COUNCIL ROUND-UP: Sept. 6, 2011 meeting

The district issued two proclamations. The first, Restorative Justice Week, acknowledges the week of Nov. 13 to 20 for educating the public about the approach of restorative justice. The second is United Way Month during October. Mission organizations connected to the United Way raised $49,071 in 2010.

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The organization Water Watch Mission-Abbotsford (WWMA) made a presentation to council, affirming support to keep water in public hands and commending Mission for not joining Abbotsford in the Stave Lake P3 water supply and treatment project. WWMA spokeswoman Janet Chalmers urged council to support a Burnaby city council resolution at the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities annual meeting in Vancouver Sept. 20-26. The resolution calls on the federal government to provide funding for public water infrastructure and delivery projects.

Although council could not create a resolution of its own, they agreed in principle that whomever from council visits the UBCM meeting should strive to support the Burnaby resolution. Meanwhile, Coun. Jenny Stevens moved that council write a letter to the federal government insisting infrastructure upgrade funding not be dependent on private partnerships.

A full video of the WWMA presentation to council can be seen on YouTube.

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Former councillor John Pearson voiced his support for staff recommendations that the district not pursue installing water meters at this time. A former chair of the Abbotsford-Mission Water Sewer Commission, Pearson said there is no reliable data either for how much water Mission uses and could be saved, or how much is leaking. He also said it wouldn’t be fair for the 20 per cent of Mission homeowners not on the water grid to have to subsidize the other 80 per cent.

A more indepth story on this can be found in the Sept. 8 edition of The Mission Record or online here.

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Staff have recommended that the district not waive $686,000 in development cost charges (DCCs) for the Fraser Health Authority’s residential care component of the Mission Community Health Project. Under the Local Government Act, council must find funds from other sources if they intend to offset or reduce DCCs, which means the money would have to come from existing reserve funds.

According to a submission by finance director Ken Bjorgaard, reserve funds “are not at their optimal policy levels and they are compromised due to the funding of existing internal loans and the funding of other emergent, non-planned projects.” He added that the district’s general operating fund surplus is also below the recommended or optimal level.

He did point out that in the case of the Chilliwack hospital expansion, the city denied a request to waive DCCs, but provided a grant equivalent to the development fees. If Mission opted for that route, however, council would have to decide which capital projects would be deferred.

Coun. Paul Horn said he wants Mission to pay at least 10 per cent of the DCCs back in the form of a grant as a gesture of good will to Fraser Health. “I’m not OK with us giving zero back,” he said.

Currently, Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District is paying 40 per cent of the funding for the project, of which Mission is contributing 10 per cent, while the province is picking up the balance.

“I do not wish to yield to suggestive pressure that if we don’t donate we won’t get what we need,” said Coun. Jenny Stevens. “Frankly, we haven’t got the money. It’s that simple.”

Council voted to have staff come back with a report answering three questions: what source of funding would the district have if it wished to provide a grant to Fraser Health; what proportion of the project has been funded so far; what are the implications for action and inaction.

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Council has voted to approve the awarding of $536 to send Coun. Heather Stewart to attend the Communities in Bloom National Symposium and Awards Ceremonies in Quebec City in October. The Communities in Bloom Committee has already raised $1,500 to offset the attendance cost.

Approval will place the council travel budget, which is pooled for all councillors, at an estimated $400 in the red. Since some councillors, notably Paul Horn and Jenny Stevens, haven’t used any portion of the travel budget, it was indicated by several councillors that the size of the travel budget should be revisited.

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Residents on 14 Avenue have asked why the district hasn’t finished installing a sidewalk on the north side of the 32000-block.

A staff report will come back to council Sept. 19 with answers.

“It’s been demonstrated that it’s quite a dangerous stretch,” said Mayor James Atebe.

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The Mission Abbotsford Transit Committee report into a possible public transit service to Hatzic Secondary School has come back, and the price tag is high. The findings:

Based on an estimated 550 students and 187 days of instruction, a conventional transit bus on Route 35 would cost $430,000, while a highway bus would ring up $667,000.

The second option, involving a downtown exchange, would tally $377,000 by transit bus, or $600,000 by highway coach.

BC Transit did not recommend implementation due to the considerable cost range of $6.50 to $10.35 per ride, when the existing transit system already costs $3.77.

Calling the numbers “insane,” Coun. Jenny Stevens said, “We can’t afford it and it’s not our responsibility to be the school board’s back pocket.”

Coun. Paul Horn quipped that at $430,000 a year over five years it would be cheaper to simply move the school.

Council will next meet with the school board to discuss what options, if any, the district can offer.