The Town of Port McNeill’s municipal hall. (Derek Koel photo)

The Town of Port McNeill’s municipal hall. (Derek Koel photo)

Municipal politics: Port McNeill council meets for the first time in the new year

The town of Port McNeill had an agenda full of items to discuss, here are the highlights

Written by Derek Koel

Politi-Koel, local politics

Port McNeill council met for the first time in the new year on Jan. 11 with an agenda full of items to discuss, here are the highlights.

The standard minutes and departments reports were received and filed without much fanfare or comment, and there were no specific reports from any council members or the mayor.

The town’s cheque listing usually comes up once a month, listing all the cheques that the town writes, which is a good snapshot of how a municipality spends its money and where it goes.

The town has made a change to their cheque listing now, omitting the invoice description. You can still see who is getting the money – the company or person’s name – but not what the money is for, unless you enquire.

This reporter enquired on some of the items, and found out that $25,480 was spent locally for snow removal equipment, Councillor Shelley Downey was reimbursed $1,728.67 for her attendance at the 2022 UBCM conference in Whistler, Councillor Ann-Marie Baron spent $1,169.54 on a council device, and $1,158.15 went to a local restaurant – food for the fire department and municipal election staff.

The RCMP submitted a report for October, November, and December. For Port McNeill, property crime numbers were low compared to the 25 well-being checks, 21 mental health calls, 10 missing persons files, nine assaults and nine impaired driving investigations. The Port McNeill RCMP also covers Zeballos, Ehattesht & Oclucye, Woss, Sointula and Kyuquot, incidents are less frequent in those communities, but overall notes, including Port McNeill, show the RCMP had no drug files or commercial break and enters reported, and they had a total of 57 prisoners.

The Broughton Straight Campground operator reported revenue for last year was up by almost 75 per cent. Concerns about the lack of laundry facilities and Wi-Fi were addressed. The biggest complaint has been the condition of the road followed by complaints about an extremely loud and bothersome Orcafest baseball team, who won’t be welcomed back.

Staff presented the brand-new Public Notice Bylaw (No.716) to council. The report explained Section 94.2 of the Community Charter authorizes council to adopt a bylaw providing for alternative means of publishing a notice. The bylaw is required to specify at least two means of publication by which a notice is to be published. The report suggested that the traditional newspaper ads be forgone for exclusive notifications via the town’s website and Facebook page. The report stated utilizing web-based posting of public notices will reduce advertising expenses.

Council ended up having a healthy discussion on the subject with some good suggestions, but right out of the gate they expressed their displeasure to the idea.

“Facebook cannot be the go to for advertising,” said Downey.

“I’m uncomfortable with it only being electronic,” added Baron.

Councillor Leanne Ruel expressed worry that it could “exclude certain demographics.”

Mayor James Furney exclaimed he’s “very uncomfortable with Facebook.”

With that, Bylaw 716 went back to the drawing board, seemingly in favor of some sort of hybrid social media/website/print model that staff will sort out and report back on.

As reported on last month, the North Island Crisis and Counselling Center Society applied for $20,000 of the town’s COVID-19 restart funds, to help renovate a (still) undisclosed location in downtown Port McNeill. It was made public this meeting that they got the money. The town included a clause that states if the lease is terminated before five years, they have to pay back the $20k grant, on a prorated basis, but interest free.

The meeting concluded with the usual questions from the public and media segment. Three members of the public were present, with one person specifically asking, “what is the plan to fix the hatchet job,” referring to the recent mechanized trimming of road side vegetation around town.

Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Johnson replied the town has “somebody coming in to assess the trees and see what can be done to improve the visual on it, we are moving forward on that.”

Council concluded the meeting then went behind closed doors to discuss “the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvement…”

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City Councilmunicipal politics