Review of the fire department, BIM declares climate change emergency and other Muni Morsels

Also, tourism is up and the borrowing of $2.5 million for the Cove Bay Water Treatment Plant is a go

Monday marked council’s first meeting with interim chief administrative officer Dennis Back and was among the last for outgoing corporate officer Hope Dallas who is leaving her position in December. The following are briefs from the Oct. 28 regular council meeting

Core review: BIM is hiring public safety consultant Dave Mitchell and Associates to conduct a core services review of the fire department.

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Mayor and council said that a core services review has been in the works for some time. Back in September, council resolved that this review is to include: assessing department capabilities; confirming the level of service; determining equipment and training requirements; evaluating fulfillment of provincial training regulations; assessing compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act; reviewing current compensation methods, the B.C. Fire Commissioner’s checklists and the Fire Underwriter Survey recommendations.

Mayor Gary Ander said that this is a completely separate process to the mediation between BIM and the firefighters over the dispute with the fire chief.

A member of the fire department was at the meeting, asking what the demand on firefighters’ time would be.

Back spoke to the UndercurrentTuesday and said that he clarified with Mitchell that the consultant will be meeting with volunteers, though how or when is yet to be determined.

Back said there had been some discussion as to whether to delay the core review or not due to the ongoing mediation.

“It was agreed that...they’re so independent of each other. Let’s go ahead because it’s a good thing to do,” he said.

“We do it now, we do it later…it doesn’t matter,” said Ander to the Undercurrent.

“It’s due diligence by the municipality,” said Ander. “We do it through all the departments.”

The winds of change, or was that last week’s storm: Council declared a climate emergency and committed to developing a climate change strategy. The motion passed without much discussion as it was the subject of much discussion at a committee of the whole meeting Oct. 15.

Trick o’ treat(ment): The Cove Bay Water Treatment Plant alternative approval process passed with only seven responses against BIM borrowing $2.5 million for the project. The loan is to be covered through Cove Bay user rates, which are anticipated to rise $214 per water connection over the next couple of years. The total project cost is estimated at $7.6 million with the rest of the funds coming from grants and municipal reserves.

Key to accurate visitor numbers was in our pockets the whole time: This summer, the number Tourism Bowen Island visitors rose by nearly half over summer 2018, council heard Monday. While administrator Jody Lorenz credited some of this jump to having more staff at the Trunk Road kiosk it also appears that visitation to the island is rising steadily. Lorenz managed to get coveted BC Ferries Experience Card data, which is one way of sorting local traffic from visitor traffic. The data shows an increase of nearly 50,000 non-experience card passengers per year between April 2015 and March 2019. There were 202,557 non-experience card passengers in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Lorenz noted at the beginning of the presentation that the purpose of Tourism Bowen Island is not only destination marketing but destination management––basically managing the tourists flocking to the island (which includes ferry lineup education and directions to the nearest toilet).

While the Visitors Centre on Cardena Road currently operates May through September the organization is applying for more funding from the municipality to extend this season. Lorenz said visitors are coming to the island year-round.

“We are an island, but we are not in a bubble,” said Lorenz, highlighting that tourism added more to B.C.’s GDP in 2017 than any other primary resource industry. “We are obviously influenced by tourism coming to B.C., tourism coming to the Vancouver region.”

“We are the do-able gulf island,” she said. “So it’s naïve to think that we shouldn’t be planning and addressing [this].

Some of Tourism Bowen’s recommendations included more washrooms, accessible potable water, and building a destination management plan for the island.

Both Tourism Bowen Island and Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing applied for multi-year core funding from the municipality.

Council referred the applications back to the Financial Advisory Committee and the chief financial officer.

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