Following are some highlights from March 3 meeting of North Cowichan council:
In Mayor Al Siebring’s report, he shared details of a recent conference call with other Island mayors in a session with Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne when she provided us a heads-up on some new provincial funding coming for local governments.
North Cowichan is already thinking collaboratively with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan and City of Duncan on ways to possibly leverage the funding to benefit the whole region, and not just individual municipalities.
The Reserve Funds Establishment Amendment Bylaw was adopted that will officially establish a COVID-19 safe restart grant reserve. The purpose of the reserve fund is to hold provincial funds that have been supplied to compensate for increased operating costs and reduced revenues due to COVID-19. North Cowichan received more than $4 million and council has decided to spread the disbursement of those funds out over several years. Funds will be allocated to the new reserve fund that was established by the bylaw until future budget years.
Council then considered and adopted amendments to the water, sewer and garbage rates in the Fees and Charges Bylaw per the increases recommended during budget discussions on utility rates. A temporary fee reduction ended for Development Variance Permits.
A contract for the design, construction oversight and administration for the Joint Utility Board outfall relocation project was awarded to Parsons Incorporated for $6,105,722.40 (excluding GST). The award is subject to approval from the City of Duncan council as co-owners of the sewage lagoons and partners on the Joint Utility Board. Parsons’ first phase of the project will study the route options, including consideration of feedback from First Nations and during community consultations before making a final recommendation on pipeline routing.
Council debated Councillor Christopher Justice’s motion to seek advice from key stakeholders in relation to the land use policy development to be included in the revised Official Community Plan. Council agreed to formally ask Cowichan Land Trust, Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society, Cowichan Watershed Board, Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Society and Cowichan Estuary Restoration and Conservation Association to provide opinions on council’s goals of restoration and regeneration of the municipality’s lakes, streams, rivers, and estuaries, and of protecting biodiversity.
Two motions put forward by Councillor Kate Marsh were then discussed. The first was in regard to the Property Assessed Clean Energy program that will allow homeowners to borrow money from private lenders to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes, while the loans would be paid back through property taxes. Council agreed to write a letter expressing North Cowichan’s interest in the creation of a PACE program.
Council also decided to write a letter expressing support for the Help Cities Lead campaign, referenced in a number ofl letters issued by the premier to his incoming cabinet ministers last November. The program deals with upgraded GHG requirements for new buildings, PACE financing and home energy labelling.
A request was then discussed from TELUS Communications Inc. for support of its application to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for grant funding under the Universal Broadband Fund.
The fund is designed to improve the accessibility of high-speed Internet to rural and remote communities. Council agreed to the letter of support, but specified the support would be for any service provider. The letter will also express some reservations about the funding of 5-G technology under the program, pending a World Health Organization study of the health effects of that technology.
The next regular council meeting will take place electronically on Wednesday, March 17 at 1:30 p.m.