October 2021 Newsletter
Happy November, Roberts Creek. Thank you for continuing to show interest in what is going on in your community and in your local government.
Thanks to some aggressive lobbying on the board’s side and diligent work by our staff we have some good news to share. The water license for Church Rd well should be issued in the coming weeks, and we can move forward with construction on this project now. The timeline is about an 8-month build in the most optimistic scenario, so we hope that the contractor can get going in early January in order to make an impact on next year’s drought season. It’s going to be tight, and I am a little worried it’ll be too tight. A bonus for finishing ahead of schedule has been incorporated into the budget. A big thank you to the Squamish Nation, who managed to turn the referral around quickly, despite only being notified by the provincial government in July.
Some more proof why we need meters
As part of a debrief on this summer’s water situation staff reported that they sent out 15 shut-off notices to properties known to have had large leaks for over a year. As a result of these notices, 12 have now remedied their leaks and 3 more are actively working on it. The leaks at the 15 properties with shut off notifications accounted for a total of approximately 350,000 liters per day, the equivalent of about 650 additional houses with average water consumption on the Coast, or 3% of our total water use at Stage 4. This reinforces the need to have meters installed at all properties on the Coast so we can charge by volume and enforce our shut-off notices fairly. There are probably a number of properties in Sechelt that have sizeable leaks we don't know about, and we are not able to send shut-off notices to them. Just earlier this year four properties in unmetered Sechelt had their visible leaks fixed and that has saved us another 350,000 liters per day. Those leak resolutions combined are the equivalent water use of all of Zone 3 in Upper Gibsons, which used to receive water from our Chapman system, but is now serviced by the Gibsons Aquifer.
Congratulations to the people’s choice awards winners!
On October 20th I accompanied Yarrow Drtina and Colin Stansfield from SCREDO to hand out the inaugural Sunshine Coast People’s Choice Awards from Roberts Creek and Ts’uk’wum.
Yoga by the Sea – favorite Yoga/Pilates studio, best local online fitness class
Sunshine Coast Golf & Country Club – favorite golf course
Melomania – favorite music shop
Gumboot Café – favorite healthy eating establishment
Strait Coffee – favorite café
GM Wilson Creek – favorite car dealer
FYI Doctors – favorite optical store
3 years in…
Next year this time we will have had our local government elections and I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the first 3 years in local government. I came into this job with some expectations about what it would entail, and I was warned by the previous director what the job will be. I am grateful to Mark for his support in the transition and since.
I feel lucky to have been put together on this board with a group of individuals that I enjoy working with. There is, from my viewpoint, a mutual respect and a willingness to do the right thing, without any ego taking over, or some other agendas working in the background. The first year was a steep learning curve and some of the highlights were saying goodbye to our previous CAO, working with a great interim CAO and then hiring our current CAO.
2019 was the year where we created our strategic plan and took ownership of the situation, and I thought we were well underway. I like our strategic plan and it has the makings of something great. We passed an ambitious budget that started making up for many years of under-investment in infrastructure and planning.
Then 2020 hit. When first introduced to the job, I was told that staff spent 80% of their time keeping the lights on and running the day-to-day business. 20% was moving the business forward. After COVID hit, I was told that staff efficiency, due to working from home, medical leave from as little as a sniffle, COVID related measures and constant changes in regulations, etc. was down to 75%. You do the math.
It has been incredibly frustrating to watch staff, and especially senior management, work themselves to death and to not see much progress on the items we were elected to accomplish. It looks like we are finally seeing some tangible progress on water, but I’m not sure we’ll get it in time for next summer.
We now have some options presented to us what may happen to our future garbage, but don’t have the information yet on what and when and where and exactly for how much. This process should have started long ago. We are also not implementing curbside recycling anytime soon, and the sole feather in our cap is food waste pickup, if the contractor who we signed a contract with actually reliably did that.
Three years ago, Bylaw 310, our zoning bylaw, was under review. We are slated to see a draft late this year. We have identified housing as a serious issue, but don't have the capacity or the means to do anything in less than 2 years. We thought we would be able to add some more active transportation infrastructure within this term, but we won’t have capacity to deal with this until the 3rd quarter of 2022, at the earliest.
We want a regional growth strategy, but things have been delayed due to COVID. We have 9 OCP’s that are all outdated and don’t address some serious issues like the housing crisis. We need to update our regional water plan, but are focused on getting water in pipes first.
Looking forward to our last year of this term, I am still hopeful we may be able to pull off Church Rd well before drought season 2022, but I'm not holding my breath. I hope that by the next election we will have a few more victories to report, otherwise I fear that this well-working, collaborative, supportive group may be destroyed by a virus and bureaucracy.
I am grateful for the hard work staff has put in, and sad that so little has come of it, through no fault of their own. It has been an enriching and rewarding experience so far, and I've enjoyed working with everyone.
As for my intentions next year, I am not sure yet. I will probably run again, but if someone capable, interested, somewhat knowledgeable what it is we actually do, preferably younger than me, and with an open mind, wants to run, they should come and talk to me, and I may just endorse them.
Howe Sound/Átl’ka7tsem Biosphere Project
In case you missed it, Howe Sound/Átl’ka7tsem has been declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The Ocean Watch Action Committee has now published an interactive map that has a wealth of information on it, from regional district boundaries to shipping routes and the location of glass sponge reefs.
After a prolonged closure due to the premature failure of the sprinkler system, the Sechelt Aquatic Centre will be reopening on Nov. 6th. Thank you all for your patience. More details can be found here.
We also received a lifecycle assessment report on the Sunshine Coast Arena and the Gibsons Aquatic Centre. These are both aging facilities that will take more and more money to maintain, so we wanted to know when it would be best to retire these buildings and either replace them with new ones, or just close and demolish them. The table below shows what percentage of the facility’s replacement value will have to be spent over the allotted time period to keep it functioning.
All this needs to be taken in context with other rising costs for infrastructure that has been underinvested in for decades. Currently about 40% of our property taxes go to recreation. At some point we will need to consult with the community whether we can continue to support three pools and two ice rinks in a community of 30,000 people, while also facing increases on landfills, water and other infrastructure.
Budget Community Check In
The SCRD is holding two sessions outlining our general financial situation before we go into Round 1 budget meetings. Two tentative dates are planned: Tues. Nov. 16 from 6:30 to 7:30 pm and Tues. Nov. 23 from 6:30 to 7:30. Sessions for the specific rural areas are planned for December.
Donna McMahon’s newsletter
If you’ve read this far you deserve more, so here is a link to Donna’s latest newsletter, as always full of great information.
That’s it from me for now. In case you have any questions or concerns, you can always email me.