By Raven Nyman
On Monday, Oct. 28 the Village of Ashcroft held back-to-back meetings in council chambers, beginning with a Committee of the Whole at 6 p.m. followed by a regular meeting at 7 p.m. All council members were present, including Coun. Jonah Anstett, who was markedly absent from recent meetings.
Once again, the HUB Online Network stopped by to record the meetings, which are available for the public to view online at the HUB Online Network Facebook page. The night’s agendas are accessible via the Village website (https://ashcroftbc.ca/).
After the adoption of past meeting minutes and the night’s agenda, the Committee of the Whole received three presentations, and Mayor Barbara Roden noted that those presentations would each be considered at future council meetings.
First, resident Vicky Trill and Coun. Deb Tuohey made a presentation about Age Friendly Communities, proposing that council consider making Ashcroft age friendly, since seniors currently make up more than one-third of the Village’s population.
The two argued that there are many benefits to becoming an age friendly community and in doing so, they hope to help older adults become more active and connected in their community while offering them the support to continue living independently.
One of the community’s major hotspots for activity is the Ashcroft HUB, which Trill believes exists because of Ashcroft’s devoted seniors.
“The HUB wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for our senior population. They have been the backbone and the heart of establishing it there,” said Trill.
Ashcroft has already taken the first steps to becoming an age friendly community, but council will need to pass a resolution and the community will have to conduct an age friendly assessment to move forward with the process.
Seniors want to be included, respected, and noticed, said Trill. Tuohey added that age friendly ideals align with the community’s official plan. Council already has a representative assigned to seniors, and there are grants available for the Village to become age friendly, too.
Local artists Daniel Collett and Marina Papais proposed another mosaic on Oct. 28,: a Ranchland depiction that already has full project funding and a location in mind.
The mosaic, which has been proposed for the outside of the Ashcroft Museum, will depict the gated entrance to a ranch and will even include LED lighting.
The couple plans to use real-life photographs of the area to model the mosaic, which will be 12 feet long. They hope to feature cowboys, horses, cows, and perhaps old farm machinery, too.
The art piece won’t add stress to the museum’s structure, assured Collett, and the pair have already obtained funding for their materials through a ranching family with historical ties to the area.
Coun. Marilyn Anderson thanked Collett and Papais for their continued efforts to bring art and collaboration to the community.
“We are resisting the pull to other places,” said Collett, and Papais added that if it weren’t for the HUB, their efforts in Ashcroft wouldn’t be possible.
The third item up for presentation during Monday’s Committee of the Whole took the form of a council discussion, based off the report provided by CAO Anne Yanciw. The discussion surrounded the purchase of a digital sign for the Village that may be used in times of emergency and to provide regular community information and updates.
Council discussed purchasing such a portable sign but also reviewed the benefits of advertising information through other platforms, such as social media.
Mayor Roden suggested that using social media alongside a portable digital sign would be most beneficial overall and CAO Yanciw took to the whiteboard to brainstorm how the community plans to tackle communication problems to advertise civic info in the future.
Only three members of the public stayed to observe the regular meeting, with a handful more on hand during the Committee of the Whole meeting.
During council’s regular meeting, staff received a local letter of complaint regarding European collared doves, but Mayor Roden noted that the doves are actually a protected species, and as such the Village will not be taking any formal action against the birds.
No formal delegations were presented, but after receiving five items of correspondence, council moved on to address the agenda’s unfinished business.
In regards to the Evans Road Walking Path, council chose to proceed with the staff recommended option that council include consideration of a Trails Master Plan that could identify feasible trails and pathways for the development of a trail and walking path network in the Village of Ashcroft during the 2020 Budget discussion.
Coun. Anderson raised concerns about potential liabilities to the Village associated with supporting the formalization of an Evans Road walking path. “Accidents can happen,” she said, “My biggest concern would be how the Village would be responsible with respect to that trail system along Evans Road.”
Mayor Roden felt that a trails masterplan, similar to the one that exists in Clinton, would be a good step for the community, and that recommendation was passed.
Next, council went on to address an invitation from the Healthcare and Wellness Coalition to join a health roundtable to discuss a seven day per week health care model which includes emergency services.
Coun. Anderson argued that the community already participates in several tables and was the only councillor to oppose the invitation. “We do have several tables going already,” she said. “I just feel that getting involved in more seems to be pretty cumbersome and complicates it.”
Mayor Roden stated that the additional discussion would grant more opportunity to talk about the emergency department and report back to pre-existing tables in Ashcroft.
Mayor Roden reported on behalf of the Friends of Historic Hat Ranch Creek Society, noting that everything there is “in a state of limbo” while the Friends await a decision from the Heritage Branch regarding the length of the contract extension for their continued operation of the site.
Roden also advised that the Campbell Hill landfill, previously called the landfill extension, is set to open this December, and included a detailed report from her time at UBCM, which was included in the agenda.
Council acknowledged the departure of Visitor Info Centre coordinator Val Parks, who held the position for the past four years. In 2020, a new coordinator will operate the facility.
Coun. Tuohey reported on behalf of the local Communities in Bloom committee (CIB) and advised that the most significant judging feedback this year focused on the Village having too many dead-heads, which are the dying tops of a flower’s blooms. The committee hopes to implement a dead-heading social event to address the problem in the future.
Finally, Chief Financial Officer Yogi Bhalla submitted two audited financial reports to council, both of which were approved as presented.
After two lengthy meetings, council moved to the gallery’s open question period at 8:01 p.m.
First up, Jim Duncan, the man behind the work that has already been done along Evans Road to establish a walking path, responded to council’s decision, stating that there are liabilities in everything we do.
“I’m hoping we can somehow come up with a solution,” Duncan said.
He also raised concerns about sewage drainage issues at the Legacy RV Park, which were noted.
Retired schoolteacher Gloria Mertens took over with a stream of inquiries for council, ranging from a request for an update to the whistle cessation project to concerns about clearer methods of civic communication in the community.
“I am quite diligent about attending meetings,” said Mertens, arguing that she actually missed special meetings that were added by council but not advertised appropriately to the public.
In response, council clarified that occasionally they add meetings that aren’t on the original yearly schedule, but that all council meetings, special or regular, are advertised on the Village website and bulletin board.
Next, Mertens drew attention to redaction issues within council’s regular agendas, specifically pointing out the fact that her recently submitted letter included visible contact information while other submitted letters within the same agenda had been entirely crossed out. Council clarified that this mistake was purely accidental, and that contact information is often excluded for privacy reasons.
Mertens also accused council of presenting three different water treatment plant budgets to the public, but CFO Bhalla responded that there was only one budget. Bhalla also responded to Mertens’ inquiry about whether or not any dollars have been allocated to the Village’s underground pipes.
“Our underground infrastructure is in really good shape,” he said, adding “We do continue to set aside funds, but our underground infrastructure is far greater than our reserves are. Things are not looking bad for our water pipes.”