Highlights from the city council meeting held Monday, Jan. 13, 2020:
• Tax rates in Fort St. John could rise between 0.75% and 1.75% this year to fund the city's $59.5-million draft operating budget for 2020. Council directed staff to research the province's cap on the utility tax rates and the ability to charge an additional parcel tax rate for vacant parcels to avoid a tax rate increase and eliminate a projected deficit. Read more by clicking here.
• Ripping up 100 Street and starting construction of a new RCMP detachment makes up more than half of Fort St. John's proposed $63.2-million capital budget for 2020. Read more by clicking here.
• A proposal to build a cannabis production facility in Fort St. John will go to a public hearing on Monday, Jan. 27. Read more by clicking here.
• Council spent $94,750 on travel expenses in 2019 and another $7,529 on memberships and professional developments. There was $140,000 budgeted for these expenses in 2019. Mayor Lori Ackerman led the way, with $25,639 in travel expenses, after reimbursements. Coun. Trevor Bolin accrued the least, at $2,489.70 for the year. Read the detailed listing of travel expenses by councillor by clicking here.
• Council authorized members to attend the Local Government Leadership Academy's 2020 Leadership Forum in Richmond from Feb. 5 to 7. The trip will cost taxpayers $3,974 in flights, hotels, and per diems, billed to the council travel budget for 2020.
• Council authorized Mayor Lori Ackerman to attend and speak at the Canadian Gas Dialogues in Calgary on April 1. Ackerman has been invited to participate in a luncheon armchair discussion surrounding issues of concern in the natural gas industry, and has been invited to attend the morning plenary session on public acceptance of natural gas. The trip will cost $110 in per diems, as Ackerman's travel and accommodations are covered by the event.
• Council will write a letter to Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy requesting clarification that there are eight substance abuse recovery beds at Peace Villa. According to Northern Health, there are eight psychogeriatric beds at Peace Villa, and four Supportive Recovery beds at the Salvation Army's Northern Centre of Hope.
• Council approved an agreement with the Ministry of the Attorney General to use space in city hall for court services if an emergency renders the courthouse building uninhabitable. Average commercial rental rates will be charged.
• Council approved a $1,000 discretionary grant in support of the Fort St. John Five Pin Bowling Association to host the Northern Intercity Bowling Tournament from Feb. 28 to March 1. The tournament is hosted in Fort St. John every five years and attracts bowlers to compete from Prince George, Dawson Creek, Grande Prairie and Fairview.
• Council approved a request to supply wheelchair accessible transit buses to help transport BC Winter Games athletes between Feb. 19 to 23. The request for won't with regular service as the transportation needs are mostly in the evening or weekend, according to city staff. Council also waived the estimated $200 in vehicle maintenance costs related to request.
• Council approved a request to fly the BC Winter Games flag outside city hall and the Pomeroy Sport Centre from Jan. 17 to Feb. 28.
• Council approved whole site liquor licensing for the North Peace Arena on Feb. 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. for a BC Winter Games volunteer appreciation party. An estimated 600 people are expected to attend, and liquor will be served on the ice surface of the arena only. Council's approval is subject to approval from RCMP and the province.
• Council appointed Couns. Gord Klassen and Tony Zabinsky to the organizing committee for the North Central Local Government Association's annual general meeting and convention for 2021.
• Council appointed Coun. Tony Zabinsky as the mayor's alternate for the province's caribou leadership table.
• Council will write a letter of support for the North Peace Airport Society, which is seeking a grant up to $3.1 million for runway upgrades.
• Council adopted Solid Waste Management Bylaw No. 2505, 2019, to help with bylaw enforcement and establish a dispute process for solid waste offences. The city says it will help bylaw officers deal with offences more effectively, particularly contaminated recycling bins.
• Council adopted Noise Regulation Bylaw No. 2507, 2019, to help with bylaw enforcement and create a system for dealing with minor infractions, such as early payment options and the ability for a screening officer review the infraction where they can dismiss the ticket or enter into compliance agreement.
• Council adopted Tourism Fort St. John Board Repeal Bylaw No. 2508, 2019, which dissolves the board and will allow it to become a standalone entity separate from the city. Council has also granted authorization and ownership of the Tourism Fort St. John name and associated branding to the new legal society to be formed by Tourism Fort St. John. The Tourism Fort St. John Board was established through a bylaw in 2010 as a council committee.
• Council gave first two readings to Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 2509, 2020, which would allow a cannabis production facility to be built at 8004 90 Street. A public hearing will be held Ja. 27 at 6 p.m. at city hall.
• January 26 to February 2 was proclaimed Family Literacy Week. The Fort St. John Literacy Society will be partnering with local groups and organizations for a variety of events that week, including a camp-in at the library, interactive reading circles and the SuperPark, and more. "Literacy is especially important when it comes to children and families," said Jessica Kalman, executive director. "When families learn together, they build good habits around literacy and learning, share ideas, build strong family connections, develop independent thinking, and gain confidence, so important skills to have."
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.