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REPORTING · 23rd February 2010
Walter McFarlane
The Kitimat City Council met for their bi-monthly Regular Meeting Council on February 22nd. The following is an abridged account of the meeting and the topics presented within. Mayor Joanne Monaghan called the meeting to order at 7:30 pm. Not present was Councillor Gerd Gottschling

Mayor Joanne Monaghan called the Council to the podium for a presentation.  Rio Tinto Alcan presented a plaque for the greenbelt lands to the District of Kitimat.

Immediately following, Margaret Sanou stepped up to the podium.  She would like to launch a campaign to advertise Kitimat as a great place to retire.  She stated she was happy to retire here as it is a great place to retire.  She added Kitimat is a good place for people who like to boat and fish.  

She is worried people will be leaving Kitimat with Eurocan’s closure.  She added this was a good plan because seniors were selling houses in high priced communities and buying in lower priced communities.  She concluded with, among other things, low priced housing and salt water fishing would attract retirees.  She added she would like to diversify Kitimat's economy and does not want it to be entirely a retirement community.

“We can be it all, an industrial town, a port, a tourist destination and a popular retirement location,” said Sanou.  She asked Council to support her idea and explained the work would be done by volunteers.  Sanou handed Council a letter requesting money for the budget.  Council thanked her for making the presentation.  

Dr. Van Wyk was not present so Denise O’Neil took the stand to speak about Victim Services.  She explained the problems of working in Victim Services which works with about 200 people within the community.  She explained the budget changes was in the Council Package.  Reducing funding would only affect the wages of the assistant coordinator and benefits.

Staff Sergeant Steve Corp from the Kitimat RCMP stepped up next to present the budget for the RCMP. He ran the operating budget by the Council before talking about the supplementary expenses.  One request was for hard body armour and a cell retrofit.  The hard body armour is capable of stopping a rifle round.  The unit is mandatory but can be deferred to 2011.  The cell retrofit was part of last year's budget and has to be completed by November of 2011.  Monaghan wanted to know if they use all five cells at once.  Corp explained they have a bulk cell and 4 cells which are used to segregate prisoners  Council asked questions about ways to reduce the budget.

Louise Avery took the stand to speak about the museum.  She explained what the museum was and who uses their services.  Avery moved on to upcoming events and significant donations to the collection for 2009.  She offered several cutting scenarios.  Cutting the budget would have several effects on museum hours and services.  In addition, they are receiving cuts when the BC Arts Council loses 92% of it’s over all funding.  The museum had one capital request, the preparatory room needs renovations.  The room has not been changed since 1969.

Avery stepped up a second time to speak about Kitimat Arts for Youth.  Again, she explained what the program was about.  This year, Kitimat Arts for Youth requested $3,000 for their budget.  Feldhoff expressed he was impressed by the other funders of the project.

Mount Elizebeth Theatre Manager, Brenda Feldhoff stood up next to speak about budget for the theatre.  Her first big announcement was that Technical Director, John Roe, has left the theatre, and today was his first day in Grand Prairie.  She spoke highly about the work he has done in the past.  To make matters worse, the light board blew.  They have asked Council for funding at the similar levels because they have already cut too much in the past.  She asked Council to consider contributing to cover the cost of the light board.

Kitimat Understanding the Environment was not present nor was the Library.  Robert Rypma of the Kitimat Flying Club took the stand.  He requested an operating fund of $5496.  Monaghan was pleased to confirm the Kitimat Air Field could support Medevac.

KUTE reached the stand.  Barb Hall expressed sympathies to those affected by the mill closure.  She did not have alternatives due to time constraints.  She gave a brief overview of the other alternative.  Councillor Feldhoff asked about how things have changed since last year.  The market for many recycled items has improved.  Hall also suggested ways to save the district money by reducing their fleet and by reducing idling as well.

Virgina Chiron from the Kitimat Public Library stood up next.  She recapped the services the library provided, all of which are offered to all members of the public.  She followed by talking about reduction by 20%, 10% and 5% to grants.  With the 20% decrease, they would reduce hours to being open 29 hours per week, and only 4 days a week.  They would lose staff members.  Clubs and programs would cease and there would be a potential for long line ups because the staff would have decreased.

