Mayor's Musings for March 2024—By Steve Fairbairn, Mayor for the District of Elkford

By Tasha

Mayor's Musings for March 2024

by Steve Fairbairn, Mayor for the District of Elkford


Welcome to spring, Elkfordians! Let’s dive right into some exciting news…


Changes Coming to Healthcare in Elkford

The February 15, 2024, edition of the Fernie Free Press newspaper broke the news—and accurately, if somewhat unclearly—about the changes coming to our healthcare services in Elkford. This includes approximately $1,000,000 in repairs and renovations to the clinic building, with approximately $400,000 coming from the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District (KERHD) and the rest of the funding from Interior Health Authority (IHA) and the Province of British Columbia.

The primary care expansion just to keep the clinic functioning until a new building is completed (“…provide upgrades to the current building for the medium-term, even as efforts are underway to search for a building replacement.”). Progress is being made toward a new facility to house an Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC) in Elkford.

What is UPCC? Here is the textbook definition from HealthLinkBC ( “UPCCs provide access to same-day, urgent, non-emergency health care.”

This means that if the appropriate staff are available, then we will see a more team-based provision of healthcare services in Elkford. Services like mental health and counselling, physiotherapy, addiction services, nurse-practitioners, and so on could have regularly scheduled office hours and designed spaces in Elkford to serve us, without us having to travel to see them. And all of this could be centralized in a building designed to meet the requirements of healthcare provision in the 21st century.

UPCCs would also provide an alternative to Elkfordians being required to visit an emergency department for non-emergency issues. Maybe that will mean not having to travel for a consult, a surgical follow-up meeting, a scheduled appointment, or a counselling session with a health practitioner. Maybe getting a sick note will be easier to do in the future.

We can’t force people to apply for work with IHA, and we certainly can’t force IHA to assign people to Elkford, but it seems that we can exert some pressure on IH to support the provision of a physical structure that just might be a pleasant enough place to work that a long-term functioning medical support team will want to stay assigned to it. Let’s all hope this works out for the best.

We thank the KERHD for their amazing—and very strong—support for our needs, and our ideas, on how to find a workable solution to healthcare services in Elkford.


Highway 43 Maintenance + Updates

By the time you read this, we will have had meetings with folks from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting (Mainroad), the contractor/provider of highway services in the Elk Valley.

Improvements to Monsoon Pit (the sand pit just south of town) should be in place by next snow season—provided that BC Hydro gets to providing electricity to the location—that will allow for the storage of equipment to better access the sand/salt supplies to be used on Highway 43. In other words, this means that they won’t have to return to Sparwood to refill the trucks.

We have yet to hear any opposition to our idea of building an automatic weather station in the vicinity of Weigert Creek that would better inform Mainroad of changing conditions north of Brule Creek. That change will require MOTI to agree and then provide directions to Mainroad to build it. Sounds simple in theory, but this is not an easily achieved goal.

Mainroad has an operator on the road from Elkford to Sparwood most days in the morning. Did you know that a sanding truck must turn down the rate of sanding when approaching oncoming traffic? Those long stretches of highway that appear to have been left unsanded, they likely look that way due to the volume of oncoming traffic! The snowplow is not playing chicken with you when they seem to be over the centre-line either—they are actually plowing the centre of the highway. This is why it’s important to slow down and move right within the lane when a plow is coming at you. When you are following a plow truck or a sanding truck too closely (or trying to pass one) they can’t safely sand the road. So back off… like way off. Relax.

Speaking of Mainroad, obviously you can contact them with complaints and concerns, however, if you take the time to contact them (say by email) when you see something good (sanding, plowing, whatever), then that has a better chance of resulting in improved services on Highway 43. Why? Well, sometimes something new is being test-driven and if customer response is noted— especially positive responses—the practice has a better chance of being adopted for use.

Lastly, roadkill on Highway 43 is now being composted in a fancy designed and electrified pit. Apparently, their bodies compost rather quickly. As for ungulates and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the collection of heads and testing of the tissues remains (pun intended) the responsibility of the conservation authorities.


In Praise of our Healthcare System

Before I sign off, I would like to say that my interaction with our healthcare system these last few weeks has shown me firsthand that our facilities are over-stretched and there are staffing shortages in the system. As the population grows (and ages), this situation will get worse. There is no short-term solution to this issue.

One common theme throughout my recent experience has been that all the professionals involved in our healthcare system are highly trained, caring and considerate in their work. I, for one, am thankful that they were there for me and my relatively minor journey through the system—a journey without a bill from the hospital. It’s not a perfect system, but I’m glad it was there for me. To the doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, specialists, technicians, receptionists, cleaning staff and everyone else involved: let’s all give thanks for their dedication, care and attention.


Spring is Springing in our Neck of the Woods

Spring has arrived in Elkford (at least I hope so by the time you read this), and the Public Works department is shifting into spring clean-up mode. I really wanted to talk about the snowblower—the most popular piece of equipment in the fleet, at least as far as the public comments go anyway—but because of our unseasonably warm winter and the timing of our snowfalls, the Public Works department has informed me that we won’t be requiring ‘Old Snowy the Snowblower.’ Sad as I am about this, it means we can chat about the street sweepers instead!

The sweepers are hot on the heels of the snowblower in terms of popularity! Everybody loves these because they signify spring (and depending on the weather, which cannot seem to make up its mind), we might even be lucky enough to see them out early this year.  I can’t say exactly because it’s weather-dependent, but look forward to seeing the sweepers and compost bins in a neighbourhood near you sometime between late April to early May.

With that in mind, once they’re officially out and you see them rolling by, here are some ways to help the sweepers do their job safely and efficiently:

  • Avoid placing branches or large piles of leaves/grass on the road.
  • Place debris within approximately one vehicle width from the curb and avoid dispersing it into the centre lane of the road.
  • Park your vehicles OFF the street.
  • Get rid of the bulk of your yard waste by placing leaves and grass clippings in the compost bins around Elkford (these usually pop up in late April). Please remove plastic bags and put the compost into the bins (not on the ground beside the bins).

Because they’re so well loved, perhaps they should have names too? ‘Dusty but Trusty’? ‘Bruce Springclean’? ‘Sweeping Beauty’? ‘The Grim Sweeper’? Let me know what you think!


Yours sincerely,
Mayor Steve

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