Port McNeill’s new mayor and council from left to right: Ann-Marie Baron, Michelle Carson, Mayor James Furney, Leighann Ruel, and Shelley Downey. (Derek Koel photo)

Port McNeill’s new mayor and council from left to right: Ann-Marie Baron, Michelle Carson, Mayor James Furney, Leighann Ruel, and Shelley Downey. (Derek Koel photo)

Port McNeill’s new mayor and council officially sworn in to office

All motions on the agenda were passed unanimously

Written by Derek Koel

Port McNeill’s inaugural, post-election council meeting had a packed house on hand for the Nov. 8 swearing in ceremony. The new, and returning, elected officials alike, all rattled off verses from the sacred initiation document – the Community Charter.

Some appointments to external committees were made, and photo-ops ensued, one of which included what looked to be a brand-new baby boy next to the mayor’s gavel.

With the pomp and ceremony done, the room cleared out to leave staff and just a few observers for the rest of the meeting. The room had settled down and somehow the meeting started, more or less, on time. To sum up the meeting, it was an informal affair, everyone got along fine, there was laughter, and humility.

With regards to meeting procedure and his performance as the meeting chair, newly elected Mayor James Furney jokingly quipped, “I can assure you I will be bad at this for quite some time.”

All motions on the agenda passed unanimously, which is not all that surprising, but one of those motions caught this reporter a bit off guard.

First off, council had to make a decision on the Old School, which was not a surprise, as they heard from Public Works Foreman Julian Allen that one of two oil fired boilers had a ‘catastrophic failure’ and was still down, not worth fixing. The senior’s room is cold and the heating is ‘hit and miss’ in the rest of the building. The proposed solution to purchase and install up to nine new heat pumps was whittled down to only two units, becoming an ‘Old School Band-Aid’ for now. Leveraging funds already received from the Government Climate Action Program fund seems to be the plan that council will be using to pay for it, and key to the plan is that the heat pumps could be reused elsewhere in the event the Old School is torn down, or otherwise.

What was surprising was the decision to seemingly reverse Port McNeill’s long-standing stance/policy to not fly special flags or officially declare ‘days’ via council motions for special interest groups.

Some discussion occurred on where the flag would fly, with incumbent councillors Shelley Downey and Ann-Marie Baron expressing concerns regarding policy, precedent, and resources, but in the end, it was a unanimous vote in favor, with staff left to decide where flags will fly.

The request came from the North Island Metis Association, as a way to help celebrate Louis Riel Day on Nov. 16. The Association is providing the flag. The town will be flying the Metis flag from Nov. 14-21.

Mowi Canada West was next on the agenda with a congratulatory letter to the new mayor and council, reaching out to meet to discuss the future of the aquaculture industry and initiatives they are working on to support local jobs and the economy. Council motioned staff to set up the meeting.

The meeting rounded off with the usual reports from the town’s various departments with credit to staff for improved reports and, of course, accolades for the fire department for their outstanding Halloween fireworks show and to the Visitor Experience department and all the volunteers who made the Haunted Museum so fun and scary.

While Port McNeill doesn’t have a Parks and Rec department per se, the terms of reference for the Parks and Recreation (public) committee got the rubber stamp, committee members have been chosen, and they have already hit the ground running.

Also, council approved up to $1500, per councilor, for a digital device of their choosing. Funding will come from the COVID-19 recovery funds that were provided by the B.C. government a few years back.

The public portion of the meeting ended in about an hour, and council went to go ‘in camera’ for the private portion of the evening right after.

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