The Strathcona Regional District finally posted the recording of their May 13th SRD Board Meeting late in the afternoon of the 21st. Given the lack of interest most of their constituents show for local politics, this is understandable. However the minutes of their meeting are little more than a record of votes and links to (far more valuable) attachments. There were several items of interest to Cortes, Read and Quadra Island residents.
No Financial Losses From COVID Crises
With the help of a written report, I have already given a detailed report on why the COVID crises does not have a negative impact on Cortes, Quadra and the other electoral areas. An unidentified staff member stated (starting at 15:21 in the podcast above) that the SRD should not experience negative impacts either:
“Two months into the onset we have had a chance to review our year end numbers, the budget and cash flow and we are not expect9ing any major negative financial impacts. As far as revenue, most of the corporate service side is funded by taxation and grants. We don’t collect the taxes directly, we get them from the province and municipalities.
“So we’re not expecting any interruption there. The municipalizes have a lot of support from the federal government and it was expressed in their communications that this would be to facilitate any payments to the Regional District of MFA by the traditional deadlines.”
“On the expense side, corporate services is not affected by five positions that have yet to be filled because COVID has delayed the hiring. So that is the major financial impact fo the year. Add to that many of the major conferences and training opportunities have all been cancelled, so staff are travelling less. Leading into next year’s budget, we are going to be expecting a relatively higher surplus, but we are going to be looking for direction on reserve transfer levels as we see what the recovery looks like.”
Cortes Wildfire Protection Planning
The Regional District obtained a $26,000 grant from the Union of B.C. Municipalities to:
- develop a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Klahoose First Nation
- and update the 2011 Cortes Island Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
Director Charlies Cornfield asked (starting 20:14),” So we have an agreement with Klahoose and are they an approved partner?”
when pressed, Mr Yates added that at the very least there was a verbal agreement with the Klahoose.
“So the grant is for partial funding, does Cortes have the other monies in the current financial plan?” said Cornfield.
Mr Yates addressed Chair Michele Babchuk, “Madam Chair, this is a Regional service, so it would already be in the budget if the motion is approved.”
“Okay, ‘cause the letter was pretty clear that it was only partial funding for this project. Someone else has to fund the other part,” said Cornfield.
“Madam Chair, that would be the Regional District,” replied Yates.
Chief Administrative Officer David Leitch reminded the board that they had already supported and endorsed the application.
The Board voted to amend the financial plan to reflect the SRD’s contribution to Cortes Island wildfire protection planning. Director Cornfield cast the only opposing vote.
Curbside Wood Debris Removal
Staff recommended “that funds deemed surplus to the development or updating of Community Wildfire Protection Plans for 2019 be allocated to provide curbside collection of household wood debris for Codes Island and Quadra Island.”
Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson said, “My hat is off to Shaun Koopman for this. I had spoken with him on a few occasions about the fire ban and people’s desire to not have a bunch of debris on their property that they are not able to burn. There is literally almost no chippers on the island …. I think this is an incredibly creative work around … I am totally in support of using funds that are not ours and that we already have … rather than return them to the funder …”
Director Cornfield questioned whether the funds could be used in this way.
Mr Leitch informed the board that Shaun Koopman has already obtained the funder’s permission.
Regional Director Brenda Leigh objected, “I do not believe we should be spending this kind of money, putting bundles of wood on one or two ferries to come over and be transported … You can just simply put your pile in an open space in your yard and burn it when it is free to be burned or chip it when you are free to do it. To be conscientious with taxpayer dollars, if we don’t need the money for the Wildfire Protection Plan, we should send that money back because the province and the feds are spending piles of money and we need PPSEs and other things more urgently than a door to door service for debris from Cortes and Quadra. It is not right. We should be showing integrity and sending money back that we don’t use.”
Director Cornfield agreed with her and pointed out there were activities left undone from the previous Wildfire Protection Plan.
Director Anderson replied it was too bad that Shaun Koopman was not present to explain what would be done with the debris but …”I think to assume it would be transported off island is assumption at best and I highly doubt that would be the approach …”
When the vote to receive the staff report was called, Director Leigh cast the only opposing vote.
This was followed by the motion to use the surplus funds, which also carried – with Directors Cornfield, Leigh and Whalley voting in opposition.
FireSmart Community Chipper Program
As a result, the SRD set up a free FireSmart Community Chipper Program. Islanders are instructed to bring excess wood debris to the end of their driveway on the following days:
- For Cortes Island – Monday, June 1st
- For Quadra Island -Wednesday, June 4