Volunteers clean up City of Powell River properties

Residents take action to spruce up ‘unsightly’ and ‘embarrassing’ conditions

First impressions are important for two Powell River residents who want to clean up the city, even if they have to do it themselves.

But work they are doing is in contravention of the collective bargaining agreement between City of Powell River and CUPE.

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Powell River resident Don Edwards attended the city’s committee of the whole meeting on June 5, bringing with him a slideshow of properties, many owned by the municipality, that he said were in unacceptable condition.

Edwards drew attention to city land where cleanup work is done by CUPE 798, which represents local, municipal, regional and library workers of Powell River.

If the city does not have the manpower, Edwards said volunteers should be allowed to do the work themselves.

“My problem is when we walk or drive around town there are so many unsightly streets all over our community,” said Edwards. “I know there's a union issue.”

Mayor Dave Formosa said his new neighbour wanted to do the work of a union worker by cutting blackberry bramble along a sidewalk.

“He said to me, ‘Do you think I could go and cut those down?’” said Formosa. “I said, yes, as long as the union doesn't see it.”

To receive official approval from the city is a lengthy process. According to its collective bargaining agreement, the city agrees not to solicit volunteers to carry out any work presently performed by employees. Also, all volunteer projects must undergo a city and union endorsement process, requiring approval of both parties. A committee will be established to discuss concerns that may prevent endorsement.

That’s not stopping Edwards and like-minded people who have been taking their weed eaters, brooms and paint brushes to various properties around Powell River. He said if they are caught, they will keep going back.

Edwards and fellow Powell River resident Maureen Tierney said they think it is embarrassing that visitors who come for International Choral Kathaumixw, PRISMA and BC Bike Race have to see the state of some properties.

“We have a lot of people coming into town every day looking at real estate, driving all around town looking for houses for sale and is that the best we can do?” said Edwards.

Tierney staged a clandestine operation to tidy up at Powell River Airport. She said it was a matter of civic pride that does not show at the facility.

“The parking lot is cracked, there are potholes, there is grass growing out of the potholes; it's awful,” said Tierney. “Handicapped parking isn't clearly identified and the address sign is broken. It's not just that it's an old airport, it's just shabby.”

Since Edwards appeared before the committee, many of the city properties he identified have been cleaned up by city workers.

Measures under a new traffic bylaw would address property maintenance, as does the recently passed Property Maintenance and Standards Bylaw.

Under the new traffic bylaw being reviewed, it may become mandatory for homeowners to maintain the boulevard that edges their property line to the sidewalk and also keep sidewalk and curbside weeds from growing out of cracks.

According to city clerk Chris Jackson, the existing bylaw is not clear as to whether it is the property owners responsibility to clean the boulevard and across the sidewalk to the edge of the curb.

“We could put something in the traffic bylaw,” said Jackson, “that talks about maintenance of boulevards as the responsibility of the property owner.”

Copyright © Powell River Peak

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