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Port McNeill council: mini excavators, recording of meetings, RCMP files, and more

Port McNeill council met on March 6 to make up for canceling its Feb. 27 meeting last month
North Island Gazette file photo

The Town of Port McNeill held its regular council meeting on an irregular day this month.

Normally scheduled for every second and fourth Tuesday evening of the month at 7 p.m. (the exact same times and days as the District of Port Hardy’s meetings), Port McNeill council decided they would meet on Wednesday, March 6, to make up for having had to cancel its Feb. 27 meeting last month.

First up was council’s Committee of the Whole meeting, held at 4 p.m., with the main highlights being a request for a mini excavator to be added to the Public Works mobile equipment fleet, correspondence from Port McNeill resident Douglas Vitick about the recording of council meetings, and a recommendation from Gord Oppen for the town to create a Recreation Activities Coordinator position.

The mini excavator was up first, with council briefly debating whether the cost (purchasing an excavator with a trailer would require a budget of $50,000) of adding one to public works would outweigh what they’d spend to rent one.

“Should we shelve it for the future?” asked Mayor James Furney.

“Shelve it or deny it?” asked Coun. Michelle Carson.

Coun. Leighann Ruel said she’d be hesitant to approve any new equipment until they have a maintenance plan in place and they know what jobs they have coming down the pipe in the future.

“Until that gets done, I’m not in favour,” Ruel added.

After some back-and-forth discussion regarding the use of mini excavators and backhoes (in the past public works has relied on a rubber tired backhoe to complete any excavations), Furney put forth a recommendation for council to deny the request, which was seconded and approved by council.

Coun. Ann-Marie Baron then requested the $50,000 be put into the public works equipment reserve.

Vitick’s correspondence regarding issues with the town’s recording of council meetings was up for discussion after that.

Baron said she thinks they need to get their procedure bylaw “figured out” and they need to “make a decision” about the recording of council meetings.

“Motion to receive and file,” she stated about Vitick’s correspondence.

Council continued to debate the recording of meetings after that, with Baron stating she doesn’t like being recorded and feels there’s “better use of staff time,” and she doesn’t see “much value in recording [meetings] as some people.”

Ruel said she agrees with Baron, stating their meetings “are open, I think we allow people to come in via Zoom from anywhere in the province that they choose to be, and if they want to record on their end they have the right to do that. I don’t necessarily think that we need to record it [and] post it, as long as our motions and discussions are recorded in the minutes and people have access to the minutes.”

Ruel then noted people are always allowed to stop in and ask questions or come to a meeting in person.

Downey and Carson both agreed with Baron and Ruel’s take on why the town shouldn’t be recording meetings, with Baron making a recommendation to rescind the procedure bylaw and amendments and consolidate them into one bylaw.

Her second recommendation was for staff to no longer record meetings and to simply livestream them instead.

Oppen’s request for the town to create a Recreation Activities Coordinator position was the last thing on the agenda to be discussed.

Downey said she doesn’t think the timing for creating the position is right yet, noting there’s a lot of events happening in the community and that information should simply be made more readily available.

Baron said she’d like to see event information be put through a central spot so it can be publicised and advertised properly.

“I really agree with you Shelley, I think it’s (about) getting all the information [together] and published,” added Baron.

After some lengthy back-and-forth discussion, Baron finally asked for Oppen’s request to be sent out for community engagement, but ultimately no recommendation was made.

As for Port McNeill’s council meeting that was held afterwards at 5 p.m., there was an RCMP report with all the files opened from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2023.

There were 431 RCMP files between Port McNeill, Zeballos, Woss, Sointula, and Kyuquot, with 341 of them being opened in Port McNeill alone.

After that there was a report from Chris Woo, Manager of Visitor Experience, about the town’s outdoor swimming pool, where he stated that, “after coming through the pandemic and seeing the need for activity in our community, Mayor and Council saw an opportunity and provided our users with free swimming for Family Swim, and Public Swim. We had anticipated our Pool admissions to drop to about $7,000 for the season, in comparison to $28,000 in 2021 and $35,000 in 2022. On the contrary, our admissions remained close to the same, coming in at $26,000.”

Woo added there was “an increase in use for our family swim, public swim, and private lessons. Our community was full of great reviews, as they saw an increased capacity to afford swimming lessons for their children and time in the pool as a family. Our lane swims and aquafit classes were consistently sought after, and the overall energy at the pool was very positive.”

Next up on the agenda was the Gate House Theatre’s request for a $4,000 grant-in-aid for after school drama classes, which was approved by council, and the town’s brand new “Outdoor Burning” bylaw ended up passing fourth reading for adoption, which means the town can now “regulate outdoor burning within the Town of Port McNeill.”

Finally, the Temporary Use Permit applications from the Applewood Auto Group and the Beach Drive Fishing Lodge that had been previously discussed by Port McNeill council were both approved, though Applewood’s did have one extra condition added, which is for them to “confirm and locate where the property line actually occurs, and maintains display within their property boundaries to ensure that the boulevard is clear.”

Tyson Whitney

About the Author: Tyson Whitney

I have been working in the community newspaper business for nearly a decade, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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