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Council’s Corner April Update

Council jumped right into the New Year with budget deliberations, a community forum held February 7th, new bylaws and new policies.

Council is excited to announce that in January they passed a resolution on the right to a healthy environment. This declaration is part of the national Blue Dot movement sponsored by the David Suzuki Foundation. The declaration recognizes that people are part of the environment, and that a healthy environment is inextricably linked to the well-being of our community. The resolution reads:

“Therefore Council supports the concept that all people have the right to live in a healthy environment that includes the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, consume safe food, and to know what pollutants and contaminates are released into the environment.”

Council also sent letters to the Provincial and Federal government encouraging them to support these rights and work towards inclusion of these rights into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The District of Fort St. James was active coordinating Winterfest activities throughout February. Sadly the weather did not cooperate and many events had to be cancelled. The District is busy planning exciting events for Earth Day, followed by Pitch-In Weeks and of course Canada Day. It’s not too early to start thinking about your parade float. This year’s theme is Canada 150. The District is sponsoring an Earth Day event which will be taking place on April 20st at the Community Centre. This will be a chance to learn about how individuals can lessen their global footprint. April 22nd to May 7th is the District’s annual Pitch-In Weeks. Garbage bags are available at the District Office. Please pledge to clean up your neighbourhood!

Public Works has escaped large amounts of snow ploughing, but has had a busy spring dealing with water breaks and ground water seepage. Public Works would like to thank all residents for their patience with flooded ditches. If you are experiencing any problems please do not hesitate to contact the District Office at 250-996-8233.

The Fort St. James Fire Department is holding their spring recruit course starting this April. Burn permits are available at the District Office free of charge. Burning grass and other debris is not permitted in the District of Fort St. James. Remember to clean your chimney twice a year to avoid chimney fires and property damage. Smoke detectors save lives so check yours at least every six months.

Council held a Community Forum in early February. This was an opportunity for community members to learn more about Council’s plans for the next two years. Council invited community partners to join the conversation. This included the Primary Care Society, Nak’azdli Whut’en, the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako, Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations and KDL as the Community Forest contractor. There were many positive discussions and Council feels better informed about the public’s wishes going forward.

Council passed “Sign Regulation Bylaw No. 963, 2017” at the Regular Council Meeting February 22 2017. This new bylaw regulates new signs in Fort St. James. It is Council’s aim to regulate signs in the downtown core to create a cohesive look. Signs in place before the bylaw was adopted are exempt from the new Bylaw. A copy of the bylaw is available on the District’s website.

Council has reviewed actual expenses for 2016 and found that the District came in under budget. Since January Council has been reviewing the proposed 2017 budget. Capital projects that have been approved include, Community Centre upgrades, Fort Forum interior renovations, sidewalk and road paving, columbarium at the cemetery, marina upgrades and Spirit Square washrooms. One of the challenges that Council faced this budget season was around water and sewer rates for users. Over the past years there have been increased costs due to aging infrastructure. Council wants to be able to build reserve funds to help replace aging infrastructure instead of chasing small leaks. Users will notice an increase in utility rates. Rates have increased by $25.47 for residential users per utility billing cycle.

As of April 2017 the District will be spearheading tourism in Fort St. James. This comes on the heel of hiring an Economic Development Officer. By bringing tourism services in house the District will be able to expand its role and operate the Visitor Information Centre (VIC). The VIC will be open 5 days a week for May, June and September, and 7 days a week during peak tourism season in July and August.

Want to know more about what is happening in Fort St. James? Council meetings take place twice a month, updates can be found on the District of Fort St. James website (fortstjames.ca) as well as the Facebook page (facebook.com/fortstjames). Twice a year look for the Fort Flyer included with your utility tax notice. Council wants to make sure all residents are aware of what is going on in their community so check the Caledonia Courier quarterly for “Council’s Corner”.

Sincerely,

Mayor and Council for the District of Fort St. James

Council’s Corner- Year In Review

The District of Fort St. James had a busy year in 2016 with lots of exciting projects and programs taking place.

Council was able to support the community with $15,000 in Grants in Aid. These grants went to diverse community groups and individuals pursuing exciting opportunities around the world. Grants ranged from $100 to $5,000. Council is always excited to sponsor community projects and individual achievements. If you would like to apply for a grant in aid, please visit the District website or contact the Office for more information.

There were over $31,000 worth of building permits sold in 2016, representing over 4 million in construction value. The amount of these permits is positive and shows that our community is growing and developing.

