Written by Bill McQuarrie
At their first meeting of the new year held on Jan. 12, Port McNeill council voted unanimously to approve a 2.3% increase in the 2021 utility fees.
Those fees cover the three major services the town provides; water, solid waste and sewage.
Annual increases are determined through a formula established in 2018, when the previous council passed three bylaws allowing for annual increases based on, “…the net change in the consumer price index (CPI) of the previous year plus one.”
For residential property owners, that 2.3 per cent increase will add an additional $14.40 to their annual utility bill.
Water rates for multi unit residences, B&B’s, hotels/motels etc are calculated with the same 2.3 per cent increase but are based on a multiple of the number of building rental/living units.
A 5 per cent discount is available for those paying their utility bill prior to the end of February and seniors are eligible for an additional 25 per cent discount that is not limited by the February deadline.
With a $37,000 surplus in the water utility account, council felt it was time to review all three 2018 Utilities Bylaws and passed a motion to complete a review prior to the 2022 budgeting process.
The town’s Chief Financial Officer, Claudia Frost, believes the increase in fees will be sufficient to cover the budgeted operating expenses for the year 2021.
In other council news, Kevin Brooks from the consulting firm McElhanney, reported on their progress in compiling information for the Official Community Plan (OCP).
He confirmed the community survey had been released that day (Jan. 12) and is now available online at https://tinyurl.com/y4d5ccxm.
Mayor Gaby Wickstrom explained and confirmed through social media that hard copies of the survey will be mailed out to residents and can also be picked up at the town office.
Brooks went on to explain that an updated vision statement will be available for council review within days along with work completed on their zoning bylaw update.
Work on the Active Transportation Plan continues and Brooks noted that he’d be able to provide council with a summary of their progress along with a project priority list once Chief Administrative Officer, Pete Nelson-Smith, has completed his review of the draft information.
Council received a request from Kamloops City Council asking for Port McNeill to assist them and other municipalities in their efforts to find ways to reduce the significant harm being caused by the opioid overdose crisis.
In particular, they asked Port McNeill council to request, through a motion similar to other municipalities, that the Canadian government declare the overdose crisis a national public health emergency.
In place of a motion requesting the federal government acknowledge and provide action on the overdose crisis, council instead voted 4 – 1 to send a letter of support to the City of Kamloops.
Coun. Derek Koel opposed the motion and after the meeting explained his opposition stating: “I agree with what Kamloops is saying, and I wish senior governments would do more on the file.” Adding, “I felt if we were going to show support then we would do a proper motion/resolution like Kamloops did. A letter of support seems like a waste of time and I feel would be ineffective.”
Koel went on to explain: “I feel council’s focus and limited staff resources are better spent on more local issues, not lobbying senior governments.”
Regarding ‘local issues’, Koel pointed to economic diversification as an example, suggesting council needs to do more in that area.
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