The raw wound of unequal distribution of COVID-19 federal/provincial re-start money could not be soothed for some at the regional district level.
When the Regional District of Central Kootenay board of directors had to allocate the remaining re-start funds before the end of 2021, one director spoke up for the money to be used for shortfalls in rural services.
Area I director Andy Davidoff said during the mid-December board of directors meeting the math per constituent for electoral areas in the initial re-start offering was far less than per constituent for some municipalities within the RDCK.
“We know that the regional districts and the electoral areas did not get the funding comparable to what municipalities received on a per capita basis,” he said.
That sentiment was acknowledged in the staff report from the regional district.
“There was some concern that this was not adequately representative of the impact to the RDCK, and regional districts in general,” the report stated about the re-start funding.
Davidoff proposed an amendment to the distribution of re-start funds that the RDCK staff had formulated, in attempt to assuage electoral area feelings.
He proposed that, “all remaining RDCK COVID restart funds be allocated to each RDCK electoral area on a proportionate basis based on the population of each electoral area to be utilized on COVID-19 related expenses for loss of revenues in services which the electoral areas participate in.”
But the money needed to be allocated before the end of the year, said RDCK chief administrative officer Stuart Horn, and on COVID-related expenses.
“If they are not, the province could ask for those funds to be refunded,” he said. “So, there is no service, other than rural administration, that is solely in the rural areas,” as well as planning.
Board chair Aimee Watson said it would be difficult to administer Davidoff’s motion in the form proposed.
However, Davidoff’s motion did not pass. Instead, a staff-suggested slate of 13 different regional district services was supported by the board in another motion for a total of $683,503.95.
In all, the regional district had $887,464.84 to allocate.
Cost of COVID
Last year the regional district was beset with expenses that would otherwise have not occurred had the pandemic not happened, same as in 2020.
In 2021 recreation centre staff tracked their time spent cleaning, disinfecting, and preparing recreation locations for the provincial health officer orders, said Horn in a report to the board.
“The wages associated with this were redirected from other work at the centres to deal with the pandemic response,” he wrote.
Across the three major recreation complexes — Nelson, Castlegar and Creston — these totalled $148,563.03.
Also in 2021 the regional district staffing was impacted with numerous regional district staff members being on leave due to a requirement to self-isolate.
“This particularly impacted our utilities construction crew,” said Horn.
Mining the HB
According to a regional district staff report the largest impact to COVID-19 in 2021 was the capital project at the HB Mine near Salmo.
“Specifically, it related to our contractor and their ability to send their supervisors to the appropriate training to manage staff on site,” Horn wrote in the report.
“The training did not occur because of the pandemic, and as a result each supervisor could be responsible for a maximum of four staff, rather than six if they were able to take the training. This required more supervisors to be on site for the project work, and significantly increased costs.”
There were other expenses, including cleaning supplies, testing equipment (temperature checks) and the requirement for enhanced safety plans.
A total of $887,464.84 was allocated:
HB Mine project: $369,550.52 (additional safety and supervisor expenses)
Nelson and District Recreation, wage: $81,181.50 (cleaning, disinfecting)
Creston and District Recreation, wage: $83,490 (cleaning, disinfecting)
Castlegar and District Recreation, wage: $88,891.53 (cleaning, disinfecting)
Recreation expenses: $64,326.22 (security, PPE, plexiglas, signage)
Administration and IT: $44,853.74 (Webex subscriptions, legal advice)
General administration: $98,960.39 (Webex)
Fire and emergency services: $25,203.81 (PPE)
Riondel Community Centre: $10,776 (lost revenue)
Parks Ambassador Program: $9,617.76 (program cost)
Water Ambassador Program: $6,761.38 (program cost)
Utilities construction delays: $2,691 (wages for sick leave)
Resource recovery: $758.84 (PPE, plexiglas)
Transit: $401.65 (signage and advertising)
At the end of 2022 the RDCK will be required to report on what the funds were used for in its financial statements, as per the terms of the grant.