saying they hate it. It would be good to gauge that ahead of time.”

He continued: “We’ll bring this forward with further discussion with staff and then some consultation with the neighbourhood.”

Kicking Horse Coffee

Request of support for Kicking Horse Coffee to purchase an automated external defibrillators (AED) unit for their business was unanimously approved.

During the discussion, Mayor Taft explained, “Kicking Horse Coffee is on Shuswap Reserve land. I’m not sure that our letter of support will help them a great deal or not, but we can always try.” Then responding to Councillor Anderson’s request for clarification, Mayor Taft added that this is a request for support: “To install it in their facility and if they get a letter of support they get a discount.”

NEW BUSINESS:

Pineridge-proposed Columbia Valley Recreation Centre discussion:

Councillor Miller: “I believe we should be working with quality developers because they are the ones who are bringing dollars to the table.” He referred to their pamphlets with their mention of the ice surface and a swimming pool, “if in fact, they could pull this off and make it happen without costing the local taxpayer the dollars, they’d be very happy. I think we should be working with them rather than against them.”

Coun. Justin Atterbury

Councillor Atterbury: “My only concern is that we’ve had a lot of developers over the last few decades that have promised a lot of things. There are a lot of concrete foundations around this valley that have nothing attached to them, so there has to be a concrete plan that’s actually tangible and that’s where I get a little gun shy.”

He added: “I don’t want it to be something we endorse and it never happens and then people say you said it would.”

After Councillor Denchuk was informed that zoning was in place when he asked, he said: “there shouldn’t be any roadblocks. The zoning is in place. Our staff are here to help them through the processes. This should never cross our table again. If it’s not costing our taxpayers any money, they should build it.”

Councillor Anderson said: “This is maybe the first time in the six years that I’ve worked with Coun. Denchuk that I agree with him. If the zonings in place, fill your boots, go for it.”

Councillor Denchuk: “And there’s no restrictions on what they can call it. We don’t own the name ‘Columbia Valley.’”

Councillor Miller: “I think they were looking to do a private-public partnership, which means they need support from local levels, support from provincial levels, support from federal level to pull something like this off.”

Coun. Al Miller

He added: “That’s how some of these bigger projects in major centres happen, with the private developer along with the city and a bit of a partnership there to make it happen. And all of a sudden there’s additional tax base, there’s additional jobs and everything else to go with it. Whereas we don’t have that money at our disposal to do that but in cooperation with upper levels of government and the developer, there’s possibilities there and that’s what I think they’re looking for for support. We need to have them back and listen to them and talk to them and not shoo them out the door like we did last time.”

Mayor Taft: “I do find personally that the tagline ‘it won’t cost the taxpayers anything,’ but we need support from the provincial and the senior levels of government and we need government help to make this happen, but it’s not going to cost the taxpayers anything,’ that’s a little bit disingenuous in my mind. If this business plan of a $40 million facility is dependent upon low interest loans or grants from senior levels of government, then it will cost the taxpayer something. It’s just a different form of taxation. So we should have that conversation in a transparent way and not try to hide behind things and have petitions and pamphlets at the grocery store saying one thing when it might actually be a plan that’s different.”

He added: “I agree with Coun. Miller that we can’t always analyze every business plan and we can’t always come up with every solution, but I do know from history and from some of the projects in Invermere if things sound too good to be true, lots of times they are too good to be true. So I think council has an obligation to look at that whole picture of information and analyze what makes sense and what doesn’t. Absolutely, I support the ideas of increasing reaction assets and facilities in our community and if this turns out to be one those opportunities then that’s great. I’m not convinced you can get a $40-million facility for nothing. There’s always a cost. There’s always a catch. So let’s find out what that is and analyze it.”

Coun. Greg Anderson

Councillor Miller: “I don’t disagree with that. That’s where we have to get to. And to do that we need to work with them.”

Councillor Anderson’s suggestion, that staff contact the developer and invite them to come back to a council meeting in October or November, was unanimously approved.

PUBLIC QUESTION AND COMMENT PERIOD

In response to a question put forth by the Garies regarding Council’s timeline for dealing with their request for a speed bump along 13th Avenue in front of Westside Park, Mayor Taft indicated it would take about three months. The discussion picked up again with councillors offering more thoughts, concerns and possible solutions to the problem.

In response to the question of whether the District of Invermere has an Evacuation Plan in place, Mayor Taft said: “The way that Emergency Services and Disaster Response works in this area is that it’s a regional approach. It’s run through the regional district and there’s Regional Evacuation Preparedness Plans (see Community Wildfire Protection Plans) and coordinators, and there are various people including Mr. Prosser and various staff people from different organizations who would get involved if an Emergency Operation Centre were to be established. Yes, there are plans and procedures, but it is a little more regionally focused than just being Invermere. “

The next district of Invermere regular meeting is October 10 at 7 p.m.

District of Invermere council meets regularly throughout the year on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month (second Tuesdays only during July, August and September) at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Office (914 – 8th Avenue, Invermere), unless otherwise indicated.

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