With a 10% decrease, they could lay off one person and reduce programming.  They could also close Sundays and reduce one of the students hours.  The final option would be deplete their surplus.  If they had a 5% decrease, they could simply close on Sundays.  She then went over the balance sheet.  Chiron explained the typical response to library cuts was to close a day when times are tough.

Bob Mcleod from the BC Emergency Plan took the stand next.  He talked about expenses and pointed out there will be a lack of grant money in 2010.  He has only been able to find $300 of grant money.  He pointed out lottery grants are not available to cover training.  

The Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club had not arrived yet so Yvonne Lee was called up to represent the Looking for Love Animal Shelter.  She wished to present an update of the renovations.  They have finished the dry walling and are painting.  

They still have to work on the heating, lower the ceiling, install the kennel gates, lighting fixtures, cupboards, interior dog doors and windows, finishing furniture, public washroom and finish the painting and flooring.  Exterior, they have to install the outer covered kennel areas, install chain link enclosures for the cats, replace the front steps, add handicapp access, dig a well and landscape.  The total project cost is $1,252,465.  They estimate it will take $207,190 to finish although they still have some funds remaining.

The District of Kitimat has donated 580k, they have funds remaining so they have a $139,694 shortfall.  They now have charitable status so they can apply for various grants but they have not received any grants at this time.  They asked the district to fund the remaining money for the project although they realized funding would be tight.  

Halyk stated he was concerned they were spending so much money on a building to control animals.  Hall asked when the building would be complete and what costs for hydro would be.  She replied it would about the same as the current building and hopefully, they would be able to turn it over in the summer.

Art Emerson from the Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club had arrived and wished to continue their partnership with the District of Kitimat.  He talked about the facilities and who uses them.  He explained they are expecting difficulties for 2010.  They do not plan on changing their rates for 2010 and they requested the same amount as in previous years.  Councillor Feldhoff wanted to know how they were doing with the loan Council had paid a portion of last year.  They were able to reduce their loan payments although they finished their fiscal year in the red.  This year they wish to maintain their programs and hope to finish 2010 with a balanced budget.

After approving the minutes,  Council went into bylaws.  The first bylaw was the introduction to the flat tax.  This flat tax means the taxpayer pays for services without tying the tax to the value of their house. It covers all municipal services and is offset by the homeowners' grant.  The motion for three readings was carried.  

Then came a bylaw amendment to change the Council Meeting date to 1st and 3rd Monday of every month. This is based on a request made by Citywest.  It was carried and considered read three times.

For Council Remunerations, Council decided to go with their policy.  This year, they receive a reduction because the Canadian Price Index was down. They agreed this reduction was a good thing and it was carried. Halyk suggested Administration reduce their income as well.  A Snow Valley Skating Club travel grant was also approved.

The next report suggested Council to change the leisure access program to make recreation more accessible to people who had economic difficulties. This would make programs more accessible to people who were unable to access them before. The recommendations were moved and carried.

Under communications, Feldhoff moved to decline participating in the Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.  He wanted to save some money.  The Council discussed trying to support the bronze this year.  The motion was tabled.

A communication from BC Ferries concerning requesting support for bi weekly Tsawwassn to Port Hardy service in 2011 was received for information.  Feldhoff was uncertain where he stood at this time.  There was some debate over what this letter would mean.  There were concens this would detract from Rupert. Halyk wanted to try to write them to stop in Kitimat. Hall stated there would be no decrease in sailings. The motion was carried.

Under New Business, McLaren wanted to talk about a motion made asking the BC government take over Haisla Boulevard, especially since there is a lot of talk about the West Side road.  Hall stated this needs to get higher on the Council priority list.  The Eurocan study and the Budget were the two immediate concerns.  He said this would require an entire project.  McLaren was not certain if this had been adopted.  Hall also did not want it put off too long.

Halyk wanted to make a motion to have someone from Kitimat attend the seminar on shipping in Prince Rupert.  It was a notice of motion.  Rob Goffinet wanted to know if the important meeting on Wednesday night was coming out of the committee.  Hall explained it is coming out of the group and the union wants to prepare their members to the buy in.  The public is invited.

That was it for the meeting and the Council adjourned without going In Camera.