RCMP biggest district expenditure

Mission Mayor James Atebe talks about issues he raised at the UBCM.

Roads, recreation and the RCMP were just three of the many issues to which Mission voiced concerns at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Vancouver.

Mayor James Atebe said he chaired the RCMP contract negotiation discussion, a hot topic of concern for many communities in the province.

Out-of-control costs of the federally-administered police force have been downloaded to municipalities, according to Atebe, who added those costs are not sustainable through property tax increases.

“We, as municipalities, wanted to speak in solidarity with the province so that we can compel the federal government to come and negotiate at the table,” he said.

Atebe said the feds are playing “hardball” by threatening to pull the Mounties out of B.C. by 2014 if a new 20-year contract isn’t signed by November.

Mission has spent $4.6 million on police services this year according to a 2011 budget review released on Monday, the single largest expenditure in the district and 14 per cent greater than payroll.

Atebe said he also met with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Blair Lekstrom to discuss four-laning the four-kilometre stretch from Lougheed Highway to the Silverdale Flats, a tricky proposition in a worsening economy.

It’s expected to be very expensive since environmentally sensitive agricultural lands need to be acquired.

The current two-kilometre road upgrades from Wren Street to Nelson Street has been a $23 million-project.

Atebe also met with forests minister Steve Thompson about promoting outdoor recreation and improving forest roads.

Private water projects opposed

UBCM delegates passed a Burnaby-sponsored resolution calling on the federal government to allow continued public ownership of water and sewer plants when doling out infrastructure grants.

Ottawa requires big local projects in line for grants to first go through a P3 assessment to see if money can be saved by building them as public-private partnerships.

The issue has been hot in the Fraser Valley, where Mission and Abbotsford councils are split over whether a shared water supply expansion should be publicly or privately built. Abbotsford is now pursuing the P3 water project itself, over Mission’s objections.

Smart meter freeze urged

The campaign to defeat B.C. Hydro’s rollout of wireless smart meters got a boost from mayors and councillors at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention last Friday.

Delegates voted 55 per cent to support a moratorium on the mandatory installation of smart meters until major issues can be resolved.

Some civic leaders who supported the call for a moratorium said they don’t share fears about health risks but think other concerns deserve more attention, from the cost of the meter program to the potential to charge higher rates at peak times.

An initial show of hands was inconclusive so the final vote was conducted electronically — using wireless voting devices.

No delegates spoke against the resolution. Premier Christy Clark said the smart meter installations will continue, despite the UBCM resolution.

Hydro crews have already installed 100,000 smart meters across B.C. and that’s to rise to 250,000 by later this fall.

“I don’t share those health concerns,” Clark said Friday.

She said B.C. needs an efficient smart grid to save money on electricity delivery and foster economic growth.

— With files from Jeff Nagel