It was a sparse crowd at the first council meeting of 2016. Council met on Jan. 11 for the regular council meeting and discussed several issues including a possible hotel tax and a borrowing bylaw.
Hotel tax nixed for now
The vote was close, but in the end council voted against supporting an initiative to add a two per cent tax to hotels and other accommodators. Voting for the motion were councillors Christine Thompson, Neil Krog and Colleen Ross. Voting against were Mayor Frank Konrad and councillors Chris Hammett and Julia Butler. A tie vote is defeated.
The proposal was brought forward by the Christina Gateway Community Development Association (CDA) representing several tourism accommodators and non-profit societies. They are hoping to get enough support to apply to the Ministry of Finance for approval of a two per cent municipal and regional district tax (MRDT) for the designated accommodation area that includes the majority of RDKB electoral areas C (Christina Lake), D (Rural Grand Forks) and E (West Boundary), and the municipalities within. Greenwood and Midway also voted to not support the hotel tax at this time.
The funds from the hotel tax would be intended to implement a marketing plan to help boost tourism in the region. Council asked staff to get more details and revisit the issue at a future council meeting.
“I think the concept in principle is good—to promote tourism in the Boundary region,” said Hammett at council. “The key is the Boundary region because we’re all tied together. Right now as it stands there are no participants west of Grand Forks…I want people to understand that if we vote on this it only includes Grand Forks and Christina Lake.”
Thompson – Councillor Thompson reported that she attended the Boundary Museum and Interpretive Centre’s volunteer appreciation afternoon on Dec. 15. She added that she had an opportunity to talk to several of their board members along with many others who volunteer.
She also attended the Phoenix Foundations monthly meeting on Dec. 16. “The board did a debriefing on the annual social held at the Christina Lake Community Hall in November,” she wrote. “The turn-out was quite disappointing and it was felt that perhaps the board should consider having this annual event at a different time and in Grand Forks at hopes of attracting more people to attend.”
Ross – Councillor Ross reported that she was saddened to hear of the passing of Roy Ronaghan. “Roy was an inspiration to me, and many people in our community,” she said. “I will miss his challenging and informative editorials in the local paper, as well as his kindness, dedication and encouragement to continue to press for social and environmental justice in all that we do.”
Ross also talked about movie This Changes Everything, which was played recently at the GEM. The film is about the impact of disaster capitalism, unchecked and profit-at-any-cost development and growth.
Council voted 5-1 (with Butler opposed) in favour of adopting Asset Management Financial Policy 808. The policy details principles and policies to guide staff and council.
“There is approximately $32 million in infrastructure that has passed its service life, known as ‘infrastructure backlog.’ An investment of $3.85 million is needed each year for asset renewal,” stated the background information. “Council has determined that they city will attain the funding target for infrastructure renewal using a balanced approach.”
Year in Review
City CAO Doug Allin gave a presentation to council regarding the highlights of 2015 for the city. Allin talked about many of the initiatives and projects the city undertook the past year including asset management, dealing with the wildfires, economics, purchasing the new ladder truck for the fire department, community livability and community engagement.
Borrowing bylaw approved
Council approved the final reading of the revenue anticipation borrowing bylaw (bylaw 2019) unanimously at the Jan. 11 regular council meeting. The bylaw will allow the city to borrow money to cover obligations during the period of Jan. 1 and the property tax payment due date of the first working day after July 1.
The background information stated, “Although the city has enough cash on hand to cover its obligations for a considerable length of time, the adoption of an annual revenue anticipation bylaw is a requirement of the city’s banking contract with the Grand Forks and District Credit Union as it covers the city’s overdraft.”
Water regulations bylaw passes
By a vote of 5-1 (with Butler opposed) council passed final reading of the water regulations bylaw No. 1973-A1. The new bylaw will allow for an extension for the deadline for water meter installations to July 31, 2016. It also cleans up some language/billing concerns.
The background information states that city staff are currently working on completing the universal water metering project with both pit meter and inside meter installations.