Some 30 people attended a Community Forum at the Ashcroft Community Hall on November 2. Among the items discussed were community emergency preparedness, the water treatment plant, and discussions with the Ashcroft Indian Band about water provision.
Mayor Jack Jeyes, who facilitated the meeting, gave an update on steps the Village is taking for emergency preparedness. He advised that staff are monitoring grant and funding opportunities to see if there is any funding available to help with items such as back-up power sources. He added that the Village continues to gather information about various emergency preparedness items.
Deb Tuohey spoke on behalf of the Ashcroft Moving Forward Committee, and said that members of the committee had recently met with Jason Tomlin, the emergency services supervisor for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD), and Ashcroft CAO Michelle Allen. The committee expressed its concern about not having an emergency communication plan, and after some discussion determined that Ashcroft needs a strong Emergency Social Services (ESS) plan. Tuohey noted that Cache Creek has one, and said that “By going with them we would make for a stronger, more diverse group.”
She said that what could be accomplished by having people trained in ESS—in addition to helping citizens during an actual emergency—would be to have an education program for citizens, so that people are ready ahead of time rather than after an emergency. She noted that several committee members have already taken ESS training, and urged others to go online and take the introductory ESS course.
She also said that the committee would like to develop a database of all residents to be used as a call fan-out in the event of an emergency, and to spread the word about public meetings; develop a Facebook page (which is in progress); become part of an ESS program that covers Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and the surrounding area; and continue to work with the Village on emergency preparedness. She added, in response to a question, that one of the committee’s goals is to identify residents who are vulnerable, and show them how they can be prepared in the event of an emergency.
Jeyes said that the water treatment plant is now at the detailed design stage, meaning that all of the final details are being itemized and all decisions made before the project goes to tender. An audience member asked if special provisions are being made to ensure that local trades people are part of the project, and Jeyes advised that this would be brought forward when the contract is drafted.
There have been ongoing in-camera discussions with the Ashcroft Indian Band (AIB) for many years about the Village supplying water to them, and Jeyes said that because the discussions are in-camera he was limited as to what details he could provide. However, he was pleased to say that there has been progress made, while noting that this project and the water treatment plant are separate, and that it is a coincidence they are moving forward at the same time.
Jeyes confirmed that any water for the AIB would be treated at the new water treatment plant; a second plant would not be necessary. Allen confirmed that the new plant has been designed so that it can meet the needs of any population increase the Village might experience, as well as increased demand from the AIB.
There was a brief overview of the 2018 general local elections, which under new provincial legislation will be held on the third Saturday of October (October 20, 2018) rather than the third Saturday of November. This should help people who go away for the winter to be able to vote before they leave.
Jeyes gave an overview of the meetings council had with Premier Horgan and four cabinet ministers during the Union of BC Municipalities AGM and conference in September. Among the topics discussed were funding opportunities for emergency preparedness; the importance of the McAbee Fossil Beds for the region; the importance of the Ashcroft Terminal; incentives to retain BC Ambulance Service personnel; doctors and nurse practitioners; the lack of local representation on health boards; and programs that can encourage our young people to enter a trade and receive their training in their home community.
A member of the audience asked what council was doing to ensure our hospital would not close down when the current nurses start retiring. Jeyes replied that the question has been asked, and that the answer is that the government has no intention of closing the Ashcroft Hospital. He added that council will continue to bring concerns forward to the province.
There was an update on the second Official Community Plan (OCP) and Zoning Bylaw surveys. Housing, environmental concerns, and commercial and industrial development were noted as priorities. A draw was made from the completed surveys, and Jordy Flaherty won $250 in gift certificates for local businesses.
Jeyes advised that not enough applicants had come forward to be part of the Planning Advisory Committee associated with the OCP and Zoning Bylaws review, so the application process is being left open until the end of November. A cross section of members of the community is being sought, including those with young families, single adults, retired people, and representatives from the business community, so that a variety of perspectives can be heard.
Representatives from Urban Systems will be at the Ashcroft HUB from November 27 to 30, and residents were encouraged to stop by and discuss the Village’s future planning needs.
At a question session at the end of the forum, it was asked if any consideration had been given to hydro seeding the hillsides in light of this summer’s wildfires burning off vegetation and the consequent threat of mudslides. Jeyes said he had been to a TNRD presentation where experts had agreed it was best to wait a year before reseeding. He also advised, in answer to another question, that escape routes and muster stations in the event of a mudslide were being discussed.
Councillor Alf Trill said that in regard to local people being on health boards, it had been suggested by Health Minister Adrian Dix that any local people willing to serve on the Interior Health Board should forward their names and resumes to the Ministry, for consideration when a vacancy occurs.
Councillor Helen Kormendy said that the Village would look into being able to stipulate that local contractors are given preference when it comes to capital projects. She also encouraged residents to consider running for council in next year’s elections, and making a difference in the community.