Recycling hits a roadblock in FSJ

MMBC chooses not to begin service in city

Fort St. John City Council, which has recently been left at the altar by the public-private agency tasked with bringing curbside recycling to all corners of B.C., will attempt to find a new way to service residents' door-to-door recycling needs, although it could take some time.

A letter from Multi-Material B.C. managing director Allen Langdon to the city, received in March but made public with the council agenda last week, explained that the industry-led recycling initiative put out a request for bids from contractors for curbside pickup, but "decided not to introduce a new PPP [packaging and printed paper] curbside collection service in Fort St. John" after evaluating the bids.

The city declined MMBC's offer last year to run curbside pickup directly, as council decided the funding incentive did not nearly match what it would spend on such a program, and hefty fines for non-compliance were a further turn-off.

Curbside recycling was a keen topic of conversation for councillors, as it was listed as the No. 1 priority in last year's strategic priorities chart in the planning and engineering category.

"Curbside recycling is huge," said Councillor Trevor Bolin. "The Eco-Depot currently charges $144 for one year service per household, for 600 households. We're missing another 6,800 households from that number."

Bolin said council will look into the matter more closely over the next month to fine-tune its future strategic planning.

Boundary extension application submitted

The boundary extension that Fort St. John has worked on for the past several months was approved by council on Monday, and has now been submitted to the province for approval.

If it goes through, the city's borders would expand further west into a number of mostly lightly inhabited lots. Unlike other recent attempts by council to expand city boundaries, city staff reported to council that a majority of the affected residents approve of the annexation.

However, there is no timeline on how quickly the provincial Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, which oversees city expansion, will process the application.

"It's still a lengthy process," said City Manager Dianne Hunter. "It's still a process that will take us, I'm sure, a period of months."

City staff will now sit down with the ministry to go over the application and explain council's rationale. After the ministry staff has reviewed it, they may either deny it, accept it with changes that must be made or outright approve it.

But the process isn't over, even after the province has given it a green light. The city must take the application back to Fort St. John residents, to see if there are any objections.

Past that stage, it will then go back to the ministry, which will make a final recommendation one way or the other.

Walmart entrance under scrutiny

Council has directed city staff to look into the matter of the Fort St. John Walmart's north entrance, a road which reportedly crosses over private property.

Despite being a privately maintained driveway, pedestrians approaching from the north are finding it easier to take that route to get to the big-box store. According to the city, this has caused some safety concerns, as there is no accompanying sidewalk.

Road upgrades to begin

Several Fort St. John roads will begin to see improvement, as the city has moved to begin roadwork along several routes. Bylaws were adopted to allow for loans to go towards pavements, gutters, curbs, storm basins and streetlights on parts of 102 Avenue, 97 Avenue, 97 Street, Beaver Road and 101 Street.

$1 million for asphalt maintenance

Council approved $1 million for roadwork, doubling the amount it had previously budgeted. The money will come from the projected surplus of over $4 million that the city says comes from competitive bids on tenders.

"The odd time we'll get these reports where there's a couple of hundred thousand dollars saved, or this and that, but this was incredible," said Bolin. "To the staff who were on this: hats off."

"Council has provided funds for hot asphalt maintenance equipment that has been working very well, and the public work's crews are working hard to put the streets back into safe driving condition," read the city manager's report.

The straight (flush) facts on gambling

Gambling prevention specialist Martha Funk presented an update to council on the Responsible and Problem Gambling Program. Funk works in schools and workplaces, as well as with First Nations and ESL groups, to spread awareness.

"We come from it from a gambling-neutral perspective, so we don't encourage people to gamble, and we don't encourage people not to gamble," said Funk. "We give out straight facts in regards to odds and risks, so that people can make educated decisions when they are going to make a choice as to whether this is going to be something that they are going to do or not."

Gambling includes any type of situation where there is a chance for a player to win or lose. Funk explained that people often do not immediately think of some of these as gambling, such as bingo, keno, 50-50, or even charity raffle tickets.

She said that although most people do not have a problem with gambling, to those who do, it could be a very serious, detrimental problem.

"Sometime in your life, whether it's a friend, family, a coworker, they're going to say something to you and you're going to think: they might have an issue with gambling ... [now] you know how to connect them with the services that we offer in this community," Funk said.

She said that according to a 2006 study, 78 per cent of British Columbians gamble, and 4.6 per cent of those gamblers have a gambling problem.

Council supports League of United Youths' World Fair

The Fort St. John League of United Youths was on hand, requesting that City Council support them in a 2014 World Fair event in Centennial Park for Canada Day celebrations.

The city granted them use of the park, as well as up to $1,000 to go towards expenses such as power.

The event would showcase different cultures that make up the Energetic City.

"Fort St. John is truly changing, and we want to reflect that," said coordinator Ted Sloan. "The really neat part is that it's really youth-led."

It has not been decided yet if the event will take place on June 30 or July 1, as that would depend on other Canada Day events in town.

Summer beer gardens approved

Three beer gardens were approved for special events over the next couple of months. The Energetic City Roller Derby Association, the Fort St. John Hospital Foundation and NMP Accounting all submitted applications.

However, Hunter mused about finding a way for council to avoid having to approve these one-time-use permissions on a case-by-case basis.

"With special occasion liquor licenses, I recommend we look at how we can streamline the process so that if council wishes you don't have these reports coming back to you at every council meeting," said Hunter. "Half your agenda is dealing with something that I believe can be dealt with through policy versus coming to council."

Oil and Gas Commission report

Representatives from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission were on hand last Monday to update council and take questions.

"If we look back five years ago, about 15 per cent of the wells in B.C. were targeting what we call unconventional gas," said OGC Chief Operating Officer Ken Paulson. "Today, about 90 per cent of the new wells that we're seeing are targeting unconventional gas, which is shale gas."

Most of that is located in the Montney region, he said.

Paulson said that a challenge that the organization is facing now is that as the industry moves west towards the coast, so does the regulating agency, to areas where they have not historically had a presence.

Mayor Lori Ackerman asked Paulson about work camps, which was a topic of conversation at last weekend's NCLGA convention. There was a motion passed there regarding a single window for work camp application processing, to help keep track of them.

"Northern Health did a study a while ago, and they had to do a lot of searching because the Ministry of Health didn't know where all of them were," said Ackerman.

Paulson responded that the only involvement they have with work camps is providing the land act authorizations, which grants them authority to be on the land.

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