By Andru McCracken

The Village of Valemount held their regular council meeting on November 24, present were Mayor Owen Torgerson, councillors Hollie Blanchette, Pete Pearson, Donnie MacLean, and Sheri Gee, as well as CAO Wayne Robinson.

VARDA plea
Tony Bielec presented to council on behalf of the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA) board. VARDA presented the challenges it faces as an organization during COVID-19 and requested ongoing communication with council and staff “to help guide and support VARDA through this community-wide challenge.”

“Our sport is inherently individual and allows for safe and socially distanced recreation. We want to ensure we maintain a high level of safety and messaging to ensure our patrons, guests and staff are safe. The recent orders from the Provincial Health Officer did not mention travel,” said Bielec [Editor’s note: PHO asked for no unnecessary travel]. “Ultimately this leaves the final decision to travel up to the individual, in this case we will continue to see a strong winter recreation interest… Many of our local businesses and their staff are dependent on the revenue that winter recreation brings, discouraging that could be detrimental to the long-term economic health of this community.”

Ultimately VARDA asked for better communication between Valemount Tourism and Council.

“We want to ensure the information we provide is in the best interest of the community. Currently we do not feel we are well supported and are being left to act on behalf of the community without help from elected officials.”

Torgerson clarified that the Provincial Health Officer has asked all nonessential travel to be avoided until at least December 7th.
“It is the view of this council that, yes, we should be united in our message to our neighbours to the East as well as any and all travelling here for recreation (purposes) only. If you give us a day we can have good messaging for you and your board for your consideration,” said Torgerson.
(The following day council forwarded a message to VARDA echoing the Provincial Health Officer’s message that discouraged non-essential travel.)

Accounts Payable
Council received its accounts payable report. They gave staff direction to negotiate a contract for janitorial services for the municipal buildings with Heaps Cleaning.

Back Hoe
Council awarded a contract to Alpine Country Rentals for a backhoe snow blade in the amount of $16,842.

Centennial washrooms
Council will submit an application to the Tourism Dependent Communities Fund (from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture) to fund the construction of washroom facilities in Centennial Park. The fund would cover 100% of the capital costs.

Municipal mask mandate?
Tourism Valemount brought the following recommendations to council:

THAT the Village of Valemount encourages all residents, visitors and businesses to utilize face masks in public to help slow the spread of COVD-19, to protect the health of our residents and visitors, and to keep local businesses open and operating.

THAT staff be directed to take appropriate steps to spread this message to residents, visitors, businesses, and other local organizations.

Because there is a province wide order for wearing masks already, council did not endorse the first recommendation.

Pearson said spreading the message was the important part. Torgerson reminded council of the tiny amount of money they have available to spread the message and asked staff for a budget.

“Everything requires a budget,” he said.

Council voted in favour of the second recommendation to spread the message.

Council introduced a new set of COVID-19 Operating Procedures.

It’s heavy on mask wearing and discourages in-person meetings, except when approved by the CAO.

Future Seniors residence property
Council gave 3rd reading to a change to the official community plan and the Zoning bylaw for the Ash Street property adjacent to the high school. Council also required that the Valemount Senior Citizen housing Society obtain a Development Permit prior to getting a building permit. (Pearson absented himself for the motion due to a conflict of interest.)

Procedure Bylaw
Council adopted procedure Bylaw 834 and repealed Bylaw Policy 56.

Council’s Pay
Council increased their pay by 2%. The mayor is now paid $19,893.59 per year (an increase of $390.07) and councillors are paid $8,952.64 (an increase of $175.54).

Fees and Charges
Council gave 3rd reading to a 3% increase to utility rates, including water, sewage, and solid waste. A staff recommendation sought an increase of 9.5%, but council decreased that amount at the last meeting and stuck to their guns at this meeting.

Council then gave their verbal reports.