Interim digital engagements approved by North Cowichan council

Various projects looking to move ahead until public involvement can resume

A large part of North Cowichan council’s May 6 regular meeting focused on discussions about whether to proceed with public engagement on some projects that were already underway before the COVID-19 pandemic halted most business activities in early March.

Council discussed concerns with going completely digital for the Official Community Plan Update Project.

“However, this is a long-term community engagement, and just the first phase is proposed to rely on digital methods of engagement,” explained Mayor Al Siebring.

After much discussion, council approved the proposed interim digital engagement activities, but added an amendment to consult with the project’s volunteer advisory group and ambassadors before moving ahead with public engagement on the Official Community Plan Update.

Revisions were also considered to the Municipal Forest Reserve Engagement Plan that proposed a digital engagement for Phase 1, with a return to the original plan for Phase 2 in January of 2021.

The same concerns as the OCP Project were expressed by council, but it is also a long term engagement that will resume with in-person components as soon as it’s feasible. With that in mind, council also approved the revisions to this plan, directing staff to move forward with digital engagement.

Revised engagement plans for the Climate Action and Energy Plan Update Project and the Joint Utilities Board Sewage Outfall Relocation Project were given the same considerations. Council agreed that both projects should proceed with their revised digital engagement plans and residents can look forward to more information and the opportunity to get involved soon.

During the meeting, council heard from North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Inspector Chris Bear and he presented both the 2019 fourth quarter and 2020 first-quarter reports for the detachment.

Total calls in 2019 were up one per cent and Bear shared that COVID-19 has had a significant impact with calls since the pandemic outbreak being down four per cent.

In early March, the detachment’s Senior Management Team hosted two planning sessions as part of community consultation to obtain feedback on where policing efforts should be focused, including one in Chemainus.

Goals are now being developed based on the feedback from the community during the two sessions.

Council looked at repealing the existing Mutual Aid Agreement Bylaw and replacing it with a new and updated agreement.

“This is a no-charge reciprocal system of emergency response and assistance available to local fire departments throughout the region,” explained Siebring.

The new agreement includes additional fire departments from Malahat to North Oyster and will provide greater access to fire resources, including mobile water, to increase firefighting capabilities.

Council gave three readings, adopted, and authorized the Mayor and Corporate Officer to sign the updated Cowichan Valley Department Regional Mutual Aid Agreement.

The next regular council meeting takes place electronically on Wednesday, May 20 at 1:30 pm.

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