The Village of Ashcroft held its first regular council meeting of the new year on Monday, Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m. with all members of staff and council on hand.
The Village also held a special meeting of council on the morning of Jan. 22 to receive a presentation from Gravity Productions on the scheduling details of the upcoming filming set to take place in the community for a CBS television series.
Both of these meetings are now available for the public to review on the HUB Online Network’s YouTube channel or Facebook page. As always, the Village’s agendas are also accessible for the public via Ashcroft’s official website (https://ashcroftbc.ca/).
The Jan. 13 meeting of council also marked the last inclusion of fully printed agendas available on hand for members of the public to review or take home. Going forward, council will continue to provide cover sheets of the relevant meeting agendas for the day, and full agendas can still be found online through the Village’s website.
Information and interview requests
Council received a letter from regular gallery member Gloria Mertens, who wrote to request that the Village waive the fee associated with a request for information she submitted earlier in the month.
“I participate in civic politics in order to provide public oversight, but am not willing to do so at personal expense,” wrote Mertens. “I am writing to Council to ask that the fee be waived so that I may receive the information, which I would be happy to view at the Village office so no photocopying costs need be incurred.”
Mertens suggested that the Village add an archival folder to its website so that more commonplace information could be easily accessed by the public.
Coun. Marilyn Anderson spoke up first to move for a denial of the request, noting that Village staff are currently “stretched.” Mertens’ request was ultimately denied.
“Extra time like that, if there is a cost to it, is there to help the Village of Ashcroft,” said Anderson. Coun. Jonah Anstett seconded that motion, and Mayor Barbara Roden added a few thoughts, saying “There is no charge to come in and ask a question about a current matter.”
Council also received a proposal from civic journalist Gareth Smart of the HUB Online Network (HON) during this meeting, that the HON interview a different representative from council each month to be featured on their YouTube channel and Facebook page. Smart also mentioned future hopes to continue interviewing local politicians and community members to deliver civic news.
Council voted in favour of the proposal.
With no new business or bylaws to discuss, the VOA went over a quick finance review for the past year.
“Most of the numbers [from 2019] are in,” advised CFO Yogi Bhalla, who also provided a more detailed financial update at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Jan. 27. “Overall, we’re doing great.”
Bhalla advised that Ashcroft did well in 2019 and also stayed on budget for the year. He noted that completed, audited financial statements for the Village are available for the public to review.
Mayor Roden provided an update from Historic Hat Creek, noting that the Heritage Branch has now presented the Friends of Historic Hat Creek with a new proposal. After a recent board chair change, a new proposal has been suggested, which Roden added was a substantial improvement.
“I think going forward there will be a much more fruitful partnership with Heritage Branch,” she said.
One of the self-proclaimed “younger old people in town” spoke up to request he continue receiving the full agenda in print, which CAO Anne Yanciw said could be arranged in the future.
Mertens spoke up to agree, and some discussion took place between council and the gallery on the topic. Roden said that, in time, people will likely understand that the system has changed and that it may still be possible to consider this issue on a case-by-case basis.
Yanciw also answered a few questions from Mertens surrounding correspondence with the Village. She explained that staff often exercises discretion around any public correspondence received, and as a result, not all documents make it into the Village’s public agendas.
On Monday, Jan. 27, the Village also held back-to-back meetings, beginning with a budget presentation during a Committee of the Whole meeting and then moving to a regular meeting. Stay tuned for highlights from those meetings in the future.