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Koel’s Notes: Request from hospital, Gate House, crime, and more

Drug enforcement was one of council’s top three priorities for the RCMP’s budget year
Port McNeill town office. (Derek Koel photo)

Written by Derek Koel

Koel’s Notes

Port McNeill council gathered on Nov. 14 for another routine meeting, but unfortunately the trend of a “less than full” council table seems to be getting routine as well, as Coun. Shelley Downey was noticeably absent.

A seemingly simple agenda item requesting council support for one of the Nanaimo Regional Hospital District’s (NRDH) key health-care priorities didn’t turn out to be so simple after all.

The NRDH made it easy with a draft motion and letter addressed to the Honourable Adrian Dix, MLA, Minister of Health, to support “the new patient tower and cardiac catheterization lab to be located at the Nanaimo Regional Hospital.”

Coun. Leighann Ruel asked, “if we support this, it’s not taking away from any other initiative that’s… closer to us?”

Mayor James Furney countered, “I think it’s taking away something that could potentially be in another location.”

Coun. Michelle Carson pointed out, “Nanaimo is closer than Victoria.”

Coun. Ann-Marie Baron wanted to see Island Health’s capital plan first.

“Where is that? Do we have the capital plan?” she asked of staff, the idea being to see if they are “considering the growth up this way.”

Baron suggested it may be “something else to pester [Island Health] about.”

It seems that staff will look into that as Furney announced, “consider it tabled,” with no motion or letter of support at this time.

The Gate House Community Association was on the agenda again, looking for funds for another event.

Ruel pointed out this is “the third one that has come to us in the last couple months,” suggesting they “submit a large grant in aid instead of individual projects.”

That recommendation moved forward, along with $500 for the Gate House, to go toward their Missoula Children’s Theater Treasure Island production, starting Feb. 5.

Cedar Street has been a hotbed of development activity lately, and 309 Cedar Street was back on the agenda. Last time it crossed council’s table they approved a Development Variance Permit to allow ground floor accessory dwelling units and offices on the downtown industrial property. This time around was a formality and not open to public input. Council was to look at the full plan and proposed finish product to deny, demand changes, or rubber stamp it.

Everyone at the table seemed to like the proponent’s 14-page plan, apart from Baron who had her chief concern at the ready, citing a line from the town’s Official Community Plan’s Development Permit Guidelines; with regards to building design.

Baron recited “Page 3, during the design of a building, the colour palate should be selected to enhance, not detract from, the surrounding neighborhood,” further clarifying her point by adding, “I don’t want purple.”

Nevertheless, Baron didn’t suggest an official change to back up her displeasure, and motion to approve the plan without any changes passed unanimously.

As budget time approaches, talk of tax and utility increases always creeps up. Staff are proposing to break from the tradition of tying increases in the town’s utility fee’s to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The town’s own bylaw is currently tied to the CPI, which unless changed, means an automatic 7.9 per cent increase to resident’s solid waste, sewer and water charges for 2024.

Instead of following the CPI, staff suggested a four per cent increase to cover the increased costs, mostly due to increasing garbage disposal costs and the anticipated increased costs of a new collective agreement for the town’s unionized employees. Council quickly fell in line, passing the motion for a four per cent increase, which was made by Carson, who noted, “it is an annual increase of $27.60 dollars… for a single dwelling home.”

Port McNeill RCMP Sgt. Curtis Davis was on hand to do a council check in, recently branded as the ‘Mayor’s Report.’

It may have been labeled the Mayor’s Report, but it was Carson who asked the tough questions with regards to the hard drugs in the town and the RCMP’s April – October crime statistics.

Carson raised her concern, “it says here you have zero drug files,” referring to the six-month period in the report.

Drug enforcement was one of council’s top three priorities for the RCMP’s budget year. Davis referenced the two drug files from the previous sixth-month report and noted, “we have some drug files pending… there is stuff going on,” and he has members “sitting near known drug dealer’s homes and stopping vehicles coming and going, and things like that.”

Davis reports the local detachment is “in a very comfortable position right now,” being almost fully staffed with 9/10 of the mountie positions filled. This comfortable position has allowed for success in tackling council’s other top priorities, community engagement and increased traffic enforcement.

Davis commented on community engagement and the additional resources allocated to traffic enforcement.

“We’re seeing a pretty constant rotation on getting (members) some skill, relating to traffic enforcement, collision analysis, and statement taking, you know, things like that.”

The numbers back up the traffic enforcement priority. Statistics indicate a spike in impaired driving investigations, reported at 22 compared to nine in the previous sixth-month period.

This reporter requested local statistics on general traffic violations from the Port McNell RCMP, but those statistics were not made available to the Gazette by press time.