The Village of Ashcroft held back-to-back meetings in council chambers on Monday, Aug. 26, starting with a Committee of the Whole.
Mayor Barbara Roden and all village councillors were present, with the exception of Coun. Jonah Anstett, who was also missing from July’s Council meeting. Yogi Bhalla, chief financial officer, and Daniela Dyck, deputy corporate officer were also in attendance. Dyck served as the acting CAO for the Aug. 26 meeting, as Ashcroft’s new CAO, Anne Yanciw, does not arrive until Sept. 3. Yanciw has over 20 years of experience in local government and was most recently employed in Smithers.
Seven members of the public were present in the gallery for Monday’s Committee of the Whole at 6 p.m. but a few observers departed before the regular meeting of council got underway.
Council adopted the Committee of the Whole and regular meeting minutes from Monday, July 22, and also received a presentation from resident Jim Duncan of the Ashcroft Pathways to Wellness Task Force.
In his letter to Mayor and council, Duncan described what he considers one of Ashcroft’s “greatest, yet most unrecognized, assets”: the riverine frontage along Evans Road that extends for several kilometres.
The Ashcroft Pathways to Wellness Task Force is comprised of a group of citizens who have been working on the construction of a “multipurpose community pathway” along Evans Road.
In their letter to council, the task force sought resolutions of support for the project’s objectives, which include a request for a report from council providing information on how to acquire provincial land along Evans Road in order to create a proposed natural park and subsequent public access to the river.
The task force terms itself a grassroots movement with no formal organization, but Duncan advised that the project has received support from over 100 like-minded individuals who signed a petition in favour of the idea.
In his letter, Duncan noted that at last year’s All Candidates Forum, all council members indicated that they supported the project in question.
“We ask now that you act on that verbal commitment and write a formal letter of support. Your resolution will help us move this project forward by providing the political backing needed to secure grants and financial support, to solicit in-kind donations from businesses and industry, and to further mobilize the community.”
Following Duncan’s presentation, discussion was opened around the subject, and gallery member Gloria Mertens spoke up to inquire on the legal status of the road.
Another gallery member asked about how to get public access to the slough, and suggested going under the bridge, but Roden confirmed that the area in question is private land.
The information presented by Duncan was provided for consideration at a subsequent council meeting, allowing staff the opportunity to research and provide a complete report that considers all options for the project.
Five gallery members stayed for the regular meeting of council, which got started at 7 p.m. A small film crew from the HUB Online Network was also present to record that regular meeting.
Council reviewed various items of correspondence, including a request for a letter of support for a proposed new taxi service in the community. Mayor Roden proposed an amendment to write a letter of generic support for a proposed taxi service, without specifying the support of a specific individual or business. All councillors voted in favour of this amendment, and Coun. Anderson said it would be good to see another taxi service come to the area.
Ashcroft was commended for achieving their goal of corporate carbon neutrality for the 2018 reporting year, on behalf of the joint Provincial-Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Green Communities Committee (GCC). Ashcroft received a Level 4 achievement of carbon neutrality, demonstrating their commitment to take action on climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the community. As a result, the community now has access to carbon-neutral branding for use on its official website and letterheads.
Council also granted a request from Jean Norris to use the gazebo in the Ashcroft Heritage Park at no cost on Sunday, Sept. 15 for the 2019 Ashcroft Terry Fox Run. Roden noted that Ashcroft always has impressive participation in the event, particularly for a small community.
Council voted to send a letter of thanks and support to the Jack Gin Family Foundation for their $1,000 donation to the Ashcroft Museum. Jack and Sylvia Gin have been “tremendous benefactors for the community in different ways,” said Roden, who noted that the pair have also donated scholarships to Ashcroft’s schools in the past.
Coun. Tuohey moved to adopt the Village’s Procurement Policy No. F-01-2019 and was seconded by Coun. Davenport.
Council also voted to endorse the Village of Ashcroft’s Strategic Plan 2019-2020, and agreed to support the actions identified in the plan throughout its duration. Roden noted that the plan offers a good reminder that no matter how much the community accomplishes, there is always more to do.
An anti-whistling report was provided as a status update for council’s information and can be reviewed in the Village office or via their official website.
Council also responded to a request from Gateway Property Management to relax the water restrictions for the Villa Fronterra complex, as the size of their property has rendered challenges within their current irrigation system, which does not have the capacity to complete the watering cycle within the six-hour time frame allotted by the Village.
Roden proposed an amendment that would allow for a relaxation of the watering restrictions, but would also include a deadline for the Villa Fronterra complex to become compliant with the community’s watering regulations.
“We provide the relaxation as is suggested in point B but [will] give them until May of next year to achieve compliance.”
Coun. Anderson seconded that amendment and council voted all in favour of the relaxation.
Council responded to the Ashcroft Mosaics Artists proposal, which was presented by Daniel Collett during the July 22 Committee of the Whole. Ultimately, council moved to defer the project for consideration during the 2020 budget session, adding the item as a discussion point for the Mayor’s Business Mixer that will take place this fall. Staff will also work with the Mosaic Artists to determine the size and cost of highway signage and identify possible sources of funding.
Council voted to endorse an addendum to the Village of Ashcroft’s Water Conservation Plan and support the implementation of the plan. They also approved the third reading of the Village’s Dog Control and Pound Operation Bylaw No. 832, 2019 and the third reading of the Consolidated Fees and Charges Bylaw, both of which will return for adoption during the regular meeting on Sept. 9.
Before opening up the gallery to questions, Mayor and councillors each provided their verbal reports for the various committees they are each involved with.
Coun. Tuohey expressed that she was impressed with the variety of events hosted at the Ashcroft Museum this summer for children and families.
Mayor Roden provided an update from the Historic Hat Creek Society, noting that two proposals were put in for the recent RFP, one from Friends of Hat Creek Ranch and a second from the Bonaparte Indian Band. An answer has been deferred multiple times, said Roden, and currently no final decision has been made.
During her reports, Roden also noted that the local Eco-Depot will be designed for the community’s specific needs, as identified in the survey that was presented to residents.
Coun. Tuohey advised that there has been no official report back from the Communities in Bloom judges yet, but added that it has been nice to see people taking landscaping into consideration throughout the community.
Mayor Roden also shared that she took part in another health “round table” on Aug. 26, which was set up to address various health care issues in the region.
“The last two meetings have focused on the emergency department closures. At today’s meeting, I think very promising strides were made,” she said, adding that those involved with the round table meetings are working towards providing stability for the emergency department and moving toward a primary care network.
“The plan is for Ashcroft (Interior Health) to answer an expression of interest for our region to be taken into a primary care network,” she explained. If the community is accepted, it will be a huge stride forward for Ashcroft, she said.
“Going forward, it’s very exciting. There will be another meeting probably within two to three weeks.”
Closing the evening, council responded to an array of inquiries and requests for clarification from gallery member Mertens, who questioned the state of a local crosswalk and also inquired about the Village’s Procurement Policy and the public’s participation in council’s budget meetings.
Her various concerns were met with supportive responses from council, and Mayor Roden also advised that public meetings have always been held in regards to the Village’s budget, and moreover, that the public can always present their concerns during the Committee of the Whole.
Council meeting minutes and all documents referenced in those minutes are always available for perusal at the Village office or on the Village of Ashcroft website at www.ashcroftbc.ca.