The Mount as a housing option

This is my first column for the Nelson Star and I want to thank editor Bob Hall and the staff for the opportunity to express my views.

This is my first column for the Nelson Star and I want to thank editor Bob Hall and the staff for the opportunity to express my views.

A Chinese saying is: “May you live in interesting times.” Well it has been an interesting start to the new year.

We have had an unfortunate incident with the Kerr building fire and at the same time a generous out pouring of support from the community, businesses, the City and the RDCK. While all this is going on, the city staff and council have started the budget process for 2011.

The loss of the Kerr building in fire is upsetting, but the general community rallied with support for clothing, food and furniture, as well as money. While this is good news, it is going to be a few months before the Selkirk dorms are completed and well over a year before the Anderson Street project is done.

The residents of the Kerr have been taken care of in the short term, approximately a month.

Now is the time for Mount St. Francis building to be used for short term housing, until some of these other projects have been built and are in operation. I have passed on this suggestion to city council and to the Nelson Committee on Homelessness to make inquiries. Hopefully something can be done to expedite this, before the former residents of the Kerr building also become homeless.

Beginning the city budget process brings challenges to keep any tax increases as low as possible. Some thing are beyond our control such as increases in BC Hydro and FortisBC rates. As well, there will be continual increases in water and sewer rates as projected in last year’s budget.

Someone suggested we put in water meters, believing individual costs would decrease. There are many factors involved with water and sewer rates, such as the ongoing new installations and maintenance of the pipe networks. So water and sewer rates would not only include residents’ usage but would also have to have a base rate to cover maintenance and ongoing costs. So is it worth spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to put in a water meter system and the technology for reading the meters, or is it better to spend the money on the water and sewer system maintenance and upgrades to reduce costs over time?

It is going to take time to review all the issues in the water and sewer master plan, as well as looking at other communities to determine what the best course of action is.

So without a doubt it is going to be an interesting year in Nelson, with a lot of ongoing work that has to be completed. There is hope that the former residents of the Kerr building will have long term housing issues taken care of. Also, the city budget will be completed, with scrutiny from the press and the public, to continue to provide all the public services — hopefully, with small tax increases.

Robin Cherbo is a Nelson city councillor who shares this Wednesday space with his colleagues around the table