SUMMING IT UP: Trees, dogs, deer and money all at Grand Forks City Council
Although a tree located at the Grand Forks Public Library has to be removed because of a bug infestation, the Grand Forks City Council refused to take out 15 trees on the main access road at the Evergreen Cemetery. A staff report to council advised them that the trees are a safety risk to the community because their roots have shifted under the stress of storm winds. While signs have been posted to caution anyone from walking in the cemetery during windstorms, council is hesitant to take action. The staff report also addressed replanting of trees in the new year. “One windstorm too many and we’re going to have trees down. God forbid that somebody could be standing underneath it. I think that has been identified by our management team, and I don’t think, as regrettable as it is, that we have a choice other than to remove those trees,” said Councillor Christine Thompson who moved the motion to remove the trees. The motion was defeated with arguments about communications with the people residing in the neighbourhood, and concerns over the lack of success for replanting of trees around the city over the last few months. In response to complaints from community residents about the proposal to put the dog park in the south-end of the cemetery council was unsure what direction to take. A suggestion was to create a dog-friendly community where dogs are welcome to roam in parks as long as they are under control. Thompson disliked the idea because she feelt that some dogs may not be controlled and could pose a threat to others using parks. Councillor Cher Wyers said that from a visitor perspective they love dog-friendly communities and that Grand Forks could even be designated dog-friendly and use it as a marketing angle to attract tourists. No action was taken at this time. The deer committee is moving forward with their education campaign using a brochure designed by the Granby Wilderness Committee and signs to post around the area. The signs could be funded by the Insurance Corporation of B.C. and would not cost the city to set up. Mayor Brian Taylor said that the recent deer count saw 124 in town – a 50% increase over last fall’s numbers. Annual audit presentation The city’s auditor, Am Naqvi of Berg, Naqvi, Lehman based in Nelson, presented council with the 2009 audited financial statements. Overall Naqvi said that the council is in a positive financial position and carries a minimal debt load compared to some cities. Assets for the city sit at $8,134,744 and liabilities at $5,379,735. Revenues for the city totaled $9,270,194 leaving a surplus for the year of $468,553. Because of the amortization of assets the surplus was less than it would have otherwise been, but Naqvi recommended that the city examine options to put the amount amortized into a fund as a replacement reserve for future needs. In 2009 expenses included: goods and services of $6,187,241; salaries and wages $3,062,467; and interest and finance charges of $20,085 for a total of $9,270,194. “That is a very interesting point, is that interest makes up a significant part of the costs of the federal, provincial governments and many municipalities that borrow a lot of money. You don’t have a huge debt so your interest costs are insignificant compared to other places,” said Naqvi. Traffic problems near Hutton Elementary Bruce Jepsen presented to council on the hazards of traffic on 75 Ave. near Hutton Elementary School. Jepsen lives across from the school and said that the density of traffic, use of the road by fast moving ambulances, congestion at the drop off area for the school, and a lack of a sidewalk are putting the students at risk. In addition, Jepsen noted that the speeds on Highway #3 near the school are also a risk for the children who walk across the highway to get to the school. “A lot of bonehead moves put our kids at risk. The thought that ‘I’ll only be a minute’ therefore I can park wherever I want, really needs to be rethought. That minute has 60 seconds in it and it doesn’t even take one second for an accident or child to get hit,” said Jepsen. “They’re all our kids. So I belive we all have a vested interest in trying to make it a better spot.” Jepsen left council with a number of suggestions for improvements that he hopes they will follow up with the school district and the highways to achieve. Imagine Grand Forks A sub-committee of the Economic Development Task Force for the city has been working to complete the first phase of a project called “Imagine Grand Forks.” They were able to contract the services of Steven Kaup, an architect, Robert Inwood, a heritage architectural consultant, and Adam James, a community energy engineer to envision a 10-year development plan including a compilation of material from existing plans. Peter Matheson made the formal presentation of their work to council at the meeting. Matheson said that they are working on the second phase of the project which will culminate in a large scale graphic display in a public storefront to engage the community on the possibilities for the plan. Continuing to draw on professionals and the various plans, studies and initiatives of the past, the group will help local people to visualize the future, and then, once a vision is complete, use the work done to help market the amazing potential of the valley to attract investment and development with the confidence that the community designed the plan. Councillors complemented the group for their initiative and provided support for their continued work. The project is being funded by the Ministry of Community and Rural Development and is a part of the new community first agreement with the Ministry over the next six months to support development initiatives. The project is still in the early phase and will be open to the public with more information soon. They have also applied for funding from the Real Estate Foundation as well. “The really exciting part is being included in the Community First Agreement as a commitment by administration and by council to moving ahead and expanded that, and trying to explain in a visual showcase to the citizens how great the future of Grand Forks can really be,” said John Oldroyd, one of the committee members.