PORT McNEILL—What started as a routine reading of a fee setting bylaw was delayed last week when council opted to amend increases to residential and commercial boat launch passes and to gather more information on unloading rates for commercial fishing boats.
The fee-setting bylaw establishes user rates beginning Jan. 2, 2013, on services ranging from solid waste collection and water and sewer rates to recreational fees, administration and permitting fees to harbour rates.
Water, sewer and garbage collection rates would be increased modestly, and other fees, such as rental of the Community Hall and Old School buildings, remained unchanged. Rates were increased more substantially for the swimming pool, averaging 20 to 25 per cent higher for most passes and lessons.
The only point of contention, however, came when one councillor noticed a discrepancy in the rate changes at the harbour, where the daily boat launch/parking fee was raised but the season pass remained unchanged.
“Boat launch fees are going up a bit, which is fine,” said councillor Gaby Wickstrom. “I was a bit curious why we decided not to increase the season launch pass. That’s a pretty sweet deal, $50 for the season. I can’t recall when it went up last.”
Town administrator Sue Harvey said the launch pass price has not changed since she began working for the Town, in 2006.
Wickstrom suggested an amendment raising the season boat launch pass to $60 from $50, which would be in line with other percentage increases in launch and parking rates. The proposal inadvertently opened a can of worms when Harvey and deputy mayor Shirley Ackland asked if Wickstrom wanted that increase to apply to commercial boat launch passes, as well.
“Typically, commercial is used more than residential,” coun. Chris Sharpe noted. “Whether or not that means more wear and tear, it is more use. And commercial is generating revenue whereas residential is about enjoying life more. I’m a firm believer in and a firm advocate of, if the rates are going to change, they change for everybody.”
Wickstrom then proposed an amendment increasing the residential season boat launch pass to $60 from $50 and the commercial launch pass to $165 from $150. But just before Ackland called for first, second and third reading, Sharpe raised the issue of wharf usage charges for loading and unloading for commercial fishing boats.
“Are we comparable there with Sointula, with Port Hardy?” he asked. “I’d be curious to see that.”
Harvey said she would ask acting harbourmaster Sherri Henderson to look into rate comparisons on the North Island and return with that information.
In the meantime, Ackland said, council could approve first and second readings of the bylaw, then call a special meeting to enact the bylaw before the beginning of the new year.
Council then voted to approve first and second readings of the bylaw.
Council gave first, second and third reading to a pair of Revenue Anticipation Bylaws, which allow the town to borrow operating capital in anticipation of expected tax receipts.
Bylaw 641,2012 would allow the town to borrow up to $600,000 from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). Bylaw 642 would approve borrowing an amount not to exceed $1,200,000 through the Municipal Finance Authority.
New dock open
Coun. Sharpe said he planned to approach the Port McNeill Chamber of Commerce to ask for its help in promoting the large commercial loading dock, construction on which was completed with installation of the ramp in late November.
“The new dock is open for business,” said Sharpe. “I did talk to some of our major customers who would use that facility and they’re quite enthused. We should be promoting that as a huge asset for our town now that it’s open.”
Library rep approved
Coun. Gaby Wickstrom was voted to return as the Town’s representative on the Vancouver Island Regional Library Board of Trustees for 2013. Terms are served by calendar year, with each municipality and regional district party to the library district required to appoint a representative and alternate representative each year.
Coun. Shirley Ackland was returned as the alternate representative.
Chamber of Commerce president David Mitchell and Regional District of Mount Waddington director of economic development Neil Smith gave a joint presentation to council to recognize and explain their partnership in a new web portal expected to open as early as the end of the year.
The joint venture, which includes the Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce, will give Port McNeill’s chamber a presence on the new web portal, which will combine elements of economic development, workforce and job skills requirements, business and industry profiles and quality of life factors for potential newcomers to the North Island. The site is being constructed by Backbone Systems of Vancouver, using information gathered through the two-year, provincially funded Coordinated Workforce Initiative.