Kaslo Village Hall. File photo

Kaslo Village Hall. File photo

Kaslo council roundup: Renewable energy, tree planting, rise in sewer bill

All the news from the village council’s Dec. 8 meeting

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Kaslo has begun the long journey to cut its fossil fuel use by 2050. Council voted to adopt the West Kootenay 100 per cent Renewable Energy Plan, the culmination of a region-wide initiative to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage local government’s transition to renewable energy.

Council first began working on the plan about a year ago with the West Kootenay EcoSociety, the group that initiated the project. Eight other local governments are also taking part, making it a unique initiative in the country.

Over the coming months, staff will go over the plans and recommend to council how best to incorporate specific initiatives to meet Kaslo’s goals – things like buying more electric vehicles for the Village fleet, building EV charge stations, lowering speed limits, promoting geothermal and green energy, encouraging better building methods, etc.

But staff also warned it won’t always be easy.

“A challenge for local implementation, aside from individual actions, is the local capacity and funding to assess, plan, educate and implement the recommendations, which was already a challenge throughout the renewable energy planning process,” says a report to council.

Funding is available for many of the initiatives, the report also indicates.

In public comments after the meeting, online viewers from the EcoSociety praised council for taking the step.

• Council endorsed the Parks, Trails and Public Art Committee’s chosen contractor – Cathro Engineering – to undertake a tree planting program next year. Cathro’s proposal includes developing an ‘adopt-a-tree’ program, community consultation, mapping, identifying gaps, and on-site guidance to Village crew to assist with planting the first trees. The project will be completed by the end of next April and will cost about $5,000.

• Council approved the conceptual designs for Front Street Park, done by Heritage Consultant Bob Inwood. The Park Design Committee met in November to consider revisions suggested after the public got a chance to review the designs of the stage and washroom.

CAO Ian Dunlop reported that the new stage design will help improve sight lines, bring the front of the stage out with a protruding roof and steps, enlarge the entrance to the washrooms to improve accessibility, and situate the buildings on the property to maximize the open space.

Inwood will now commission proper architectural plans for construction, and council will get a chance to approve those in January. If all goes well, construction should begin in the spring and the park ready for events by market season. This project is being funded through a Columbia Basin Trust Community Outdoor Revitalization Grant, which covers 80 per cent of the design and construction costs.

• Plans for restoring and repairing earthworks that keep the Kaslo River within its banks in town cleared another hurdle. The Kaslo River Dike Remediation project revised scope was approved by the Union of BC Municipalities and Emergency Measures BC, the two agencies funding and overseeing the project.

The Village first applied in 2018 and got $304,000 in funding for the project in 2019. While work began in fall 2019, CAO Ian Dunlop says they received word in August 2020 that the project needs a Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) authorization, which could still take months.

“This was unanticipated when the project was originally budgeted because DFO regulations became more stringent in 2019,” he says.

In October 2020, the budget for the project was updated and increased to $461,000 to include all of the additional engineering, archaeological, and fish protection work required.

Since the 2018 funding could not be increased, the Village was advised to submit a revised application with a reduced project scope that would fit into the approved budget of $304,000. They could then apply for a new grant for the rest of the project and funding.

“We received word last week that our revised 2018 application was accepted, so we can resume working on the project and permit approvals,” Dunlop told council.

Work on that first phase could commence in late winter or early spring 2021.

Council expects to hear about the extra funding for the second phase of the new version of the project by this February.

• Homeowners will be seeing a slightly higher charge for sewer services when they get their annual utility bill in January.

Sewer rates in 2020 were, for the first time, based on the recommendations of the Liquid Waste Management Plan and on the actual cost of operating the system. Last year the charge for residential sewer service was set at $370.

But that’s going to go up.

“This year was also the first year we implemented new payroll tracking of the hours that public works staff devote to the sewer system,” says a report to council. “Their tasks include day-to-day operations, repair, maintenance, sludge pressing and training.”

But it turns out that staff time was underestimated, and was about $12,000 higher than budgeted. So this year, there’s an increase to compensate. The residential rate is climbing to $382, a 3.2 per cent increase in fees.

Sewer fees will now be included on the annual utility bill to be issued in January, instead of separately. Though you’ll get your bill in January, you have until the end of the year to pay.

• Council approved an increase in fees for seasonal temporary/ mobile vendor business licenses, back up to $200. The fee was $200 in 2015 but was reduced to $75 in 2018, which is the same amount that local businesses pay for their business licenses.

“There are different types of temporary and mobile vendors, such as food trucks, carts and fruit stands,” says a staff report. “But local ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses may not feel they are being treated fairly, as taxpayers, so we recommend reinstating the higher rate until business license fees and the licensing bylaw can be formally reviewed.”

The new $200 rate, which comes into effect next year, does not impact the farmers’ market, which pays $100 per day to cover all vendors.

Council also approved increasing the business licences rate for temporary mobile vendors (think a T-shirt seller who comes in for a weekend) from $0 to $25.

– Valley Voice