City of Powell River council is approaching the mid-point of its four-year term. The municipal election on November 15, 2014, resulted in the re-election of councillors Jim Palm, Maggie Hathaway and Russell Brewer and the election of Karen Skadsheim, CaroleAnn Leishman and Rob Southcott. Mayor Dave Formosa ran unopposed and was acclaimed.
For the past 24 months, council has worked on a variety of issues, some of which were passed on to them from their predecessors, and others that have been introduced as new business. In both cases, current council has worked to establish its own brand.
Think of this report card as a citizens’ progress report and a mid-term checkup.
Infrastructure development - B
Council received approval from the provincial government for its consolidated liquid waste management plan to be built in Townsite.
Council supported the $4.9-million purchase of commercial space at Crossroads Village on Alberni Street for the public library’s new location.
Replacement of Haslam Lake trunk water main received $4 million in funding from a federal and provincial infrastructure grant.
Council directed $600,000 be put into resurfacing and maintaining city roads annually.
Evaluation: The city made progress finding funding for larger infrastructure projects, but work still needs to be done to find funds for the consolidated liquid waste treatment plant and the new post-disaster emergency response facility. Conditions on 100 kilometres of city roads are expected to improve due to the investment.
Parks, recreation and culture - B
Using money from Powell River Community Forest, council purchased 37 hectares of trees on Millennium Park to secure it from logging.
Also, using a community forest grant, council supported development of a small park at Marine Avenue and Alberni Street.
Council supported the Expanded Regional Recreation Initiative study, Powell River Wellness Challenge and the purchase and installation of fitness equipment at Willingdon Beach.
Council continued its support for local arts through $25,000 to Powell River Council of Arts, Culture and Heritage.
Evaluation: Council has been strategic in order to advance the creation of new parks and has looked into having recreation services paid for by the region, rather than just city taxpayers. Council has shown a commitment to support improving the health and well-being of residents and supporting local arts.
Community engagement - A-
Council began to live stream its meetings and hired a contractor to improve how the city provides information to residents.
Councillors organized a discussion on sustainability issues and sought input on spending priorities using an online budget simulator, in addition to hosting city budget open house sessions.
Council re-launched the Powell River youth council to give young adults a venue to contribute their perspective.
Councillors continued to attend ratepayers meetings and participated in forums with Powell River Regional District and Tla’amin Nation.
Council maintained the meeting policy of opening question period to people in the gallery.
Evaluation: Council made a priority of ensuring the city’s business is handled in a transparent manner and that residents are able to provide thoughts on issues facing the city.
Planning - B-
Council evaluated priorities set by the previous council and added three new ones, including social planning, community engagement and emergency preparation.
Council approved hiring a new senior planner to help handle the increased workload in the planning services department and to work on developing sustainability planning priority issues, such as allowing for carriage homes, secondary suites and tiny homes.
Regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries are in the works.
Evaluation: Council has been proactive in providing city staff with direction to address issues of increasing density in the city and planning for the future, but progress has been slow in moving these issues forward due to the volume of development in the city and larger, more complex files that are more time-consuming for staff.
Economic development - C+
Working from the Powell River Economic Development Strategy report, council carried forward with a resident-attraction campaign and engaged with consultants to work with foreign investors to start new or purchase existing businesses.
Council supported development of a Sino Bright School campus and other post-secondary schools.
Council signed a lease with Santè Veritas Therapeutics for a state-of-the-art medical marijuana facility.
Council supported the idea of developing of a Townsite-based light-industrial park and the idea of an airport industrial park.
Evaluation: Council has made a solid effort to bring new residents to Powell River, including people with an entrepreneurial spirit, to help the city transition from being resource-based to educational- and product-based. Progress, however, has been slow.
Social development - C
Council supported bringing in Syrian refugee families, developing a food-systems assessment that could help make the city more food secure and acted on several social-action plan recommendations, including establishing social action and housing committees.
Council reviewed its process for supporting non-profits through grant funding, forest grants and tax exemptions to ensure it is being equitable in its support.
Council provided tax exemptions of over two per cent of its taxation revenues and close to $3 million in grants over the past two years.
Evaluation: Despite support for non-profits, council has been slow to address larger issues, including affordable housing for people with low incomes and improving transportation links. Waiting five months for a social-action report that spells out what was already known was valuable time wasted.