Council Matters for April 20, 2022

Council met for just over two-and-a-half hours during our Regular Council meeting on April 20, 2022. Here are some highlights from the meeting.

During my Mayor’s Report, I was pleased to note that this meeting marked the first time since March 18, 2020 that I was sitting in Council Chambers and using the mayor’s gavel. As we start to move back to normal, I took the opportunity to thank staff, especially IT staff, for making virtual meetings work for the past 25 months. This week’s meeting was a test run for how a hybrid meeting could work – with both in-person and online attendance by Council, staff, and the public -- ahead of the May 18 meeting when we expect to make this arrangement official and more permanent.

Councillors Manhas, Sawrie, and myself attended theLocal Government Leadership Academy forum in Richmond last week. The forum kicked off with a keynote by Dr. Bonnie Henry, and included several interesting presentations including discussions on codes of conduct, asset management, and the ongoing financial challenges facing all local governments.

Over the past few weeks I’ve participated in three video calls with senior cabinet ministers on emergency flood response. The meetings have been with Ministers Mike Farnworth (Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General), Bill Blair (Federal Minister of Emergency Preparedness), and Nathan Cullen (Minister of Municipal Affairs). All of them acknowledged the need for comprehensive flood protection and multi-year strategies and plans to support ongoing preparedness through measures such as ongoing clearing of gravel bars in local rivers without having to receive special permission for each individual maintenance episode.

I also gave Council an update on the firefighting equipment supply drive in support of Ukrainian fire departments. This is further to my April 5 report. Many B.C. municipalities and regional districts have now offered to help, but the cost of shipping the donations to Ukraine was exorbitant. Good news came last week via an email from the Defend Ukraine Foundation (DUF), a new organization based in Vancouver, which is working with the Edmonton-based Firefighter Aid Ukraine (FAU). That group has been shipping these supplies into the area for almost a decade. Under this new partnership, donated equipment will be shipping to the DUF warehouse in Burnaby, and the supplies will then be forwarded to Edmonton for shipment to Ukraine at no cost to local governments.

The Fees and Charges Amendment Bylaw was adopted. Changes reflect new parks and recreation fees.   

The Five-Year Financial Plan Amendment Bylaw was adopted. The plan now includes the Crofton Fire Hall Building Replacement Project and the grant we will be receiving for the Accessible Playground at Fuller Lake Park, which had been previously authorized by Council.

The Financial Plan Amendment and Property Tax Rates Bylaws were given first three readings. The tax rates remove costs for South Island Dispatch (ECOMM) until 2025 and adjusts tax distribution between the residential, utility, industry, and managed forest tax classes. The outcome of these adjustments is that the North Cowichan portion of residential and business property taxes will be going up by 2.89% this year. 

The Official Community Plan Bylaw received first reading. The OCP bylaw considers the proposed plan in conjunction with the North Cowichan 2022 Five Year Financial Plan, the Cowichan Valley Regional District Solid Waste Management Plan (as amended) and the Cowichan Valley Regional District Central Sector Liquid Waste Management Plan. The OCP will now be referred to the Agricultural Land Commission for comment. Staff will report back to Council on options for arranging a public hearing, which is expected later this year.

Council approved the purchase of Wildfire Gear and Equipment in the amount of $70,000. The equipment includes two-piece, single layer Nomex uniforms and related equipment and a water tank skid unit.

Council supported the submission of a regional grant application on behalf of the Cowichan Housing Association. The grant, totaling $600,000, would provide semi-permanent daytime shelter options and the basics of day shelter plus warming and cooling spaces for the unsheltered homeless population. This would build on the services being provided through the grant application North Cowichan submitted for the temporary shelter spaces and services on Trunk Road. The grant requires submission by a local government.

Council approved a motion brought forward earlier this month by Councillor Marsh that will see a quarterly list of payments for goods and services expended in excess of $10,000, during the previous quarter, to be included in the consent agenda.

The next Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 4, at 1:30 p.m.

Thank you for reading and staying informed!

Al Siebring, Mayor
Municipality of North Cowichan
T 250.746.3117