PORT ALICE—Councillors voted last week to back a fundraising initiative to support those affected by the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster — even agreeing to add their own personal contributions to the total.
The initiative was the brainchild of Port McNeill Mayor Gerry Furney, who made headlines last month when the town council approved a donation of a dollar for each citizen of Port McNeill in a gesture of solidarity to those affected by the catastrophe. Furney also urged other municipalities to “join us in this tangible and practical way.”
The Village of Alert Bay followed Port McNeill’s lead soon after, but with Port Alice Council, like other councils on the North Island, operating a reduced summer schedule, this was the first opportunity councillors had to formally discuss the suggestion.
The council unanimously voted to back the motion. With around 800 resident in the Village, councillors and mayor agreed to up the donation to $1,000, personal donations from their own pockets making up the difference.
“When we stepped up to the plate we didn’t want to do $800,” explained Mayor Jan Allen, ” we wanted to top it up but not at the expense of the taxpayer. I’m very proud of the council.”
School Board Trustees
The Village continued its resistance to proposed changes to the makeup of School District 85’s Board of Education.
After a lengthy consultation process and a series of meeting to discuss the issue of representation, the SD85 Trustees voted in May to change electoral boundaries. The move would see Port Alice lose its guaranteed seat at the table.
Instead, future Village representatives would vie for one of two open seats in a southern zone which includes Alert Bay, Sointula and Woss. Port McNeill would have two guaranteed seats under the new system.
Although approved by the majority of the Board of Education, the changes are still subject to approval by the Ministry of Education.
The mayor penned a letter to the Hon. Peter Fassbender, Minister of Education, voicing the concerns of the Village and urging a rejection of the proposed changes.
“The new proposal concentrates five of the seven seats in Port Hardy and Port McNeill and effectively disenfranchises Port Alice by lumping our voters in with variety of other communities with whom we do not share even geographic commonalities,” she said in the letter.
Also included in the agenda were letters from Neucel and Margaret Flostrand voicing opposition to the changes.
Councillors also saw a response from the Ministry which cites the guidelines for making changes to trustee electoral areas and stating that, “Prior to any decision being made regarding the Board’s request, careful consideration will be given to the supporting material it has provided. Please be assured that the opinions of stakeholders and the views of members of the public will be taken into account.”
“That’s as much as we can do,” said the mayor. “It’s now in their court. We’ve gone to the limit of what we can do.”
“We’ll accept whatever is decided and move forward,” she continued.
After receiving a qualified opinion on its audit for the first time, the Village has penned a letter to the other shareholders in and board of the North Island Community Forest requesting financial information.
“We’re all very pleased with Community Forest,” said Mayor Allen, “but we don’t like the report we got from the auditors.”
In essence, the qualified opinion means that the auditors did not have enough information from NICF to give the Village a clean bill of health.
“We have never had a qualified opinion,” said the mayor. “We’ve been around since I think ’65 and this has never happened.”
The Village, along with Port Hardy and Port McNeill, is a shareholder in the project and is seeking a set of financial information from the board to ensure the qualified opinion is not repeated next year.
“Although our financial management is otherwise above reproach,” read the mayor’s letter, “our financial status has nevertheless been compromised. We intend to see this resolved by the next annual audit cycle.”