Retiring Ashcroft CAO Michelle Allen. Photo: Raven Nyman

Ashcroft council meeting comes to an emotional end

July 22 marked last council meeting for retiring CAO Michelle Allen

The Village of Ashcroft held back-to-back meetings in council chambers on Monday, July 22. First, council held a public hearing, which lasted only a few moments, as no members of the public came forward with presentations.

Next, council proceeded with their Committee of the Whole meeting. After presenters departed, only one member of the public remained in the gallery for the regular meeting, resident and retired schoolteacher Gloria Mertens.

Mayor Barbara Roden and all village councillors were present for the meetings of July 22, with the exception of Cllr. Jonah Anstett, who was missing. Council adopted the Committee of the Whole and regular meeting minutes from Monday, June 24, and responded to two presentations during that evening’s Committee of the Whole.

The first presentation was from CN Rail. Joslyn Young, the manager for CN’s public affairs in B.C. presented on “CN in your community”, where she addressed Ashcroft’s concerns around the issue of trains whistling at the CN Railway crossing in North Ashcroft.

Young touched on the Railway Safety Act, and referenced other communities that have successfully navigated whistle cessation, such as New Westminster. “They’ve been very successful, but it takes a couple of years depending on the obstacles you’re dealing with.”

During her presentation, Young also spoke about safety and some of the ways in which CN cares for the communities their trains pass through. “Stewardship of our nation is also something we care about,” she said. “We are the largest non-forestry tree planters in North America.”

She provided her audience with a few useful “fun facts,” which helped to put into perspective the impact that CN has on Canadian communities. For example, Young advised that 80 per cent of what people have in their homes was at one time on a train. Moreover, a single freight train can allegedly replace up to 300 trucks on local highways.

As for the subject of whistle cessation, Young stated that CN wants to keep a whistle, as their preference is on safety, and having a whistle is the “safest thing to do.”

She noted that more freight will continue to be transported through Ashcroft via rail. Explaining the increase, she noted that Ashcroft is on the main line and must abide by “common carrier accommodation.” She added that there is also terminal expansion happening.

When questions were allowed following Young’s presentation, gallery member Mertens asked who is responsible for the maintenance of the CN crossing in Ashcroft, noting that the surface is “dilapidated” and is specifically causing issues for residents who may try to pass over it with strollers.

Young advised that typically, the railway is responsible for the service, and said that technically, the crossing’s surface currently meets CN’s guidelines. However, CAO Michelle Allen responded that the road in question was actually in place before the railroad was installed, which means there is in fact no agreement in place between CN and the municipality for maintenance of that crossing. Young said she would speak with CN public works staff to address potential solutions to concerns about the current state of the crossing in Ashcroft.

Mertens followed up with a second question, inquiring about the “oil cars going past” the community. Young answered that although some cars may appear to be oil tankers, they are often actually carrying a variety of other liquids, such as Canola or vegetable oil. Young advised that anyone interested should visit CN’s website, where the public can download a full list of precisely what products and goods travel through B.C.

Lastly, Mertens inquired about the squealing issue, which she says has “increased exponentially over recent years.” She hypothesized that the squealing may be engineer- or rolling stock-related, and asked how CN determines what to investigate for these types of concerns. She also asked how often engineer training takes place.

Peter Sampson has worked locally with the railway for a number of years, and stood alongside Young at this point to field some of the questions and concerns raised. He assured Mertens that CN takes extensive safety measures and is constantly monitoring their conductors as well as their trains, through advanced technology and control systems that measure wheel heat and monitor speed, for example.

Young and Sampson both maintained that empty rail cars are louder as they move across the railway, and advised that these types of complaints—around squealing and the like—increase greatly during the summer months, when more windows are open. They again invited Mertens to visit CN’s website for more detailed information on her concerns.

The second presentation given during the Committee of the Whole came from Daniel Collett. Collett and his wife Marina Papais are responsible for the expansive mosaic project that has brought so much colour, and connection, to the community.

On Oct. 5 this year, there will be an unveiling of a mosaic at the pharmacy in Ashcroft that represents the history of Japanese internment in B.C. The mosaic is just one of many that have been completed in the community, or are slated for completion in the near future.

“The Japanese community from Ashcroft and many other communities want to move on,” said Collett. Papais chimed in with a quote from a friend, noting that “In the spirit of generosity, we move forward with forgiveness.”

