Clinton mayor Jim Rivett says that 2017 felt like “a year interrupted. We feel we lost about two months of productive time because of the wildfires.”
He speaks of the Village being cut off with highway closures and evacuation orders to the north and south. “When Cache Creek got evacuated, we became isolated, because at the same time they’d closed the highway to the north. Nobody could get in or out, so regular business didn’t carry on. When we went on alert they managed to open Highway 24 in one direction, so from Kamloops you could go up 5, across 24, and back down.
“But all our suppliers said ‘Clinton’s such a small place, and the orders are so small, it doesn’t pay us to do that.’ No tourists coming through, no extra money in the Village, and no supplies. We actually had to make special arrangements to get bread and milk in during that time frame. And then, of course, we went on evacuation.
“That’s why I say we lost two months. The evacuation was only 16 days, but in reality, between all the other fires and the impact on the Village, we ended up with about two months of lost time.”
Rivett says that despite this, they got quite a bit of their strategic plan completed. Public input on the Trails Plan ends on December 23, so the plan will soon be complete. The idea was to have it done by the end of 2017, and it has been reviewed by the working group, so the plan in its draft stage is complete.
“The follow-up next year is that there are two trails we want to develop based on funding. We’ve applied to the Rural Dividend grant to help us with that.”
The Village’s marketing initiative was also completed. “We contracted Lion’s Gate Consulting to come in and give us the six best opportunities for investment in Clinton, and why Clinton: what differentiates us from Cache Creek or 100 Mile for this type of investment? Then we made use of UBCM and set up appointments with Consuls General of Japan, South Korea, India, and the Shanghai Business Association. We presented the package to them, and also met with the provincial Minister of Trade, to take it to our foreign trade missions.”
Rivett says that 2018 will be focused on follow-ups. Letters have been sent to the Consuls General the Village met with, along with an agenda of all the annual events in the Village. Targeted groups will be invited to an event.
“For example, the Chinese group came to the parade last year, and we’re inviting them again. They were very enthusiastic about that; they even marched in the parade with us. There’s a common theme that things we’ve done this year will to some extent spawn activity next year.”
Work on asset management is continuing, with the completion of the financial tool, which will tell how much money needs to be put in reserve each year to maintain various systems, such as water. “If you want to have your water system completely restored, or sustainable, in 20 years, here’s how much money you’ve got to put away.
“In the budget cycle in 2018 we’ll be using the tool to determine what water rates should be, what sewer rates should be, what property tax should be, to keep infrastructure like roads in a sustainable fashion. It takes away all of the ‘Oh, how much do you think we should set aside?’ And someone says ‘Let’s put $50,000 aside.’ That might not be the right thing. It gets us into a longer-term financial plan for the sustainability of the Village.”
Rivett is happy that when a new council is elected next year they’ll be able to look at where the Village is, where it needs to be, and how many cycles they want to take to get there. “That was a big one.” He adds that as new data comes in and work gets done, the financial tool is constantly updated.
A new backhoe was purchased, to replace the previous one that was 25 years old, and a generator set for the water treatment plant was also purchased. “If we lost commercial power, we could still run the water treatment plant on a generator.” The pressure reducing valve building was completed, while work on the water main replacement project is about 60 per cent complete.
“A good portion of the pipe is in the ground, but the start date for that was August, and because of the fire, and because we were evacuated, we started later in the year and got into those two weeks of very cold weather, which shut us down. It will complete in 2018.” The zoning bylaw is also partially completed, and will be finished in 2018. “Our CAO got busy with the wildfires and lost three or four months of time based on that, so something had to give.” Finishing touches also need to be done to the land and building plan in 2018.
Rivett moves on to what he calls “new and exciting” stuff for 2018. It will be the first year that the community forest will be contributing to the Village, and in 2018 they are anticipating money from them. Among the projects being looked at in strategic planning and being considered are a new rescue truck for the fire department, a splash park for children, and fibre optics for the Village. “These aren’t necessarily going to happen, but they’re being considered.
“We’re definitely going to be updating our emergency and wildfire protection plans. And there’ll be continued emphasis on economic development. What we’re trying to do is not get into too much that will slop over to next council, because we don’t want to be tying their hands if they want to do something different. They’ll be doing the budget for 2019, and we don’t want them saddled with a bunch of projects that weren’t their idea.”
