UPDATED: Grand Forks city council to discuss infrastructure, deer and Highway 3 with province at UBCM 2013

Grand Forks hopes to convince provincial ministry officials that increased co-operation between levels of government is essential.

Grand Forks city council will talk infrastructure

Grand Forks city council will talk infrastructure

Editor’s note: Corrects information about 2013 UBCM convention, which is in Vancouver, not Victoria.

Representatives of Grand Forks hope to convince provincial ministry officials that  increased co-operation between levels of government is essential.

That is the theme that runs through the submissions the city will make to three separate ministries at the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Convention in Vancouver in September.

At a special meeting of council on July 8, the decision was made to address the issues of infrastructure funding, urban deer population and co-ordination of planning with communities along Highway 3.

The first priority for the city will be to discuss cost sharing with the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes.

According to Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor, changes in funding policies on the part of the provincial and federal governments have created a funding deficit that municipalities cannot deal with. Infrastructure spending had been shared for the last number of years equally between the three levels of government. That is no longer the case.

“On the infrastructure issue, we met two years ago with two other communities,” Taylor said. “Cranbrook and Lake Country were at the same level we were at. Working with our consultants, they had realized the problem, gone out and analyzed the infrastructure deficit, come up with a plan – in terms of what you would attack first in an attempt to bring infrastructure levels up – and then worked out a financial plan. In our financial plan, we got permission to borrow money.”

Unfortunately, with a change in the funding formula, the planned infrastructure improvements were no longer affordable for Grand Forks or other municipalities.

The second item the city will bring up with Steve Thomson, minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, is the urban deer problem. As in other communities, the presence of deer inside the city’s boundaries has created an untenable situation for local government.

Taylor said that they are faced with two opposing factions, each equally committed to their point of view. On the one hand many residents find the deer a problem, damaging gardens and ornamental trees and creating a health hazard with their waste.

On the other hand many residents feel obligated to feed the deer to maintain the health of animals they fear are undernourished.

“In other communities, like Invermere, court cases have stymied attempts to cull the deer,” Taylor said, leading to huge legal expenditures by local government. He added that Grand Forks would like to explore a variety of ways to reduce the problem, consulting with the community to look at options.

“We see education as important,” Taylor said, “As well as signage, planning highway crossing points to control the number of deer related accidents, pruning or removing unprotected fruit trees and encouraging the deer to move out of the city by providing attractive habitat for them beyond city limits.”

Coun. Gary Smith agreed that the topic deserves to be given serious attention by the ministry.

“This downloading of responsibility onto the municipalities is untenable,” Smith said. “It is their responsibility and they’re not taking charge and if there isn’t some responsibility on the provincial government to empower municipalities to deal with urban animals, wildlife period, then we’re going to be facing the same situation Invermere is, with groups that are pro deer or pro cull.”

Todd Stone, the minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, will also be meeting with the city’s representatives to discuss greater inclusion of the Boundary and Kootenay cities along Highway 3 in the planning of improvements to the highway.

“So far, most of the work has been concentrated either around Princeton or at the Alberta border,” Taylor said.

Council felt that the provincial government had an obligation to include municipalities in highway planning because of the huge impact highway improvements can have on individual communities.