The Journal has recently run interviews with elected officials in the area. Clinton mayor Susan Swan responded by email to a series of questions sent to her by the editor.
Like many other municipalities throughout the province, the Village of Clinton’s budget was very close to completion prior to the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Swan says that while no changes to the budget are anticipated, there is always behind the scenes work to be done in order to be ready to start a project, so that work is continuing.
“The updating of some of our bylaws and plans cannot be completed at this time as they require public input,” says Swan. “These include the Parks Master Plan, Zoning Bylaw update, and Economic Development Plan. The Village office is still getting calls from people interested in the Provincial Nominee Program. The Community Development Coordinator sends them the necessary information so they can still start the process. Obviously, any exploratory visits by these international entrepreneurs are on hold.”
The everyday running of Village operations is the top priority at the moment. Swan notes that as the Village is pretty lean to start with, there has been no reduction in staffing levels. Staff in the office are able to do their work while maintaining physical distancing, as are the three public works employees, and cleaning and sanitation protocols have been increased.
“Employees are encouraged to stay home if they have any symptoms,” says Swan. “This is the same for members of council and the public. The Village Office remains closed to the public, but appointments can be made for business that must be done (paying utility bills, faxing, photocopying services, etc.). If someone does come in, as soon as they leave staff immediately sanitize the front counter, pens, doorknobs, etc. that may have been handled.”
The Village of Clinton has not raised property taxes since 2015, and no increase is proposed for 2020, although with many properties seeing an increased assessment, there will be an increase in tax revenue.
“The closure of West Fraser’s Chasm Mill last year will affect tax revenue but we still do not know by how much. Once all tax rates have been received from the Province, we will then be able to calculate our property tax requisitions, which will give us a clear picture on the effect of the Chasm Mill closure.”
Swan says that in lieu of a public hearing to discuss the 2020 budget and five-year financial plan, both documents are on the Village website (https://village.clinton.bc.ca/) for members of the public to review. Anyone who does not have computer access can contact the Village office and make an appointment to view paper copies of both documents.
“Anyone with questions or concerns about [the documents] is encouraged to phone or email the Village office.”
Swan says she has always been impressed by the resilience and caring of people in Clinton, and that while everyone is feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, residents continue to inspire and support one another.
“There have been local residents who have self-isolated or quarantined, and the offers of help have been amazing. There always appears to be someone ready to pick up and drop off groceries, run errands, etc. People look for ways to help their family, friends, and neighbours.”
She says that a few people who returned to the community from outside the country did not self-isolate when they got back. “I chose to post a message on social media thanking all the responsible returning residents who respected the rest of us enough to do the right thing and self-isolate.”
Swan notes that the community has a highway running right through it, and that the Easter long weekend saw heavier traffic volumes than there had been.
“With most of the businesses along the main street (Highway 97) closed, there was very little reason for these travellers to stop. There was concern voiced by some residents about the volume of traffic, but there is little that a municipality can do about it.
“There have also been some visitors seen walking the streets and even in our municipal park (the playground remains closed, but the park itself is open to the public). We encourage physical distancing, and do not engage with these visitors any more than necessary.”
A long-anticipated project in Clinton is the construction of a seniors’ living facility, for which funding was announced in 2017. While there is still no planned date for the start of construction, Swan says that the Village continues to support the efforts of the Clinton and District Assisted Living Society to get it built.
“That group is working hard on this project and has been for many years. We applaud their efforts and diligence, and look forward to the day that construction can actually begin.”
Swan notes the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on everyone in one way or another, and says that we all appreciate the frontline workers — from health care professionals, home care aides, and pharmacists to store clerks and truck drivers — who continue to go to work while the rest of us stay home as much as possible.
“Things that we once took for granted — like having our children go to school, eating in restaurants, meeting up with friends and family, watching and participating in sports, and the freedom to travel and visit our elders — have all become so much more important to us. These are the things that people say they are most looking forward to doing again once our new normal sets in.
“Much like the 9/11 events shaped the way we travel on airlines, this pandemic will forever change the way we do some things. Hopefully we will take away the acts of kindness and support that helped us all get through this and continue with those things in our lives.”