North Cowichan decided to hire an environmental specialist after Coun. Kate Marsh made a motion in February asking that the position be considered. (File photo)

North Cowichan to hire environmental specialist

Position to cost $60,000 in 2019

North Cowichan will hire a full-time senior environmental specialist.

The decision, which will cost $60,000 from the municipality’s budget for 2019, was made at the council meeting on April 17.

According to a staff report written by CAO Ted Swabey and Sarah Nixon, North Cowichan’s general manager of people and business services, the senior environmental specialist will be expected to expedite the completion of the climate change and environment-related priority projects that council has identified in its 2019-2022 Strategic Plan.

These include developing a comprehensive climate change risk and vulnerability assessment for the municipality, evaluating options for environmental improvements to Quamichan and Somenos lakes and strengthening environmental planning in all land-use planning in North Cowichan.

“The option to hire a full-time senior environmental specialist will establish a senior team leader for environmental services who will influence all municipal departments to ensure the quality and timely delivery of environmental projects and services,” the report said.

“(The specialist) will support large, complex and higher-risk projects and programs, including providing advice, guidance and recommendations on environmental and climate-change management matters.”

Council directed staff to prepare a report in February recommending the new staff position in 2019.

Councillor Kate Marsh tabled the motion because of concerns regarding staff capacity to complete climate change and environment-related projects in 2019 and beyond, given on-going projects and existing resourcing dedicated exclusively to the environment.

Mayor Al Siebring said the position is expected to cost up to $90,000 a year plus benefits.

He said just $60,000 is dedicated to the position in 2019 because council intends to hire the environmental specialist about halfway through the year.

“It’s not cheap, but we need the expertise,” Siebring said.

“We used to have a similar position that was funded 50 per cent by BC Hydro, but that has ended. There is all kinds of funding available from the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the federal government for these types of initiatives and we intend to dig around and see what we can do. If we can find funding to help subsidize the position then that would be great, but it’s not about the money.”

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