McNeill approves dock request

News from the Port McNeill council meeting that took place last week.

PORT McNEILL—A contractor facilitating a test fishery for Fisheries and Oceans Canada will be allowed to store equipment on a trial basis on the town’s year-old concrete dock, following a spirited debate during Port McNeill’s most recent Town Council meeting.

Roger Paquette, owner of Nanaimo-based Hub City Fisheries, wrote council to request the use of a portion of the small-craft harbour’s drive-on dock to store equipment used to offload the catch in the DFO test fishery.

Councillors Gaby Wickstrom and Shirley Ackland voiced their reservations, about the precedent it could set for other dock users, and about the storage area requested — a 12-foot strip spanning the entire 50-foot width at the seaward end of the dock.

“It would be in the way of anyone loading or unloading in that area,” Mayor Gerry Furney acknowledged.

But Coun. Chris Sharpe argued against turning away people who want to bring business to the Town, and said the dock was installed in part as a way to generate income.

“If it’s just an inconvenience for us, that’s not an argument,” he said.

But while the dock does generate revenue through moorage and loading, there is no provision for storage fees in the Town’s Harbour Fee Setting Bylaw — passed by Council just two weeks earlier.

In 2013, Hub City had the same contract and paid $432 for barge storage in addition to a $250 seasonal dock-use fee.

“DFO asked for one thing; Hub City is now asking for more,” treasurer Dan Rodin noted. “Hub City signed a contract on the basis they would have the same arrangement (as last year). Now, they’re asking for something that’s easier on them.”

But Sharpe, Council’s representative on the Harbour Committee, was unswayed. Acknowledging council still needed questions answered — what is the nature of the equipment? Would a different spot on the dock be suitable? — he offered to liaise with other committee members, Administrator Sue Harvey and Hub City to explore the possibility of the arrangement.

After those discussions were held, Council approved the storage use on a two-week, trial basis, with a fee to be negotiated.

The original request was for a two-week period in late July-early August, with a second test fishery to commence in mid-September.


VIHA changes under way

Alison Mitchell, Island Health’s senior manager for rural health for Mount Waddington, appeared to update council on the progress of the North Island’s integrated care clinics and to share changes planned for the region in the short- and medium-term.

Construction is under way on the new integrated clinic near Port Hardy Hospital, while renovations are in progress to Port McNeill Medical Clinic while staff operates temporarily from Port McNeill Hospital.

“Port McNeill has embraced the model,” said Mitchell, “and Port Hardy will work the same way.”

Mitchell also said the makeup of the Local Working Group, whose recommendations played a major role in pressing for the new clinics, will change in the coming months as the result of a new BCMA rural division of family practice formed by Mount Waddington’s physicians.

“Our local working group will actually be transforming into the chapter of the Mount Waddington division of rural family practice,” she said. “The structure will change slightly … I think we’re kind of at kind of crossroads of trying to regroup and see where we’re going.”

Mitchell also discussed the possibility of physicians transitioning to a salary pay model from fee-for-service; the ongoing issue of recruitment and retention of physicians; establishing a “single point of entry” referral phone line staffed by an actual person who can direct clients to the service they need; and the move in 2015 to integrated, computerized medical records throughout VIHA.


UBCM bid off

Coun. Wickstrom, who asked council’s blessing for a her bid for a spot on the Union of B.C. Municipalities Board of directors for Small Communities at the July 7 meeting, informed council she would be withdrawing that bid.

“In the meantime, I’ve been accepted into a Master’s program at Royal Roads University,” said Wickstrom, who also cited her position on the Vancouver Island Regional Library committee, and the coming municipal election in the fall as taking up her time and attention.

“I thank everybody for supporting the nomination, but I’m going to defer,” she said.


Hotel tax renewed

Council unanimously approved the renewal of the two per cent room tax to benefit Vancouver Island North Tourism.

Wickstrom said she visited and surveyed local operators with Joli White of VINT and they received “unanimous support.”

“I believe that shows faith in what Vancouver Island North Tourism is doing and what our little fledgling tourism group is doing here, and the hoteliers have supported by signing on.”

That tax applies to all hotel, motel and bed-and-breakfast operations with four or more rooms.


Flag protocol

Council unanimously approved adopting the provincial protocol for displaying of the Canadian and British Columbia flags, following separate requests from councillors Grant Anderson and Wickstrom for clarification and guidance.

Administrator Harvey researched the provincial protocol and submitted it to council for review before the vote.

“I’m in favour of this,” said Anderson, who is also president of the local Canadian Legion branch. “This is good, and it gives us a protocol that the rest of the villages and everybody is following.”


Firefighters added

Council approved the addition of two new members to the Port McNeill Volunteer Fire Department, at the request of Fire Chief Chris Walker.

Tyler Hamilton and Gryphon Moore were both approved for posts with the department.