PORT McNEILL—Almost a year after launching to great fanfare a $50,000 consulting process for the development of a community economic plan, the Town’s councillors were somewhat more quiet in their first meeting with the completed document in their possession.
The 48-page Port McNeill 2020: Our Economic Development Plan was completed by the Zethof Consulting Group and delivered to council this month. With the 48-page plan on the agenda of its Jan. 19 meeting, though, council voted to table discussion or action on its objectives and recommendations until members had a chance to review the information further.
All four councillors — Jay Dixon, Shelley Downey, Aaron Frost and Graham MacDonald — were elected in November, after the consultation process was completed. None was in office when the process was undertaken early in 2014.
“I’d like to make a motion we have a special meeting or meeting of the committee of the whole to go through this,” Coun. Downey said. “There’s a lot here and I don’t know if we have time to go through it all in a public meeting.”
Council agreed, but that the wrong chord with several members of a sizable gallery, who spoke up during the public comment period at the end of the meeting.
“Which is it, a committee of the whole, or a special meeting?” former councillor Gaby Wickstrom asked. “Is this going to be a public meeting?”
David Mitchell of Community Futures Mount Waddington noted the multiple public events held to promote the development of the plan and gather input throughout 2014.
“I think there should be another meeting to discuss this info, like the meetings you had when you asked the public for their input,” Mitchell said. “I think the public would like full-circle closure on this.”
Council agreed its work with the economic plan would be made public, and that the document would be available for viewing through the Town of Port McNeill website.
“I think that’s a great idea for a public meeting to share the goals and objectives of the plan,” Mayor Shirley Ackland said.
Port McNeill 2020 identifies three primary goals — a diversified and strong economy, an attractive and sought-after community, and engaged youth — and lists a series of objectives to achieve those goals. Recommended strategies and actions cover short-, medium- and long-term time frames. The plan also notes the limitations faced, including a small population base and major industry stakeholders located outside the Town’s boundaries.
While no extended discussion was held during last week’s meeting, Coun. Dixon noted with approval the Town seemed already to be involved in some of the plan’s short-term actions.
Coun. MacDonald’s initial review of the economic plan was also favourable, particularly the action items.
“We paid for this, right?” MacDonald asked. “This is a good stepping-stone. We need to move on this.”
The $50,000 economic plan was funded jointly by the Town of Port McNeill and Island Coastal Economic Trust.