Residents of the Village of Ashcroft had an opportunity to learn more about their municipality’s current projects and future plans during an open house event on Thursday, Nov. 14. that was attended by about 34 people.
This year, the Community Forum was a drop-in event held in Ashcroft’s Community Hall to provide flexibility for those who wished to attend, while allowing members of Village staff and council to interact directly with citizens and offer information on a variety of subjects.
The forum got started at 3 p.m. with a rush of people, but no newcomers arrived past 6:30 p.m. and the event wrapped up by 7:30 p.m. Community Futures Sun Country and the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library system were both on-site with booths at the event.
For those who attended, a surplus of information was provided on the 30 active or anticipated projects and plans that the Village’s council currently has in place for the community. All five council members were present, along with CAO Anne Yanciw and CFO Yogi Bhalla.
Ashcroft resident Jim Duncan thought the forum went very well and appreciated the change in format.
“Normally you would go there and they would stand upfront and make their presentation, maybe ask a few questions, but this one, everything was on the wall, nice and big, easy to read.”
He enjoyed that the Village’s various plans and projects were detailed on the walls of the hall so that participants could read and review them, even making a few notes, as Duncan did.
Residents such as Duncan had a chance to chat with members of council and the Village’s administration staff one-on-one about their specific concerns, as the forum allowed for open conversation throughout the evening.
“Before, maybe you might get one question in the whole night because there would be 30 or 40 people wanting to ask questions,” said Duncan. He has attended Community Forums in Ashcroft in the past and recalled that the previous format could sometimes lead to a focus on one topic, for example, while the new format allowed for coverage of a much broader range of information.
“This one was really nice,” he said. “I think it was by far the best way they’ve ever done it.”
The evening included an interactive communications feature, which allowed participants to indicate which communication channels they felt could be most useful to them personally in the event of both regular and emergency situations.
Surveys were also posted on the walls for participants and the evening’s topics were arranged into five groups: strategic priorities, current planned projects, current unplanned projects, current projects proposed by others, and emerging needs. All of this information was available on a handout for residents to take home.
Ashcroft’s Mayor Barbara Roden said that the evening’s survey results indicated that everyone who participated was happy with the forum’s new format. “Several positive comments about it were overheard,” she said.
The evening’s top questions from the public surrounded the new water treatment plant, housing development, health care, and emergency access routes.
Strategic priorities include budgeted goals such as those that exist within the Village’s 2019-2020 Strategic Plan, while emerging needs can encompass those actions needed to ensure the Village maintains effective service levels to all citizens.
Some of the strategic priorities outlined during Thursday’s forum included an update to the community’s Emergency Response Plan and Evacuation Plan. Storm drainage was also listed as a priority, along with the need for a portable digital sign in the community.
Cannabis legislation was identified as one of Ashcroft’s emerging needs, and a respectful workplace policy was also listed under this category.
Current unplanned projects for the community include emergent situations and projects that exist outside the Strategic Plan or annual budget. Planned projects have already been identified and are included in the annual budget. Some of those projects include the Village’s water treatment plant and a hot tub replacement for the local pool.
As for current projects proposed by others, this category encompasses efforts by organizations or non-profits outside council that require processing, review, support, or approval from the Village. Some of those projects include the Ashcroft Terminal and the Riverhill Estates housing development. Additionally, the Off-Leash Dog Park was listed and a second proposed housing development for 1479 Government Street was also included.