Regarding the seniors’ living facility that received $2.9 million in funding from the Liberal government in March, Rivett says there are some issues with transfer of the land for the facility [at the former Clinton Elementary School site] from School District No. 74 to the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations and then to BC Housing.
“Somewhere in that chain of events it’s got held up. We asked the FLNRO and Housing ministers if they could pull from their end to see if they could get it done. But to date it’s still an issue. It’s being worked on.” Rivett says they have verified that the $2.9 million is secure and targeted for Clinton. “The reason we don’t see shovels in the ground is because of this land transfer hiccup.”
Rivett says that Clinton went for, and received, funding to put a recovery manager in place for the Village. “We’re definitely pursuing a recovery strategy for the Village.” Asked why the decision to hire their own recovery manager was made when several others agencies are providing the same thing to the region, Rivett replies, “Local flavour. All the people who have been hired as recovery managers in other areas have no idea what Clinton is made of and what the people are like. Our experience with this kind of thing is that it’s better to do it locally.
“As far as the wildfires went, it was a learning experience. We handed over the EOC responsibilities to the TNRD; so did Cache Creek. That led to some of the issues we had getting supplies in and whatnot. We had no control over who could come and who could go. It was all handled out of the TNRD. When we update our emergency plan we’re definitely looking at having an EOC set up within the Village if this should”—Rivett corrects himself—“when this happens again.
“Everyone I’ve talked to of any knowledge—university professors, the province—everyone’s saying the same thing. This is becoming the norm, not the exception. So we want to be prepared. Our emergency plan will be done before the fire season next year, and we will be doing our own EOC so we have better control of the situation.
“Not that the TNRD didn’t do a good job; but it was so wide-ranging. They had a huge area to look after, so when it came to smaller issues related to a smaller area, it wouldn’t get the same focus. That’s why we’re going to do our own. We’re actually hoping to talk to Cache Creek or Ashcroft or 100 Mile and see if we can’t set up some kind of reciprocal deal: if we get evacuated, can we come up to your area and set up an EOC, and offer the same thing to them to come here if their EOC has to be evacuated.
“That’s another of the concerns we had. We were worried that if we set up an EOC and then had to move it, where would we go? We didn’t have any kinds of plans in place to do that. Doing that kind of planning when the emergency is on your doorstep doesn’t work.”
Rivett has a positive outlook for the Village for 2018. “From a Clinton point of view, houses don’t stay on the market very long any more here; they get bought up pretty quick. We’re still looking at that water plant to be developed; the only concern is the forestry industry, and the annual cut that’s being reduced, and what the impact will be on the mills. There are 12 or 13 mills in the Cariboo region, and the VP of West Fraser Mills has said that five of them won’t survive the next couple of years because of the reduction in annual cut.
“That could mean Chasm, that could mean 100 Mile. He didn’t say which mills would be mothballed until market conditions or annual cut got better, but he did indicate that local governments should be thinking about this. That’s why the water bottle plant is top of mind. From what I understand, they’re still waiting for the province to give them a licence. It’s supposed to be you apply, you get a licence, that’s it. They’ve turned it into an approval process.”
Asked if he plans on running for mayor again in 2018, the answer is an immediate—and very definite—no. “Two terms is long enough. Time for new ideas to come in, and the only way to do that is if you change gears.”
Asked how he has enjoyed his two terms, Rivett pauses. “That’s a loaded question,” he says finally. “It’s certainly been a learning experience, but it’s not a very rewarding position, because you’re always in the cross-hairs of somebody who doesn’t like what you’re doing. Councillors are the same. They get complaints and whatnot, and I don’t think they ever get anyone coming up and saying ‘You guys are doing a good job.’ It’s mostly ‘Well how come you did that?’ or ‘How come you’re not doing this?’
“People don’t turn out to give us their input, but if we get the wrong idea for what should be done, we get criticized for it. The people involved—the other mayors, the board of directors for the TNRD, the provincial ministers—they’re all wonderful people. But the community needs to have a better understanding of local government and what it actually does.
“But that’s not why I’m not running again. I believe that you can’t keep on with the same ideas. You need new ideas and people to come in, if nothing else to test out what’s being done and if it’s being done properly.”
Rivett says that he’s very optimistic about the Village’s future. “I think Clinton is going to grow, and will be a vibrant community for years to come.”