Poll

SUMMING IT UP GRAND FORKS: City welcomes proposals on properties they own

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
February 4th, 2013

 Headway was made on setting new policies for council meetings, electrical price increases cleared approvals, and offers were opened on two city owned properties at Grand Forks city council’s last meeting.

Council directed staff to proceed with a real estate strategy for guidelines on city-owned lands acquisition, disposition and leasing at the meeting Monday, Jan. 28. The proposed plan allows city staff to administer city real estate transactions in the budgeting process or through resolution at council.

“Staff and council are always challenged with opportunities when a property comes up for purchase or disposal,” said Doug Allin, chief administrative officer for the city. “The idea behind the initiative is to identify and marry the strategy to council’s long-standing plans… The policy for staff to follow will guide us in how we do things and how council makes decisions.”

Allin went on to identify the need for a proposal process for two specific properties, but added that council should look at their entire inventory and create an overall strategy that meshes with existing plans including the sustainable Grand Forks plan, the official community plan, financial plans, etc.

The request for proposals (RFP), for the old Wildlife Hall and a newly acquired property at 7212 Riverside Drive, will open process for community organizations to bid on options for the properties with an eye to creating oppportunities for employment, development or community benefit.

Allin will put together the RFP for these two properties and solicit interest from groups who may be interested in using the two buildings. Councillor Neil Krog suggested that the RFP include all city lands, but Allin said that council should  inventory all surplus lands before deciding what action to follow. The motion to call for interest on the two properties was passed although Krog noted his opposition.

New meeting process

An updated bylaw for council meeting process will change the meeting format for council and include necessary alterations to accommodate provincial legislation that shifted the timing of municipal elections to October.

Starting in March, council will hold its primary meeting, or council of the whole, in the morning on regularly scheduled meeting dates from 9 a.m. to noon.

Allin suggested that daytime meetings would facilitate staff and consultants to attend during work hours and save costs. It will also give school classes the chance to observe the meetings, create opportunities for more presentations to the public and breaks up process for council. Regular council meetings will still take place at 7:00 p.m. on the scheduled dates.

Bylaws pass readings

The electrical price increase bylaw passed its final reading at the meeting with no further discussion. Residents can expect to see increased useage rates on upcoming bills.

Council also passed the bylaw allowing residential complexes with existing garbage collection contracts to opt out of the new waste recovery program until their contracts expire. (see last meeting.)

Invasive species presentation

Barb Stewart, Boundary Invasive Species Society co-ordinator, updated council on weed management work in the region. Her presentation covered their current work and some examples of new invasive species that are on the rise with potential for spread coming from Okanagan and nearby United States.

“What can you do?” questioned Stewart. “I’m not sure if anyone’s done a review of your bylaws or whether or not you can require reseeding and invasives being addressed during development – there are some best practices out there and I encourage you to make sure that those are being included when people are doing development or in rezoning application.”

Stewart also suggested that council promote the grow-me-instead program within the city to encourage land owners to make different decisions for their gardens; encourage control along roadsides adjacent to properties; build on the society’s education program; revive the city’s own management plan tackling bio-control and consider targeted grazing – allowing small herd animals (goats) to graze in specific areas.

Councillor Gary Smith suggested he will take the request from Stewart to the environment committee to consider next steps. Allin added that city staff can create a local plan including an option to ticket residents for problem lots and will look at funding options to participate in the regional weed management program.

Boundary Restorative Justice Society

Another delegation to council was presented by Richard Tarnoff and Staff Sergeant Jim Harrison on behalf of the Boundary Restorative Justice Society.

Welcoming council and staff to get involved with the alternative justice system that focuses on repairing harm done to victims and the community rather than punishment of offenders, Tarnoff talked about the success of the local program.

“The current justice system is unsatisfactory in many ways,” said Tarnoff. “Courts are backed up and minor offenses are often dismissed due to the passage of time. If offenders believe the charges may be dismissed or that they may be found not guilty, then may be less likely to take responsibility.”

The local program has been able to help victims and offenders come to mutual place of resolve as well as reducing recidivism.

With restorative justice, cases may be directly referred to the alternate process with a court memorandum explained Harrison about the new option about to be implemented. If the case fails within restorative justice it will automatically be returned to the courts, he added.

“My senior constable went to the restorative justice / community justice forum last year and it was absolutely refreshing because when he came back from it he set up court in our station with all the younger other constables and proceeded to tell them it was the most powerful thing he had ever seen in his entire RCMP career,” said Harrison. “The emotion, the sincerity of the whole program, really struck him as being very, very effective. As a result, there’s widespread support within my office for the program.”

City staff agreed to work with the society to look at community service options for offenders and are working on a letter of understanding with union to allow for painting of graffitti and picking up litter as options.

Reports

All councillors took time to comment on some of their activities and all reported their participation in the annual budget deliberations.

Councillor Cher Wyers, chair of the environment committee, announced upcoming events to be held in May and June: drinking water week forums, bike-to-work week, the commuter challenge and solar car races. Volunteer Paul Pinard received costs for mileage he has incurred in doing nephelometer testing (monitoring air quality) around the city for about $ 120.

Arising from a request from the public, Smith proposed that city staff review the current policy use for James Donaldson park with an eye to increasing the variety of activities that take place at the property.

Smith also announced that the Grand Forks Credit Union and Success by Six will be unveiling their new family friendly business initiative on Friday, Feb. 8 at 10:00 a.m.

Mayor Brian Taylor advised that the potential for a region-wide community forest is still possible. There will be a regional meeting on Feb. 7 to consult an expert on timber supply to build a solid case for the region to present to the province.

Watch the video from Les Johnson of GFTVCA!

Categories: GeneralPolitics