The Regional District of Central Kootenay’s board approved staff reviewing the policies of the building department with an eye to updating them to conform with current bylaws and provincial regulations during its Jan. 19 meeting.
“The general public interest will be served when staff have clear interpretations of those matters related to building permitting and construction, which are within the purview of the RDCK local government…,” wrote John Southam, the RDCK’s manager of building development and special projects, in a report. “All participants in the building construction process benefit when regulation is clearly and equitably applied.”
Southam told directors that current practices by building inspectors don’t always line up with recent changes to provincial or regional regulations. Some policies are outdated, and some use language that is no longer used in the regulations. Others lack transparency, while some practices are “onerous” on staff and could easily be streamlined, he said.
Other policies that will be reviewed include rules on farm buildings, refund fees for cancelled projects, and the procedure for removing Notice on Titles placed on problem projects.
Southam said industry professionals will be consulted when needed to provide further clarification and staff will seek legal opinion when required. All recommendations will be brought forward to the board later this year to ensure board members are well informed.
The review will affect the work of building inspectors across the entire RDCK, with the exceptions of Nelson, Creston and Castlegar, which have their own departments.
Dog Creek wildfire resiliency project
A small Arrow Lakes community will be taking steps to better protect itself from wildfire, but the project prompted a debate on the cost of administering programs by RDCK staff.
The Dog Creek Water Users Committee applied for a $40,000 grant from the Columbia Basin Trust to improve wildfire resiliency in their community. They plan to clean up five hectares of forest surrounding a gravel pit next to the community, removing scrub brush, small trees and deadfall.
While officials felt it a worthy project and the community capable of managing the job, there was a problem: the DCWUC isn’t legally eligible to receive the grant – it has to flow through a municipal government or other recognized body.
That prompted the Dog Creek applicants to ask the RDCK’s Wildfire Management Program to be the “big brother” and agree to receive the loan on behalf of the community.
“This project was not part of the 2023 work plan, however, due to the increase in community-initiated wildfire mitigation projects and associated funding opportunities, staff feel there is value in supporting the community as a test case,” said a report from staff to the board. “This will help build a better understanding of the role the RDCK can play in working with motivated and organized communities to implement wildfire mitigation projects and explore options of how to provide support to them.”
While agreeing it was a good project, directors said the money the RDCK would spend to be a middleman – nearly 45 hours of staff time will likely be needed to administer the grant – has to be recovered.
“This organization, when we start stepping outside of our core things we have to do, to do things we want to do to support our community, really has to have the right number there, a number that has to include everything … payroll, salary,” said Area A director Garry Jackman. “It’s a good place to be in, prior to opening the floodgates for this kind of application.”
Board chair Aimee Watson (Area D) said a 15 per cent charge would be a reasonable cut to cover costs for administration. Staff said discussions with Trust officials showed they were aware of the problem and looking to compensate governments for the cost of administering community grants. They may also look to providing funding for smaller groups like Dog Creek to be able to access funds in a way that doesn’t need a flow-through agent.
The board passed a motion asking for a 15 per cent increase to the grant from the Trust to cover its admin costs.
The RDCK is going to apply for a $30,000 grant to support volunteer emergency support workers in training and responding to critical events.
“Emergency support services are provided by teams of volunteers,” emergency program co-ordinator Jon Jackson wrote to the board. “Recruiting, training and retaining our volunteers is critical to our ability to be ready to respond when disasters happen.”
If the grant is awarded, part of the money will be used to purchase new emergency prep kits for teams in Kaslo and Salmo, to complement ones already in Nakusp, Creston and Nelson. These kits – which include laptops, printers and other equipment – are used for training and for responding to requests for emergency support services.
About $18,000 will also go to training and team-building for community leaders and workers.