By Korie Marshall
Last year, the Village of Valemount held “Community Conversations,” a forum intended to let residents give feedback to the Village about a number of hot topics, as well as any additional topics residents wanted to bring up.
This year, the Village did the same and also invited a number of partner agencies to come to an open house to hear and help answer concerns from the community on some issues outside the Village’s direct responsibilities.
The open house on Nov. 29 featured representatives from Emergency Management BC, Valemount Community Forest, the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, Community Futures, Northern Health and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, who provided information and answered questions on a number of topics, like air quality, radon testing, recycling, emergency kits and help for small businesses. Village staff and Councillors were also on hand with some educational material and small gifts for people who volunteered and helped the Village over the last two years. The Village also had some informal polls and comment opportunities posted on the wall – should chickens be allowed in the Village (21 yes, 3 no); should the Village allow the commercial production of medical marijuana (15 yes, 5 no); and should the Village build a new cemetery on 13th Ave (10 yes, 7 no); and any other comments. Among others, residents suggested the Greyhound should be moved to Petro, a shelter for the train stop should be provided, with or without VIA’s help, and the library should be moved to 5th Ave.
Following the open house, about 60 residents in attendance rated their top five of Council’s 14 strategic priorities to discuss and comment on. The topic highest on the list was exploring geothermal opportunities. Mayor Andru McCracken explained that there is no geothermal power currently being produced in Canada, but Council and staff have been proactive in trying to find ways to encourage geothermal power here. He explained the benefits it would offer, like stable power at this end of our transmission line that would have powered the community when the 2003 fire in Barriere happened; better opportunities for manufacturers to come to Valemount; and opportunities for uses for the heat by-product, like greenhouses.
The first question from a resident was about how the provincial review of the Columbia River Treaty with the US could play a role in getting the geothermal industry started here. McCracken explained that Kinbasket Reservoir, created because of the Treaty, produces about half of the power for the province, and whereas other communities have seen benefits from the Treaty, like jobs with BC Hydro operations, Valemount has seen the least benefit, but has been deeply impacted. He explained that Kathy Eichenberger, from the provincial team reviewing the Treaty, has said communities like ours need to be recognized, and the province will do something to help us address that. McCracken says that is when we take geothermal power to the province, and say “This is what we need to do.”
The other top issues for residents were continuing to plan for the potential Valemount Glacier Destination Resort; updating the Village’s emergency plan, the Village’s bylaw compliance and enforcement strategy; and developing an infrastructure strategy. Council’s 11 other strategic priorities were reviewed briefly, as well as eight operational priorities, and 14 “wins” – other things Council and staff have accomplished over the last year, like completing the Big Foot Trail, adopting the Advisory Planning Commission, the Love Valemount project, development of Discover Valemount TV series, and a pre-feasibility study on an upstream water intake.
Also a number of door prizes were given away, like radon detector kits, compost bins and gift bags donated by various partners.
Residents can send comments to [email protected] at any time.
Photos by Laura Keil