In his presentation, Collett’s goal was to suggest a new set of signage for the highways surrounding Ashcroft, hoping to entice tourists and travellers to stop and take the town’s mosaic art tour. The proposed signs would display photos of the actual mosaics that exist in the community, and would include slogans to invite visitors in, promoting Ashcroft as an artistic town.

“We want to help tourists visit our town by seeing something different,” said Collett. “See what’s happening in Ashcroft. Come check it out.”

“We do it to grow our community and because we love our community,” Papais said of the mosaic art project.

Cllr. Deb Tuohey confirmed that she has had many people come into the Ashcroft Bakery and have indicated they have come from places like Kamloops to see the mosaics in the village.

Members of the community are working on salmon mosaics, which will be installed throughout Ashcroft, and have been made possible through various donations.

“We’ve had salmon done by a two-year-old, and people in their 70s, too,” said Collett. “They will swim on the wall of the HUB. There will be salmon swimming throughout Ashcroft.”

To learn more about the mosaic art project, visit www.papaiscollettmosaics.com.

Roden thanked both presenters for their time and information, and the Committee of the Whole was adjourned at 6:49 p.m. At 7 p.m. the regular meeting of council got underway.

Council received and filed correspondence from BC Hydro and agreed to send a letter of congratulations to Kazushi Imaizumi on his reelection as Vice Mayor of Bifuka, Ashcroft’s Japanese sister city. Council also agreed to send letters of support to the Historic Hat Creek Ranch and the Gold Country Communities Society. Those letters are available for public review on the village website.

Council voted all in favour to bring back the procurement policy 2019-01-F for consideration at the next regular council meeting in August. The purpose of that policy is to provide guidance when purchasing supplies and creating agreements or contracts for goods and services in the Village of Ashcroft.

Council reviewed the community’s survey results from the Subdivision and Development Servicing Bylaw. The survey had a high response, with 103 surveys returned, and detailed results are also available on the village website.

“There is interest and people are engaged,” said Roden of the results. A summary of that survey will be forwarded to Urban Systems Ltd. for consideration during the bylaw development.

Councillors and Mayor Roden also put forth their regular council reports, which included a recap of a variety of positive events that have occurred, or are set to occur soon, in the community. In particular, Roden noted the great success of a community barbecue that took place on Saturday, July 13.

“168 hamburgers went out the door,” she said, adding that the weather was perfect for the day. “There was no agenda or speeches. It was nice to see the way people stayed to sit and chat.” There was also a successful Music in the Park event last week that saw more than 50 people in attendance, said Cllr. Nadine Davenport. “It was a really great event. It was great to have lots of people in the park enjoying it,” she said.

Roden provided an update on the Cache Creek landfill, advising that due to recent wet weather, the Belkorp-owned Campbell Hill landfill has been set back, but is still scheduled to open by the end of October 2019.

CAO Allen provided an update on the Village’s water treatment plant. “We are in the commissioning stages of the water treatment plant. There have been a few glitches, which were to be expected.”

The completion date for the project has been extended slightly as a result of those glitches, but the project’s delay will not incur any additional cost, said Allen. She added that the water treatment plant project was first brought to council’s attention in 2002, and work started roughly 10 years ago.

The regular meeting of council ended on a rather emotional note, as it was Allen’s last meeting. She is retiring after almost 35 years of service to the village.

Allen started working for the Village after a request in January 1985 that she help out with “a little typing.” More than three decades later, Allen has become a prominent figure in the village office and will be missed by council members and staff alike.

The Village office was once the community hospital, and 60 years ago, Allen was actually born in the same building she is now retiring from.

“It’s been a wonderful career,” said Allen.

The evening marked the end of an era, said Roden, who added that she is very sorry to lose Allen’s knowledge, wisdom, and guidance. Roden said that she had enjoyed their five years working together.

“Thank you very much for your 35 years of service to the Village of Ashcroft,” she said.

Gallery member Mertens followed up with a final question, inquiring when the community will know of CAO Allen’s replacement.

Allen replied, “I expect an announcement [will come] from council in the next week [or so].”

As always, council meeting minutes and all documents referenced in those minutes are available for perusal at the Village office or on the Village of Ashcroft website at www.ashcroftbc.ca.



editorial@accjournal.ca

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