The Village of Ashcroft held a lengthy series of meetings on Monday, Jan. 27 with all members of staff and council on hand, as well as a few members of the public, beginning with a Committee of the Whole (COTW) followed by a regular meeting.
Canada Day funding request
The Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society (WRAPS) has organized and sponsored the local Canada Day celebration in Ashcroft for years. This year, they’ve asked for a funding increase from council.
Typically, the Village offers a $500 grant for the event, including free access to the swimming pool. This year, WRAPS has requested a 10 per cent increase in support.
Mayor Barbara Roden excused herself from this discussion as she is on the WRAPS Board of Directors, at which point Deputy Mayor Jonah Anstett took over and the motion to grant WRAPS’ request was carried all in favour.
Barn Dance facility use request granted
Council also granted a request from Ryan Lake and Stella Jones to hold the Ashcroft Barn Dance at the Drylands Arena on Aug. 14, 2020 with all proceeds going toward Honour Ranch. The event hopes to see a large attendance, and organizers have asked for the arena rental fees to be waived.
Coun. Nadine Davenport excused herself for this motion due to a conflict of interest, and Coun. Marilyn Anderson made a motion to waive the rental fee for all three days required to host the event.
Council discussed additional fees associated with arena usage, and Roden proposed an amendment to waive the rental fee as well as up to three call-out fees for the event.
Anstett seconded Roden’s amendment, which was carried with no further discussion. Anderson was the only councillor to oppose this amendment.
During the meeting, council also voted to approve a request to establish a working group between the Village and the Ashcroft and District Curling Club.
Council procedures reviewed
With no new business, council moved on to the first reading of the Council Procedures Bylaw No. 834, 2020. Roden noted that there will be plenty of time for more discussion on all of these items in the future.
She suggested that the Village’s Deputy Mayor step in to chair COTW meetings in the future as practice for any potential mayoral absence, and council also discussed at length the potential to electronically sit-in on regular meetings, through Skype or other digital means.
Council generally agreed that having digital call-ins where councillors are physically unavailable is a useful benefit, but one they don’t want to see abused.
There was also discussion around the current question period for regular meetings, and whether or not that allotted time should be moved to the beginning of council meetings, as it is in the Village of Clinton, for example. Question period is currently placed at the end of regular Ashcroft council meetings.
No decisions were made during this first bylaw reading, but council also touched on whether or not they will continue holding COTW meetings or return to the previous delegation style.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Anne Yanciw clarified that any changes to the bylaw are typically made between the second and third readings, but that the first reading was for discussion only.
Roden requested that councillors review and reflect on the presented document again before returning for a consensus and additional read-throughs.
Councillor hopes to revisit community burning bylaw
During the evening’s council reports, Anstett spoke up with a notice of motion, proposing that the Village consider rewriting burning bylaw No. 811-2017. This motion generated a lot of fruitful discussion amongst all members of staff and council.
“Our current bylaw does not allow for the burning of backyard waste in our Village,” began Anstett. “As of 2020, the TNRD will be charging for all yard waste removal… As of this year, we’re going to have to be paying for stuff like that. That means that the clean-up we do—that cost is going to go up tremendously… we’re paying over $5,000 for our clean-up every year… that’s a huge cost [that] could be going somewhere else.”
Anstett believes this will impact Ashcroft residents greatly, particularly seniors, low-income families, or individuals with disabilities.
Anstett noted that the local fire department can only burn with the Village’s permission: “We should be letting them do their jobs… we’ve got a lot of places that could be fire-smarted [and] stuff we shouldn’t have to seek permission for.”
As a remedy, Anstett proposed a two-week period in the spring and another in the fall to allow for combustible yard waste removal using authorized burn barrels and permits.
Davenport asked if burn barrels would be inspected and come at the homeowner’s cost. Anderson also raised the question of smoke affecting neighbours, which Anstett said is always weather dependent.
“The other aspect to consider with the smoke is reminding people of 2017,” pointed out Roden. “We have to be cognizant of that… it’s going to be sensitive to some people for reasons that it might not have been sensitive last time.”
Yanciw advised that staff could consult with the public works department and the local fire chief to consider such changes. Coun. Deb Tuohey noted that the bylaw is a controversial one for the community, which will take a lot of thought to reconsider.
For Anstett, it boils down to dealing with a little bit of smoke or a whole lot of it.
“The landscape has changed since the last time this question was visited,” admitted Roden, noting that controlled burns could be viewed differently now than in years past.
“Just because we’re not in a forested area like Logan Lake doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods,” concluded Anstett.
His motion was seconded by Tuohey and successfully carried.
Question period proves contentious
Question period included a brief discussion around altering the placement of council’s question period, but the majority of this allotted time was used by local resident Gloria Mertens, who had many questions and queries from the night’s agenda.
Roden restated that members of the public are in fact welcome to speak privately with any presenters, councillors, or staff members about inquiries they may have following the COTW.
Lastly, Ashcroft resident Jim Duncan asked if and when Ashcroft will obtain a level three (fast charge) electric charging station for vehicles. One exists in Cache Creek, while Ashcroft will be receiving two level two charging stations.
“Which one is going to get my business?” asked Duncan.
Roden advised that the Village has already applied for funding for a fast charge station, but without grant approval for a level three station, the Village can’t proceed with the investment.
She promised that when approval is granted for a level three station, it will be readily installed: “We’re trying, we are trying.”
The next regular meeting of Ashcroft council will be on Monday, Feb. 24 at 7:00 p.m. at the Village office on Bancroft Street. Meeting minutes and agendas can be found on the Village’s website at https://ashcroftbc.ca/.