Council Briefs: Merger of regional fire services proposed by Canal Flats

Canal Flats is proposing a new Regional District of East Kootenay fire service for the Columbia Valley

Canal Flats is proposing a new Regional District of East Kootenay fire service for the Columbia Valley, as a means of replacing the seven current fire departments that exist in Canal Flats, Fairmont, Windermere, Edgewater, Invermere, Radium Hot Springs and Panorama.

“A small fire department like Canal Flats has challenges in funding, training, visioning, education and efficiency in operations,” wrote chief administrative officer Brian Woodward in his report to council.

“If we initiate this, it would take quite a while; there’s a lot of stakeholders,” he added at the Canal Flats council meeting held on January 25th. Although it could mean a new fire chief for Canal Flats, the local fire department fully supports the move, he added.

Mayor Ute Juras noted the idea would still have to make it onto the RDEK’s list of 2016 strategic priorities, and it may not make that list this year. She added she does not expect to see the Windermere Fire Department readily support the move.

Coun. Karl Sterzer said, “there is a lot of wisdom to this; there’s a reason other groups are going to this format. A lot of certification may require the kinds of numbers the village doesn’t have.”


RCMP calls up in Canal Flats

Canal Flats had 129 calls for service to the RCMP in 2015, up significantly from the village’s average of 88 calls per year, Columbia Valley RCMP Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac told Canal Flats council in his annual update.

“The mill going down — to me, that explains why there’s been a big jump,” he said, noting families in the village are suffering more stress around financial issues and alcohol use.

“We have certain people in this community that have come to our attention,” he added. “Also, people are more willing to call us now than in the past.”

In 2015, the village saw 11 calls for assault (up from two in 2014), 10 calls for impaired driving (up from three in 2014), 15 reports of a suspicious person (up from 10 in 2014), five calls for sexual assault (up from one in 2014), and nine calls for “other Criminal Code matters” (up from two in 2014).

“Canal Flats has their own special priorities that you identified last year,” he said, adding the RCMP visibility at the Tilley Memorial Park boat ramp was a focus.

The Columbia Valley RCMP’s Prolific Offender Program has been very successful, said Shehovac, adding a lot of the targeted individuals end up leaving the area. A couple prolific offenders who had left are now back in the valley, as one was just released from jail, and Shehovac said the RCMP will be focusing on them.

He noted this was his last annual report as staff sergeant, and that the RCMP will seek to fill his vacancy by looking at “lateral interest” from other similarly qualified members across Canada first. If there’s no interest there, the position would be filled by promotion, and Shehovac offered that he hopes the detachment’s Cpl. Grant Simpson is able to take over. (As of March 5th, Simpson will be the detachment’s acting commander.)


Is Canal Flats ‘Still Standing’?

With some trepidation, council approved a request by Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Clovechok to put in an application for the village to appear on the CBC TV series Still Standing.

The comedy series features comedian Jonny Harris visiting various down-on-their-luck communities across Canada, performing stand-up comedy and profiling community members.

“It could be positive, could be negative, I’m really not sure,” mused Coun. Marie Delorme. “It would put us out there, but is that the kind of ‘out there’ we’d want to have when we’re developing an economic strategy?”

“What have we got to lose at this point?” replied Juras.

“At the end of the day, it’s comedy, not documentary,” said Sterzer, before council approved the motion to go ahead with the application. “If things go a little sideways, we can laugh about it.”


Unconditional grant awarded

The village received a $30,000 grant from the B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, allowing the village to spend the sum in any way it chooses as long as it supports economic development in the village. The grant is not tied to the new business liaison position the village is now hiring for.


Hospice Society update

Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley executive director Maria Kliavkoff updated council with some highlights of the society’s work in 2015, including a significant presence in the village. The society began its work in September 2013, overseen by a seven-member board that includes one representative from Canal Flats.


Final worker transition call

The final Canal Flats Worker Transition Call took place on January 11th, four months after the first such teleconference was held to help former Canfor workers in the village find new jobs or education opportunities. With no new visits since the start of December at either the Invermere or Cranbrook WorkBC offices, and a delay in the Targeted Initiatives for Older Workers program at the College of the Rockies due to a lack of general interest, participants felt it unnecessary to continue for now.

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