SUMMING IT UP: Grand Forks Council rocks, talks and saves the birds?

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
April 13th, 2012

Council members gearing up for a fundraiser to support the victims of the recent hotel fires, Whispers of Hope appeals for funding to shore up their operational costs, and the RCMP reports a steady decline in crime last year, an interesting mix of business for Grand Forks council’s last meeting.

Staff Sergeant Jim Harrison gave the city a relatively clean bill of health in his annual presentation on policing. Harrison said that the Boundary saw a 19 percent decrease in overall crime since 2010, almost at the provincial average, and lower than Castlegar, Trail and Nelson based on rates per 1000 population.

“Part of our strategy in this community, besides working on crime reduction initiatives, has been to involve the public and the community as much as we can through programs such as restorative justice and citizens on patrol,” Harrison commented.

“I think that’s made a difference. We have people out there who care about their community, who are providing a great service and we’re seeing the results on the statistics.”

Key types of crime where Grand Forks saw decreases include wilful damage, vehicle thefts, break and enter for both businesses and homes. Harrison attributes the decrease to intelligence-like policing strategy and their diligence in reducing drug-related crime in the area.

“This helps us to target the resources that we do have at the areas where we know they will have the impact,” Harrison added. “We have limited resources. We have to put them in the right place and we have to use them effectively. That’s what’s happened in the last four years.”

Harrison agreed with Mayor Brian Taylor who added that if there could be more support for mental health patients in the region, one could see another drop in crime rates.

“We have what we call priority offenders,” explained Harrison. “They’re not really criminals, but they’re a burden on all of the agencies because they have unresolved issues that they haven’t received assistance with….(they) don’t need to be in the criminal justice system. Somewhere the rest of the system failed (them).”

Whispers of closing

Although the city is well into their budget process, Lisa Fichtenberg called on the city to consider a grant of $10,000 to the Whispers of Hope, one-fifth of their operational costs.

“The fact of the matter is that we are facing closure due to the fact that we are running out of money,” Fichtenberg said, “The cost of running the place has increased dramatically over the years.”

The organization provides a soup kitchen, outreach for vulnerable people, and even substance abuse assistance as needed. They not only have their doors open for warmth and meals, but provide clothing and household items that people might not otherwise be able to afford for a nominal, or no cost.

Open six days a week, Whispers sees about 50 – 70 clients a day, and that number rises in the summer, said Fichtenberg. They co-ordinate their services with the Boundary Emergency and Transitional Housing Society who operates the extreme weather shelter and the Boundary Food Bank. Most of their clients are on a disability pension, or are low income employed people who cannot afford the basics

“We fell behind in our co-ordinator wages, our rent, our utilities a few months ago,” added Fichtenberg. “The food isn’t really the problem, the problem is keeping the bills paid.”

Council referred the request to the list of other funding applications that were undecided at their last meeting.

Woodpecker lives here

Well not the cartoon character, but the Lewis woodpecker, an endangered species, certainly likes the Boundary. Jenny Coleshill, member of the newly formed Boundary Habitat Stewards, asked Grand Forks to consider signing a stewardship agreement to manage habitat for this bird.

“The City of Grand Forks came up (in a recent study) as one of the highest priority areas because there’s a great number of Lewis woodpeckers here compared to anywhere else in B.C.,” said Coleshill. “The numbers are 350 – 400 breeding pairs in all of B.C. and 33 of them are inside the city limits.”

As a result of the study, the federal government is doing a long term monitoring program for the birds and they chose Grand Forks and Kamloops with a goal to increase the population by 50 percent in 25 years.

The Boundary Habitat Stewards are a group of professionals who are working together to give a voice to local habitat issues. Members include biologists, foresters, and other professionals concerned with local issues.

Coleshill left council with a copy of their proposed agreement which includes a commitment to conservation methods in managing danger trees which may be wildlife trees, and a copy of a green bylaws toolkit that council could use as a reference in future bylaws.

Musicians with a cause

Councillor Gary Smith has gathered forces with Mayor Brian Taylor and other local musicians for Sunday evening’s fundraiser for the recent hotel fire victims. Five bands are gearing up to rock the Grand Forks Curling Rink Sunday from 4 – 9 p.m.

The bands are: Generation 2.0, Buck Naked & the Saddle Tramps, Bugsy & the Satellite Blues, Cauldera, and Dave’s Not Here. Tickets are $10 at the door, and the money will all be placed in the CIBC trust fund set up for the victims.

And don’t forget to pick up your own heritage coffee mug, created by Contact Photo Arts and Les Johnson, as yet another way to donate to the fund. The cups are for sale in Value Drug, Select Office, gallery 2 and CIBC.

CETA a threat to local purchasing

In support of a letter put forward by the Village of New Denver to the federal Minister of International Trade, council agreed to protest the potential damage the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada will have on small communities if it is approved.

“I’m disturbed that there’s a considerable potential that they are trying to negotiate government procurement and operating of municipal services,” said Smith. “I think this is an opportunity to make our voices known in this whole process before it’s done behind our backs and fed to us on a plate.”

The motion, calling for an exemption for local governments from the agreement on the grounds that it will impact its ability to procure goods and services locally and potentially control over its government facilities including waterworks, was unanimously passed.

Categories: GeneralPolitics