January was a busy month for council with 2 regular council meetings plus a Council of the Whole to start the budget process. All in all, the meetings were interesting with a lot of discussion on water and the budget. I believe the agenda for every council meeting should always have an item marked Water Review. Somehow I have this gut feeling, council will be discussing, reviewing and arguing about water until the day I move into long term care! Which might a good thing, as I certainly do not want to attend a straightforward council meeting.
In my December column I mentioned the difficulty in hearing some of the councillors during the council meeting. I think they may have read my column as I noticed that the majority of the councillors have spoken up so I could hear them quite clearly. Thank you!
January 11th Council Meeting
This council meeting started with a motion to receive correspondence from the Minister of Forestry and I have excerpted a few words from his letter.
“…During the meeting, I explained the challenges of looking to an alternate use of the area. This would mean finding replacement lands for the licensee and Crown land is very constrained on south east Vancouver Island. You were also interested in discussing designation of this area as a park, and I noted that 17 percent of the province is already included in parks and protected areas, and there is a large list of other areas around the province proposed for the creation of new protected areas…
… I am not able to consider the cancellation of the requirements to remove timber in the event that the woodlot licence was acquired by community interests. The purpose of the woodlot is to manage and harvest timber as well as manage for other values. If Woodlot Licence W1475 was purchased by the community, the community could request an amendment to the management plan to reduce the AAC to reflect a greater emphasis on the management of other values…
… I do not have grounds to cancel the requirement to cut timber under the current woodlot holder who is currently complying with all applicable legislation and regulations, nor do I have the ability to cancel the requirement to cut timber at the time the woodlot is up for replacement. Under the Forest Act, woodlots are 20 year licences that must be replaceable every 10 years, unless the holder is not complying with the law. The AAC of the woodlot may be revisited at the time of replacement if an amendment is needed to reflect changes in forest management practices and/or the land base…
…I encourage the District of Lantzville to support the woodlot and the important work of the Lantzville Woodlot Advisory Group (LWAG), a group established solely to provide valuable community input and participation in the management of this award winning woodlot…”
From reading the correspondence, I would surmise that the Provincial Government will not undertake to make any changes to the Woodlot at this time though if the DOL should decide to purchase the Woodlot then changes may be made. I wonder if the purchase will turn up as an agenda item in the future.
The Chief Administrative Officer and the Fire Department presented their quarterly reports and I would encourage you to read these reports as they contained information that would make for good conversation while visiting with your neighbours.
Agenda item ‘Unfinished Business’ was concerned with the replacement of Well #6 and redevelopment of other wells during which the councillors discussed the costs associated with the replacement/redevelopment. It appeared that some costs were ‘apples’ and other were ‘oranges’. Hopefully, a fruit salad will be the end result. During the discussion, Councillor Haime argued for the creation of a Water Task Force. The creation of the Water Task Force (3 residents, 3 councillors, the Director of Public Works) was approved by a vote of 4 to 3. Staff was tasked with creating the terms of reference and to bring forward in early February. I can’t say I agree with the creation of such a task force as, in my opinion, it will only delay council in making a decision on either connecting with Nanaimo or redeveloping our current wells or drilling additional wells (at least we have choices to make).
An addition to the agenda had been requested by Councillor Colcough who asked that the water connection standard be reviewed. In his opinion, the standard is too high. Councillor Haime expressed her frustrations at the late addition of this motion. She could not support the motion, one reason being her concern that staff might recommend a standard that was too low and then Lantzville would run out of water sooner than later (my words). The Mayor expressed his worries about residents perception of the review. The motion carried but not unanimously.
Appointment of Robert Chatton as Fire Chief was the first item of New Business. I was dismayed, once more, to see councillors vote against the motion. This motion (as was the motion for the appointment of Director of Finance) is a statutory requirement as the Fire Chief is an officer of the DOL. This motion was not to determine if Robert was being hired. He was already hired! I cannot fathom the purpose of voting against his appointment and the additional request to have the votes recorded. Do Councillors Haime and Coulson believe that this appointment will backfire on council? I can understand Councillor Coulson is concerned with the DOL staff salaries which he believes are too high but is this the right venue to be expressing his concern?
