Mayor's Musings for January 2024—By Steve Fairbairn, Mayor for the District of Elkford
Mayor's Musings for January 2024
by Steve Fairbairn, Mayor for the District of Elkford
Welcome to the new year, Elkfordians! We’ve made it through our first cold snap! I’ve been here long enough that I remember them as being colder: into the negative mid-thirties Celsius during the day and lasting longer (up to two weeks). Long enough to kill off the mountain pine beetles across the province and right here in the Elk Valley.
Fond memories of backcountry excursions on clean, amazingly smoke-like powdered snow and bluebird skies that blazed the most amazing colour of intense blue. The crisp sounds of the snow, of the quiet. Not so anymore, it seems!
Not that I mind the warmer temperatures, or the lack of snow to shovel. Perhaps an easier wintertime life? There is always a silver lining, my friends.
Money, Money, Money (to the Tune of ABBA)
Tax planning season is here, so let’s talk about money! Asset management, aging buildings, inflation… even the cost of upgrades to my magic wand are becoming unaffordable. All this info (and more) is available in the agenda package from the January 8, 2024, council meeting. Future meetings will also include the financial and project plans and expenditures in the budgeting process. Of course, I feel it necessary to remind you that the council meetings are open to the public. Learn more about that here: www.elkford.ca/councilmeetings. 😉
Reflecting on the past year, here are some capital projects from 2023. Not all of us have benefited from (or maybe even care about) all of them, but I suspect that at least one of the projects benefited us all universally:
- The Elkford Childcare Centre and Community Hub facility in the former District of Elkford (DoE) office building is now fully operational. This was grant funded to the tune of $2.5 million.
- The DoE vehicle fleet (not including the new fire truck) was $1.2 million in budget. The new snowplow has arrived—hence why so little snowfall so far—at $348,000.
- Downtown Core Utilities Project (which has triggered a surprising amount of developer interest so far) at $4.85 million, associated water works at $800,000 and upgrades to the sewer system at a cost of $2 million.
- Lagoon works upgrades of $1.26 million.
- Boivin Creek Corridor upgrades (mostly grant funded) were budgeted for a 2-year period at $469,000, with $400,918 spent ($351,750 in grants).
Looking to the new year, the 2024 proposed project list is considering sledding hill/soccer field irrigation ($35,000), Wapiti Ski Hill mountain biking trails (waiting on grant funding), tennis court re-surfacing ($100,000), a skateboard park ($150,000), improvements to the vehicle fleet ($1.1 million), repair and maintenance to facilities including: the Mountain Meadows Golf Club clubhouse, Wapiti Ski Club’s lodge and the DoE fire hall, Public Works building, Recreation Centre, Aquatic Centre pool and library complex and more. Important to note that these are TBD based on financial reports to council over the next few meetings!
We are wild at heart here in Elkford, and nature prevails in our mountain town. Bearing this in mind (pun intended), please respect our wildlife by following Elkford’s Animal Responsibility Bylaw and help keep our community in harmony with nature. The DoE now has the resources in place to provide most residents in the forest interface areas of west Natal and Balmer Hill areas with wildlife-resistant garbage bins. Please do your part to abide by the bylaws and help protect local wildlife!
Council still has plans in Elkford’s Five-Year Financial Plan (FYFP—more about this later) for the bin replacement program by 2027 so that all residents have wildlife-resistant bins. Questions? Call our awesome Public Works Department at 250.865.4025 or visit www.elkford.ca/publicworks.
Community Grants: Deadlines Approaching!
Are you part of a not-for-profit organization? You may be interested in the Resident Directed (ReDi) Grants that are provided by Columbia Basin Trust. These grants support projects that benefit the broader community and public good. The grants are administered by the Regional District of East Kootenay, and in partnership with local government councils. Apply now at https://engage.rdek.bc.ca/redi. The deadline is 4 p.m. (local time) on February 12, 2024, and late applications will not be accepted. What’s the worst that can happen? Even a “no” is better than not trying!
Speaking of funding opportunities for nonprofits: this is also the time to apply for a Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies (aka “Elkford Community Fund”) grant. You can apply for up to $2,000 in grant funding under this program, with a deadline of February 15, 2024 (which will arrive sooner than you think and certainly sooner that warm spring weather!). Here’s the link where you can apply: https://www.cfkrockies.ca/grants/.
FYFP + Official Community Plan: Opportunities for Public Engagement
Wondering what’s going on in Elkford at a local government level? Here are some upcoming dates you might want to mark on the calendar:
- The first presentation of the draft FYFP (it’s called a “five-year plan”, but it is updated annually) is scheduled for 1 p.m. on January 29 in Council Chambers. The meeting is open to the public and is a great opportunity to find out what’s going on at the DoE, as well as to develop an understanding of the things that council is considering spending money and allocating resources to. Did you know that this is only the first step of the annual budget process, and that no formal budget decisions have been made yet? You are invited to check it out, get informed and hear more about how the decision-making process takes place at the council table!
- The second presentation of the draft FYFP is scheduled for February 5 at 1 p.m., also open to the public. Additionally, the draft FYFP is scheduled to be presented to residents in a public Open House format on February 28, from 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. in Council Chambers at 744 Fording Drive. Can’t make it? The online public engagement period will be from February 13 to March 1, and all of this will be heavily advertised. Lots of opportunities to stay apprised and get involved!
- The Official Community Plan (that’s a community’s highest-level planning document) progress report update is scheduled for February 12 at 5 p.m. in Council Chambers. You guessed it…that one is also open to the public.
The Importance of Turning Bleeder Valves ON
Still reading? Now let’s talk about bleeder valves!
Yes, we are somewhat unique as a community in having a need for these things. The history goes back, a long way back, to the glacial lake that was once located here, which resulted in (skipping a lot of details) deep layers of glacial till (sands and cobbles) below us. These materials allow the frost to dive deeply into the ground and—combined with some potentially dubious construction practices in the early 1970s—have resulted in water lines that are buried under roads and driveways being more susceptible to freezing. Since moving water doesn’t freeze quite as easily as standing water, many homes need to have a continuous trickle of water running to keep their service lines, well, servicing.
The homeowner is responsible for the costs of repair for any damage to (and thawing out of the) water service into your house. DoE bylaw regulations require that you have a bleeder valve installed in your home, and that this bleeder valve be turned ON from October 31 to May 1 each year. This is something that we advertise heavily every single year (because we do not want you to have an expensive emergency plumbing bill).
Sadly, residents who move from other communities aren’t always aware of the need for a bleeder valve—or even what one is—and only learn about this the hard way. Ask me how I know… bleeder valves infamously altered my own family’s first Christmas in Elkford. Ah, we still talk about that one.
We all want to do our part to conserve water, but do NOT be tricked into shutting off your bleeder valves early when temperatures are warming. Warming temperatures often actually drive a frost deeper into the ground, and that ground will remain frozen well into the spring season. It’s all just another unique aspect of living in a high-altitude mountain community like Elkford.
Winter in the Wild and Other News
Do I still have your attention? Excellent! I’m delighted to share that our flagship winter family celebration is approaching, that is Winter in the Wild! This year’s celebration is happening on Family Day weekend, from February 16 to 18! Let’s all cross our fingers and toes for moderate temperatures that weekend.
Finally, I want to remind you that your council is working diligently on healthcare, housing and highway safety on behalf of all who live, work, and play here.
Drive safely, stay warm, enjoy the outdoors and join me in hoping for enough snow to get the ski hill open!