Council Matters for February 17, 2021

Council met for two hours during our Regular Council meeting on February 17, 2021. Here are some highlights from the meeting:

We wore pink shirts to this meeting in recognition of Pink Shirt Day, which takes place officially on Wednesday, February 24. The day serves as a timely reminder, this year especially, that we are here to lift each other up, help one another, and advocate for those who need it.

In my Mayor’s Report, I shared that I recently attended the annual (but virtual this year) Local Government Leadership Academy conference. This is my favourite conference each year, as the learnings from other local government officials from around the province is always incredibly valuable. My favourite session was on crisis management; hearing how other regions have come together during crises to was very educational and inspiring.

We received a presentation from Inspector Chris Bear on the RCMP’s fourth quarter activities. Overall in 2020, there was an 11% reduction in the number of calls for service, which is mostly attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, certain types of calls increased, such as arsons. Mental health apprehensions were also up significantly, and these types of calls consume a lot of RCMP time and resources. Inspector Bear ended his presentation by expressing how excited he and his team are seeing the site works commence at the new RCMP detachment location on Ford Road.

Next, we heard an update on Quamichan Lake Water Quality Monitoring and Management from Dr. Dave Preikshot, North Cowichan’s Senior Environmental Specialist. Ongoing year-round monitoring and sampling is providing valuable data that will assist in determining what approaches need to be taken in regards to managing the lake’s blue-green algae blooms. Work in progress includes:

  • Managing phosphorus and monitoring water quality in the lake (sediment coring, nutrient sampling, monitoring lake temperature, and consulting with other scientists),
  • Controlling phosphorus entering the lake (zeolite traps in trial locations, enhancing wetlands and storm water systems, and working with the agricultural community and the Province), and
  • Riparian protection and enhancement (tree planting, working with stewardship groups, removing invasive plants, and restoring wetland / stream habitat).

During 2021/2022 staff will be analyzing the water quality and sediment data. This analysis will be done in consultation with colleagues in the provincial government and private consultancy to develop tactical approaches to mitigate blue-green algae blooms in the lake.

Up for adoption was a Zoning Bylaw Amendment that would allow Cannabis Sales at 2763 Beverly Street. However, because Council received a letter for consideration from Cowichan Tribes after the original Public Hearing that took place on January 20, we are now required to hold a new Public Hearing as Council is not permitted to consider new information between when a Public Hearing takes place and the bylaw is adopted. As such, Council rescinded third reading and directed staff to schedule a new Public Hearing that will take place in the coming weeks.

Council considered the recommendations from the February 9 Committee of the Whole Meeting regarding the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant Budget Amounts for 2020 to 2023. Council approved the recommendations that will allocate various amounts to specific items in the 2020, 2021, and 2022 budgets, and any unspent grant funds will be reallocated to future years’ budgets. Details on the breakdown of the grant funding can be found on pages 14-33 of the February 9 Committee of the Whole agenda.

We then considered and gave support for pre-budget approval to proceed with the Smiley Road Water Main Replacement Project. This project is scheduled to take place before the 2021 budget is finalized this spring, and so pre-budget approval was necessary in order to proceed with the project at this time.

Council directed staff to bring back a report outlining a public engagement process that will assess public interest in pursuing an automated solid waste pickup program, and include detailed cost scenarios, for Council’s further approval. This report will come back to Council in the coming weeks before any engagement takes place. By way of background, our current fleet of garbage trucks will need to be replaced in the next few years, and that has prompted us to look at moving away from manual to more “automated” pickup strategies. A full report on this topic was part of our February 9 Committee of the Whole agenda, which you can find here.

Council also directed staff to prepare an amendment to the Fees and Charges Bylaw to increase the rate for the annual waste collection service from $102 to $111. The increased revenues are needed to fund the increase of operating costs for the garbage and recycling program, in addition to an increase in tipping fees, a public awareness waste reduction program, the engagement plan to research converting to automated collection, and inflationary increases.

Our next Regular Council meeting will take place electronically on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 at 1:30 pm.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117