Looking across the waters from a rocky beach to a distant city

Jan 2024: Cortes Island Matters At The SRD Board

There have been a number of Cortes Island matters at the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) this month. Mark Vonesch, the Regional Director for Cortes Island, is now the Vice Chair of the Electoral Areas Services Committee (EASC). The Cortes Island Dog Control Service Bylaw is on its way to the Inspector of Municipalities for approval. Linnaea Education Centre and Mansons Hall both applied for Federal Gas Tax funding to purchase a heat pump and were denied. Director Vonesch is looking for ways to support them.

Cortes Island Director Mark Vonesch – Courtesy SRD website

As was expected, Gerald Whalley was once again elected Chair at EASC’s inaugural January 10 meeting. 

The next item on the agenda was the election of Vice Chair.  

SRD Corporate Officer Thomas Yates requested, “May I have nominations from directors please?  Director Mawhinney.” 

Director Robin Mawhinney of Area C: “Thank you, I would like to nominate Director Mark Vonesch for Vice Chair.” 

Thomas Yates: “Thank you very much. Director Vonesh, would you accept that nomination?”

Mark Vonesch: “I do, thank you.” 

Thomas Yates: “Thank you very much. Are there further nominations for the Vice Chair position?  For the third and last time,  Hearing none, we’ll declare Director Vonesh Vice Chair for 2024. Thank you very much. Now we’ll turn over the meeting to Director Whalley, your new Chair.” 

On to the SRD Board meeting of January 24

Cortes Island’s Dog Control Service Bylaw has been given a third reading and been forwarded to the Inspector of Municipalities for approval. 

The Board approved an annual cap of $0.03 per $1,000 of property assessment for the service. This would mean up to approximately $20,000 can be used to cover any costs during the year. The actual levy will on the amount of activity.

Assuming the Inspector of Municipalities approves the proposed bylaw, the SRD will seek the electorate’s consent through an Alternative Approval Process before it becomes law. (If at least 10% of the electorate notify the SRD that they are opposed, the bylaw is defeated.) 

While two of Cortes Island’s ‘community halls’ were denied access to Federal Gas Tax funding to purchase heat pumps, Regional Director Mark Vonesch is looking for alternate ways to support these services,

This is the second time that the Linnaea Education Centre, which functions as a community hall, has been denied funding for a heat pump. No one denied that the facility is of great benefit to Cortes Island, when they were turned down on April 15, 2020. CAO David Leitch asked what more could Linnaea offer the community if it received this funding? 

In BC, the Federal Gas Tax Fund is administered by the BC Union of Municipalities (UBCM). 

The staff report provided for the SRD Board’s January 24 meeting states:

“According to the UBCM this project remains ineligible for funding under the gas tax program and, in order to be eligible, the facility would need to be publicly owned or have a service establishment bylaw in place to confirm public responsibility for operational funding. Since no service establishment bylaw exists and the facility is not owned by the Regional District, it is recommended that the application to fund the heat pump at the Linnaea Education Centre be denied.”  

Director Vonesh responded, “I agree with the staff’s recommendations and the report. I do feel it’s unfortunate. It is  a center on Cortes that provides a valuable place  for youth groups to meet  and other activities that do benefit a lot of the community. I respect the report and we’ll continue looking for other ways to be able to support this space.”  

The Board also turned down the Southern Cortes Community Association (SCCA) application for gas tax funding to install a heat pump in Mansons Hall, but EASC is being asked to support projects like this.

In the staff report that led to Mansons Hall being denied, it states: 

“While the project itself would qualify for funding under the Gas Tax Program, the Regional District is restricted to providing ‘core operating expenses’ under its service agreement with the SCCA. That agreement clearly states that the Regional District “will not contribute funds for capital expenditures.”

Director Vonesch replied, “When this service was set up, it was really about limiting tax requisition for the hall.  I think it’s pretty clear that it says that capital costs are not included.  I think that the community is in favor of other funding being able to come to the hall as long as it’s not part of tax requisition. So I’d like to make a motion that staff bring back to EASC  a review of the service contract and how it might be adjusted so that other sources of funding could still be used at the hall that isn’t part of tax requisition.”

The motion to have EASC review the SCCA contract also passed.  

(In addition to the matters reported above, EASC continued discussions of Cortes Island’s proposed Open Burning Bylaw and Bulk Water Regulation.)

Top image credit: Looking across from Smelt Bay on Cortes Island to Campbell River (where the SRD Board meets) – Photo by Djun Kim via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

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