Next on the agenda was a request from staff for the approval to purchase a payroll software program which was defeated for reasons beyond my understanding. As our Prime Minister so kindly told us – it is 2015! I was in shock to think that a government agency is preparing payroll manually. It shouldn’t matter whether you have 5 employees or 500 employees, a computer program is the only way to ensure accuracy. I was surprised at Councillor Haime’s reaction to the cost of the program. The efficiency of a computer program cannot be denied. The $10,000 is not a per year cost but would be amortized at least over a 5-year period.
Next New Business was the endorsement of the 2016 – 2018 DOL Strategic Priorities Chart. When I read the chart I thought I had gone back in time. The priorities of council never change but the real question is – has there been any progress on these priorities? Only history can help with this question.
Following the January 11 regular council meeting, an in-camera council meeting was convened during which council moved to appoint Liette Masse and Julia Ohly to the Parks and Recreation Commission for a term beginning January 1, 2015 and expiring December 31, 2018.
If you were not aware, there is another vacancy on the Commission as John English, a long time serving member, has decided to step down. The deadline for your application to serve on the Commission is February 12, 2016. The DOL website has more details on how to make your application.
January 18th Committee of the Whole Meeting
This was my first attendance at a COW which purpose was to start discussions for the 2016-2020 Five Year Financial Plan. I was impressed with the way both councillors and staff interacted. Everyone was polite and listened with intent to the presentations. The presentation and material can be found on the DOL website and I would encourage you to take a few moments to review. With 4 councillors new to budget discussions, staff made their points in a clear and concise manner so that not only did the councillors understand the process, so did I! Thank you to all involved.
There was definitely too much information presented at the COW for me to cover in this column therefore I suggest you review the Youtube recording as you would definitely get more information from it than from me. There was one comment I would like to highlight here. The Director of Public Works was addressing some of the infrastructure that his department was required to look after when he said that the department “was always running out of time” to get all the works completed. My ears perked up – should the CAO and council be recommending additional staff for this department?
January 25th Council Meeting
This council meeting started with an interesting discussion concerning the recording of meeting minutes and how much detail should be included. Councillor Haime raised the question as she thought that the Public Participation section of the minutes did not have enough detail. My thoughts – why are you asking this question at this time?
On the agenda was the reconsideration of a motion made during the January 11th council meeting concerning the replacement of well #6. The Mayor brought forward the motion from the previous council meeting with an amendment. The Mayor explained his reasons why council should reconsider the motion and the discussion by councillors appeared to me to be well researched. I was pleased that the motion passed and that the staff has authority to proceed with the replacement of well #6 and redevelopment of Well #4, Well #9 and Well #12. Maybe the community will finally have enough water so that a limited amount of development can go forward.
The next agenda item, a request for a development permit made by Lone Tree Properties, appeared to be straight forward but a couple of councillors couldn’t quite grasp the bigger picture. Usually I am not lost for words but on this motion, I would suggest, once more, that you view the Youtube recording and maybe you can understand why Councillors Haime and Coulson had an issue with the application as I certainly could not.
Public Participation included several different persons who offered opinions on the various agenda items. Always a pleasure to listen to residents.
During January, the Nanaimo Bulletin carried 7 articles concerning Lantzville news: 2 articles on the Fire Rescue (new fire chief, Ken Spence 50 years), 1 article on the Snaw-Naw-As, 2 articles on water (Nanaimo agreement, water task force), 1 article on Woodlot 1475. I hope that the Bulletin will continue to cover Lantzville news since we do not have our own printed newspaper but on the bright side, we do have several websites that cover Lantzville. If you are the administrator of such a website or Facebook, please send me your address/link and I will publish in my next column.
Did you know ….. Canada consumes more macaroni and cheese than any other nation in the world. I wonder if Kraft has something to do this remarkable bit of trivia.