Sports field, AKBLG motions and Cannabiz feedback occupy Grand Forks city council

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
February 18th, 2010

There was lively discussion on a wide variety of issues at the Grand Forks City Council meeting on Feb. 8. Development of a sports field in City Park, motions to go forward to higher levels of government for consideration, and community members’ comments were all a part of the session.

Sports Field in City Park:

Councillor Michael Wirischagin opened the meeting after a presentation from the community gardens group with a motion to fund a sports field in City Park from prior year’s surplus in 2010.

“I’ve spoke at length on two different occasions about this motion,” said Wirischagin, “all I’m looking for today at this meeting is a final resolution. It’s been tabled twice and hopefully we can have some sort of resolve from tonight’s meeting. I’ve personally looked at several different options, I have spoken at length about why city park is the best location and I still believe it is the only location that would be beneficial to this facility.”

Davies offered support for the project but wanted to see it in a different location. “I would love to support this project, I think it’s really important to do this and I think the money is fine to do this. I have a serious problem with City Park if we could find another location I’d certainly be 150 per cent behind it but simple because its strictly determining city park and I’ve talked to a number of seniors who just don’t want to have that kind of activity on their walks. Since our population is so high with seniors I would be in favour of a different motion.”

Thompson argued that the BMX track is already at the park with quite a bit of activity and that seniors might not be using the park at the same time as these activities in the fields. Robert also spoke in favour of the increased use of City Park. “I truly believe that this park can start the healing of our downtown. We can start to draw more people downtown and that’s the whole idea behind it.”

Councillor Chris Moslin was against the motion voicing concerns over where to put grandstands and safety for spectators. “What we really need to do is re-purpose our parks, not just City Park. On the other hand to put this field in City Park you would have to remove trees, and an electrical line and these would be expensive. These activities would take place during the summer right at the height of our campsite season. Now, I know some of you are laughing at us because we don’t really have a campground anymore we just have a high priced tourist trap, but if our campground is going to recover, then we need to give it room to do that. I think City Park is just too crowded – it’s like trying to fit an elephant into a pick-up truck – it looks like it should work but it doesn’t.”

Wirischagin maintained that the other fields are overly used already and the new sports like rugby have little chance of accessing fields and the school grounds do not allow beer gardens which are a good fundraising technique. The motion to build the field was carried.

Railway Update:

A railway update was provided from Mayor Brian Taylor identifying plans for a meeting with the stakeholder group soon. “We’ve had one enquiry for purchase which is being worked on now by the shippers group and OmniTrax,” said Taylor. “That particular interest was shown to us first, we passed it on and it’s working its way through that group. So I would say within a short period of time we’ll be having a meeting again to bring the shippers together.”

AKBLG Motions:

Mayor and council set forward four different motions to take to the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG). The first resolution was about the reinstitution of lottery / gaming funds earned by the province to grants from non-profit organizations. Taylor said that this is a motion that other communities will also be bringing forward across the province.

“I speak in favour of this motion. I’ve seen the devastation that the cutbacks have done.” Wirischagin also suggested that the motion include that the funding be returned to 2007 levels. The motion passed.

The medical marijuana motion proposed by Davies was a proposal that the province take over responsibility for providing the medical marijuana program for patients and that part of the changeover would include safe, dignified, local access for patients. There was no seconder for the motion from Davies and she withdrew the motion from the table.

The motion for expanded time frames for infrastructure construction spending was proposed by Moslin. “Our community has certainly been caught on this. We’ve been fortunate enough to get the RiNC grant from the federal government but we were hard pressed was to deal with their timelines. This motion is to try and get senior governments to both soften their financial requirements as well as their timelines to get small communities with a lack of large disposable tax dollars to have a chance to make it work better.” This motion was passed.

The last motion to be put forward by Moslin was a proposal to assist rural communities with wildlife issues. “Subtle changes (in our environment) are impacting our urban areas with an increase in wildlife. I’m hoping this motion may create more resources for more conservation officers who would operate with more appropriate regulations for urban hunting.” Moslin would like to see some funding for needed fences or habitat restoration to reverse the impact of climate change on wildlife. Councillor Gene Robert spoke against the motion as there was not enough emphasis on the rehabilitation of habitat which he felt is the root cause of the problem. The motion was carried by a slim margin.

The next step for these motions is to go to the AKBLG executive for comments and even the Union of B.C. Municipalities executive as well. The motions will be voted on at the upcoming AKBLG meeting and, if passed, will move on to the UBCM conference and from there to the province to respond.

Cannabiz Commentary:

Comments from the gallery touched on various topics but one of the hot buttons was the recent airing of the show Cannabiz on CBC. Bruce Faulkner noted that, since he has past experience as a biker, he has seen two carloads of known gang members in town since moving to Grand Forks.

Another resident, Frank Conrad, spoke about the use of council’s time on marijuana issues. Conrad said that no councillors campaigned on a platform involving the drug regulations. “When I moved to Grand Forks I thought this was the most wonderful city. I do not understand why council is spending so much time on this matter called marijuana,” said Conrad. “I feel we were embarrassed as marijuana growing hippies from the 60’s. This has come to my attention from many people who have seen this. I’m appalled.”

Murray Rennie also spoke to the marijuana issue saying that there should be stricter control over the growing of medical marijuana and the number of plants, it should be a federal issue, and he felt that educational opportunities for this drug should be done at the university level. “I think you would have better luck contacting the medical profession than the government organizations.”

Taylor agreed that there are not a lot of checks and balances on the growing of medical marijuana but also expressed that the existing system is past the point of working. “The medical marijuana program is fatally flawed, there are some really big problems with it,” said Taylor. “At a political level I think that there’s only one direction that we’re going and that’s to legalize, regulate, and tax.”

Les Braden spoke about the medical benefits of marijuana. “If you’ve ever seen somebody that can use marijuana medically to get rid of their pain, and understand what it’s all about, then I think a lot of people would change their mind.”

Braden also announced that the Grand Forks Fall Fair is negotiating to have miniature chuck wagon races as a part of the event this year which he hopes will draw large crowds to the event in the future.

Categories: Politics