Two dozen members of the public were in attendance at the Spences Bridge Improvement District (SBID) annual general meeting on Nov. 28. Although the Journal had registered in advance to say we would be attending, and received email confirmation from SBID administrative officer Muny Reddy, we were told we were not on the list and would not be able to come in as we were from Ashcroft, not Spences Bridge, and the meeting was limited to residents only.
When a copy of the confirmatory email was produced to show registration, trustee Cheryl Klyne said “We decided you can’t be here.” However, as the meeting was well below the 50-person limit on public gatherings in place at the time, and being held outdoors, the Journal stayed.
The meeting commenced with Reddy apologizing for not having copies of the year-end financials available. He explained that the auditors were not able to attend because of COVID-19 restrictions. He gave a brief rundown of the SBID’s financial position, and said the financials would be posted to the SBID website (http://sbid.info).
SBID board chair Michael Jefferson said that a detailed asset management plan was in progress, and that it would serve as a key to accessing funding in the future. The SBID is in charge of the Spences Bridge fire department and its equipment and building, and Jefferson said that an assessment of the fire hall had identified lead in the paint, as well as the presence of asbestos.
The fire department’s engine is a 1991 model that has been certified as being in good condition. However, fire underwriter rules state that the primary (in this case only) fire engine for a community the size of Spences Bridge must not be more than 28 years old. Jefferson said a two-year extension has been obtained and they are now on the hunt for a replacement used truck that is in good condition and ideally has a 10 to 15 year lifespan left.
The other option, he noted, was a new fire truck, which costs in the region of $450,000. He said that the SBID has about $100,000 to put toward that cost, and that the rest would have to be found from grants and/or corporate sponsorships.
It was mentioned later in the meeting that Chief Christine Minnabarriet of the Cooks Ferry Band had said, at the SBID meeting on Sept. 24, that the band might be able to provide up to $250,000 towards a new fire engine.
The Spences Bridge water system once again proved contentious, with Jefferson stating that there was not enough capacity in the case of a major fire, and claiming that the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) had destroyed the intake at Murray Creek. He also noted that the TNRD would be installing water meters in Spences Bridge within the next two years, as part of its program in unincorporated communities, and initially said that meant it would cost $500 a month to water the field at the Improvement District building (he later admitted that the SBID “did not know” how much it would cost once metering is in place). The dead lawn at the site — which has not been watered for two summers — is another contentious matter in the community.
There was a brief fire department report. Asked by a resident if he still contends that the department does not have to abide by the new fire playbook, Jefferson said that it was a standard only, not mandatory. When it was noted that the playbook is mandatory for all fire departments in the province, Jefferson asked where the cheque was to go with [the training]. “We’re doing our best to meet the standard, but it’s a target on the wall, not a mandate, and depends on the funds available in the community.” He added that he had talked to the fire commissioner, who had told him the playbook regulations were only a target, a statement which was disputed.
After Reddy and Jefferson quietly discussed whether they should just skip a motion regarding trustee remuneration, Jefferson said “We’ll keep it the same. Is everyone happy with that?” Despite one reply of “No” from the audience, there was no discussion and the motion passed.
Two elections were held during the meeting. Klyne’s trustee seat was up for election, and she and one other candidate had filed nomination papers. However, when it came time for the election, the other candidate withdrew his nomination, so Klyne was acclaimed and will continue to serve in the position, along with Jefferson and third trustee Ross Figley.
Figley, who has been filling the fire chief position, did not run. There was only one other candidate: Amarjit Singh Dhillon, who won by acclamation.
During the public discussion session there was a question about whether Figley should have been allowed to be both a trustee and a fire chief at the same time, and it was noted that copies of the financials should have been available for public perusal before the meeting.
The fate of the electric vehicle charging station led to a heated exchange, with the trustees accused of not consulting with the community about a recent offer from the TNRD to build a washroom at the site. One person said they would like to see a public meeting to hear exactly why the trustees don’t want the charging station, and another said that at the Sept. 24 meeting the majority of those in attendance had indicated they wanted to the station to stay.
Jefferson said the SBID was being asked to subsidize the charging station and look after things such as snow removal. People began leaving the meeting at this point, and it was adjourned shortly after.