The City of Nelson could have a new sibling in 2013 after council tentatively agreed to a recommendation from staff about entering into a relationship with Sandpoint, Idaho.
In July, Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson made a presentation to council advocating for entering into a sister city relationship with the north Idaho community.
“I’m happy that the initiative is going to move forward,” said Thomson.
“In the fall, we got together with the Chamber and City officials from Sandpoint, local people involved with economic development, representatives from Whitewater Ski Resort and the Capitol Theatre. It was a great meeting. We discussed a lot of synergies between the two communities and the possibility of exploring that relationship.”
Thomson said because both councils were entering into municipal elections it was unclear how the relationship would proceed.
“We thought it might not move forward, but several months later we heard from Sandpoint that they were still interested in moving forward with the initiative,” he said. “The Chamber took it on as an initiative. We were quite interested in pursuing this as a sponsoring agency with [Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership] and Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism.”
The City currently has a legislation that allows Nelson to have sister city relationships with three communities at one time. Entering into a partnership with Sandpoint would be the fourth for the city.
“When I first initiated the application, the City told me that there is a policy for only three sister cities, but it wasn’t our intent to say that they should drop somebody to accommodate this,” said Thomson. “We didn’t think that our request would be a major burden on somebody, so we asked if they would maybe consider our proposal. It sounds like they are tentatively considering it, but only after March 2013 when another initiative expires.”
The initiative that would expire is with the community of Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec.
The close proximity of Sandpoint to Nelson in addition to existing agreements with Whitewater Ski Resort and Schweitzer Ski Resort in Sandpoint are among several reasons Thomson believes it would be a good fit for the communities.
“I think we are a little closer economically and geographically, but that’s not to say there weren’t synergies between us and Baie-Saint-Paul,” he said.
“Certainly there are synergies between our [Nelson and Sandpoint] communities. We have a lot similarities in the types of communities, from tourism to arts and heritage. It’s also a two hour drive. It’s close at hand. It’s more economically efficient to travel there than to a province that’s several thousand kilometres away.”
Until the initiative with Baie-Saint-Paul expires in 2013, Thomson said representatives from Sandpoint and Nelson will continue to meet to develop the relationship.
“We will make contact with the Sandpoint chamber of commerce and let them know that the tentative agreement is in place,” he said.
“In March 2013 there will be further discussions with the City of Nelson, but until then maybe some time in the fall we will go down to Sandpoint. I think that is the type of initiative you can do on a bi-annual basis and keep the project moving along. I don’t think it will be a major economic burden on any of the organizations.”
Nelson also has sister city relationships with Izu-Shi, Japan, and the District of Kaoma, Zambia.