The interior of the Nelson Innovation Centre in 2020. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

The interior of the Nelson Innovation Centre in 2020. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson council hears pitch for climate innovation hub

The hub would be housed at the Nelson Innovation Centre

What is the City of Nelson doing to respond to climate change?

In the near future, Nelson residents might be able to satisfy their curiosity about all climate-related activities of the city in one stop, in one-on-one conversations with real people.

The city is considering partnering with the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) to run a climate innovation hub.

It would be located at the Nelson Innovation Centre, which has been located in the converted CP Rail station since 2020. KAST runs the centre on behalf of the city.

At a Jan. 25 council meeting, KAST, in addition to proposing the climate hub, asked the city for $40,000 in funding.

Council did not make a decision about the request but will consider it in upcoming budget meetings.

KAST executive director Melanie Fontaine and the city’s climate and energy advisor Cecilia Jaques, in a joint presentation to council, said that the city would use the centre as the public face of its Nelson Next climate plan.

It would be an accessible place for the public to learn about the city’s other climate-related programs such as home energy retrofits, the upcoming composting program, the active transportation plan, the e-bike program and FireSmart.

”The climate hub would be that public-facing space where you can visit and get to know whats’ going on,” Jaques said.

Using the example of the upcoming compost collection program, the city’s organics diversion co-ordinator Emily Mask said people could “pick up their bins, get educational materials, and learn about the use of it. It’s for residents to interact with us, to get feedback on the program and refine it and make it better.”

The location would still be used for KAST’s own programs, which include a variety of services, workshops and programs for tech entrepreneurs aimed at enhancing local technology development in the region.

“This [partnership] would provide an opportunity for the public to develop interests, skills and knowledge around technology, entrepreneurship and climate innovation all in one place,” Fontaine said.

Last year the city voted to give the Nelson Innovation Centre $40,000, but that amount, according to the city’s chief financial officer Colin McClure, was not paid out because of unknowns in the centre’s available services and leadership positions during the pandemic.

Fontaine asked that this year council agree to pay KAST half of that 2021 allotment ($20,000) because the centre did provide some virtual services in 2021 and employed some staff. In addition, she asked for an additional $40,000 for the upcoming year in order to employ a part-time staff member.

Councillor Janice Morrison said she had been unaware that the climate hub project was in the works, and she had questions about the details of the proposed roles and relationship between the city and KAST, which were not clearly answered in the meeting.

Councillor Keith Page expressed doubts about KAST and how it is governed.

“Who are the members of KAST and how is the board selected by its membership?” he asked.

“The board is not voted on by the members. Our members are from across the Kootenays and some from Vancouver,” Fontaine said, adding that KAST is developing a new membership model.

“How is the board kept accountable to its strategic priorities if it does not go through a vetting by its membership?” Page asked.

“That’s a good question,” Fontaine said. “That is not how they have been running in the past and I would have to touch base with them if they ever intend to go to more of a membership voting model. I don’t know if that is in the goals or not.”

Councillor Nicole Charlwood said the requested amount is a small price to pay for the kinds of collaboration this project would provide both for KAST and the city.

Mayor John Dooley agreed, saying the partnership would enhance the visibility of the city’s climate-related programs because the public could visit the centre and deal with a real person instead of playing telephone tag when they need information. He said the collaboration could leverage new opportunities and funding for both groups.

“There is an opportunity here for us to work together to give us a front door for some the climate initiatives we are working on,” he said.

Correction: The original version of this article stated that KAST asked the city for half ($20,000) of last year’s unpaid grant plus another $20,000 for 2022. In fact KAST asked the city for half ($20,000) of last year’s unpaid grant plus $40,000 for 2022.


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