Grants totalling $19,000 were awarded to five successful applicants through the Business Façade program. This is up from 2015 when just over $12,000 was distributed. This is an annual program that local businesses can apply to for new signs, siding and more! More info can be found on our website.

The District of Fort St. James had a lot of fun supporting 10 wonderful events throughout the year. Each event was a success and showed what a great place Fort St. James is to be. Events included: Winter Fest, Community to Community Forum, Pitch in Week, Bike to Work Week, Day of Mourning, Canada Day celebration, 4th Annual Night Market, the Pumpkin Walk, Remembrance Day and the Hospital Auxiliary 50th anniversary celebration.

Public Works completed all of their planned projects as well as a few unexpected ones in 2016. Extensive work went into the Fort Forum Arena thanks to a Canada 150 grant. This included new dasher boards and a new roof. Paving and patching took place around the community this summer as well as landscaping in the downtown core. Public works also completed and installed a new sign at the Community Centre. A new generator was purchased and installed for the sewer lift station, allowing the station to operate automatically when the power goes out. Watch for the Toolcat with the new sander attachment when you are out for a walk. The new sander allows for better sanding of District trails and paths. As always, Public Works helped out at community events including Canada Day, the Night Market and Music on the Mountain.

The Fort St. James Fire Department and the Northern Interior Fire Training Centre had a busy year with nine Live Fire training weekends that saw 72 members from outside departments and 13 local members receive training. The Department gained 12 new members through 3 recruit classes. Members participated in auto extrication, air brakes, ice rescue refresher and a strategy and tactics course. The Fire Department also hosted an Emergency Services Breakfast, weekly training nights, driver training, hose testing and pump operator training.

Council got down to business in 2016 and was able to accomplish a great deal by working together for the good of the community.

  • January and February saw the renewal of the Old Courthouse lease to the Community Arts Council of Fort St. James. This allowed the Arts Council to continue work on renovating the building, which is now open and known as Pope Mountain Arts. The facility hosts musical and craft events monthly. The District of Fort St. James co-hosted a Community to Community Forum with Nak’azdli Whut’en. This was a great opportunity for Council from each community to learn from one another. There was also youth involvement from the high school. Council was also busy with budget deliberations for the five-year financial plan.
  • March, April and May saw Bylaw and Policy amendments. Fort St. James residents are now permitted to keep up to four hens in their backyards for personal use. Visit our website for the full brochure. Council also completed an application to the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako Gas Tax Fund. This grant went towards the purchase of a digital cinema projector and sound equipment for the Community Centre. On May 25th Council played host to “Project Local Government”, a School District 91 program that exposes high school students to the workings of local government. Students spent the morning learning about the public administration, participated in a real Council meeting over lunch and visited Public Works and the Fire Department in the afternoon.
  • June, July and August are considered slower month in Local Government. This did not stop Council from publishing the Annual Report for 2015, participating in a tour of Mt. Milligan and receiving a report on the Community Forest. The Community Forest is doing well and continues to provide significant revenue to the District ($ 347,825 in 2016). This revenue goes towards projects that enhance the community and help diversify the local economy. Summer also saw the completion of phase one of upgrades to the Arena, including new dasher boards and glass as well as a new roof, partly funded by the Canada 150 grant program.
  • In September, four Council members participated in the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Victoria. This was an opportunity for Council to participate in seminars and workshops related to diverse fields in Local Government, and to have meetings with key members of the Provincial Government. Council took this time to lobby the government for funding of a new Clinic and Hospital.
  • October, November and December brought changes to Council. Councillor Nielsen took over the Housing portfolio and was able to bring together stakeholders to work on the Housing Strategy for 2017. Fort St. James had its first by-election in recent memory with four candidates putting their names forward for one vacancy. Council is happy to welcome Judy Greenaway to the position of Councillor. Judy is a long-time resident and tireless volunteer and will bring a fresh voice to Council in 2017.

Want to know more about what is happening in Fort St. James? Council meetings take place twice a month, updates can be found on the District of Fort St. James website (fortstjames.ca) as well as the Facebook page (facebool.com/fortstjames). Twice a year look for the Fort Flyer included with your utility tax notice. Council wants to make sure all residents are aware of what is going on in their community so check the Caledonia Courier quarterly for “Council’s Corner”.

Sincerely,

Mayor and Council for the District of Fort St. James

Fort St. James now allows backyard hens!

Fort St. James residents living in R-1 (Residential- Single Family) are now allowed to keep up to four hens for personal use. On June 22nd 2016 Council adopted the amending Bylaw No. 962 which allows residents to keep hens in their backyards. Absolutely NO ROOSTERS permitted. For more information check out the Backyard Hen brochure.

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