North Cowichan council started its regular meeting May 5 that ended up lasting seven and a half hours with a moment of silence in recognition of the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
Councillor Debra Toporowski shared that she and Councillor Rosalie Sawrie participated in an event in downtown Duncan, displaying red dresses on community trees to bring more awareness to the day.
A delegation from Island Health representatives provided an update on the Wellness and Recovery Centre planned for York Road in Duncan. In response to the public health emergency relating to toxic drug poisonings, and the significant increase in overdoses and deaths, Council was told the centre – to be run by Island Health and Lookout Housing and Health Society – will offer a diverse support team and a holistic approach to mental health and substance use through prevention, treatment and recovery services.
Ongoing community conversations will take place with sessions on May 19 (11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m.) and May 20 (5:30-6:30 p.m.), as well as establishing a community advisory committee. It is anticipated the centre will open mid-fall 2021.
The second delegation, a representative from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, provided information on the Delivering Community Power initiative, which reimagines Canada Post with services to support every community across the country by utilizing existing infrastructure and daily human interactions to offer more. The pillars of the program include ideas around postal banking, check-ins on seniors, community hubs and renewable energy.
The first three readings were given to the Bylaw Offence Notice Enforcement Bylaw, which proposes to establish an adjudication system for the Municipality as an alternative to the provincial court for resolving minor contraventions. This would enable North Cowichan to implement a more cost-efficient administrative system for enforcing minor infractions.
Council also gave first three readings to a Revenue Anticipation Borrowing Bylaw, which would enable the municipality to borrow up to $24 million for a short term, only if needed, to continue municipal operations while waiting for anticipated revenue (e.g. property taxes) to be received. While funds are not typically needed, having the bylaw in place ensures the authority to temporarily borrow is available in case there is a need. The same process was done last year in case tax collections fell short due to COVID-19, but there was no need to borrow any funds.
Council awarded the electrical contract for the new RCMP facility to Houle Electric Ltd., in the amount of $4,370,808, coming in slightly under the estimated budget. The tender for the Fuller Lake Arena roofing project was also awarded in the amount of $1,295,335 plus GST, which came in over the estimated budget. With the roof being 30 years old, council decided it’s not a project that can be delayed to another year, as the scope and cost of the project could increase if by waiting. Council agreed to proceed, funding the project with $150,000 from general revenue, $720,000 from the Infrastructure Reserve Fund, and $507,637 from appropriated surplus.
Council received a report for information from staff on the revised Official Community Plan work plan and project schedule. After much discussion, council agreed to proceed with the plan and schedule as presented. Residents can expect to hear very soon about upcoming opportunities to provide input.
Councillor Christopher Justice made a motion he gave notice on at the last meeting regarding policy advice regarding sustainable economic development that would have council seek the advice and recommendations from key stakeholders representing existing business, agricultural, industrial, labour and other relevant think tanks on aspects of economic development.
In order to have a more fulsome discussion on the topic, council agreed to defer the motion to a future Committee of the Whole meeting to dive into the topic further.
A second motion was made by Councillor Kate Marsh on the topic of Communication Towers and Antenna Systems Approval. Council requested staff bring back a formal report on the topic for further consideration at a future meeting.
The next regular council meeting takes place electronically on Wednesday, May 19 at 1:30 p.m.