Regional District of Fraser-Fort George. / Courtesy of the RDFFG

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

Regional District of Fraser-Fort George directors approved a local contractor to implement riverbank erosion protection along the Dore River, hired consultants for a community wildfire resilience plan, and approved a $500,000 loan to The Exploration Place museum at their April 18th board meeting.

Loan to Museum Society

After some contention, the board approved a $500,000 loan to the Fraser-Fort George Museum Society to operate The Exploration Place, a museum in Prince George. The loan is to be repaid over the course of five years at a four per cent interest rate, and will cover the debt the Society accrued from completing renovations during its pandemic-induced closure.

Director Cori Ramsay said the interest rate is generously low.

“I’m also concerned that if others know that they can come to us for loans, we’re going to become the bank of the Regional District, which is just not something that I’m interested in pursuing,” she added. “I don’t want this to be precedent-setting.”

Director Brian Skakun said he would like more transparency about the museum’s costs.

“I’m wondering why we don’t have the board here at such an important meeting,” Skakun said. “I know they did a lot of internal work, but for me there’s a lot of unanswered questions [about their budget].”

Director Victor Mobley said he agreed with Skakun’s comments.

“I don’t want to see The Exploration Place closed, but at the same time, the current board […] they don’t seem to have a clear plan on how to get themselves out of this hole that they’ve gotten themselves into,” Mobley said. “My concern is even with a loan […] even if we do decrease it with grants, they’re just gonna keep coming for money.”

However, the board approved the $500,000 loan.

“The museum provides a public service to this region,” Director Simon Yu said of the approval. “[Museums] are supported by local government […] I just want to state my confidence in their cooperation as we work together.”

Profor Management to install Dore riprap

In an effort to mitigate the possibility of severe flooding from the Dore River near McBride, the District is using a $3M grant from the Province to add new vegetation and riprap – a layer of stones to prevent erosion – along the riverbank. The board awarded a contract for the erosion protection project to Profor Management Incorporated.

“I’ve seen firsthand the past work of Profor Management in both the Valemount area and McBride,” said Director Owen Torgerson. “It’s spot on when it comes to this stuff.”

Director Dannielle Alan agreed with Torgerson, and added that Profor quoted a lower cost for their services than other companies. Profor’s bid projects a cost of $1,879,070 – bids from five other companies cost upwards of $2M, with the highest being just over $4M.

“It’s actually going to be more environmentally friendly as well, because most of the material is going to be sourced locally,” Alan said.

Contract for wildfire preparation plan

The board awarded a $223,986 contract to Forsite Consultants Ltd. for the development of seven Community Wildfire Resiliency Plans, one for each electoral area in the District. Costs will be covered by the Province’s FireSmart Community Funding and Support Program. The emergency plans will communicate the responsibilities, policies and procedures local governments will adhere to in a wildfire, to comply with the Emergency and Disaster Management Act.

Recycling service updates

The board also discussed disruptions to recycling services within the District. As the previous contractor for recycling services will no longer be able to provide services as of May 31st, the board approved an agreement with Recycle BC to establish collection depots expected to be operational this fall. In the meantime, residents will be unable to recycle materials and are encouraged to clean and hold on to their recyclables, according to Manager of External Relations Renee McCloskey.

Read more about the recycling disruptions in this week’s issue.

The board also approved of a renewed contract with Cleanfarms, a non-profit environmental stewardship organization. With support from the District, Cleanfarms began a pilot program in 2021 for recycling agricultural plastic materials such as twine and bale wrap in McBride. As the program is set to end in June 2024, Cleanfarms’ Western Canada Director Shane Hedderson wrote a letter asking the board to extend the pilot program one more year.

The board approved the extension, and will cover the $40,485 cost of the project unless Cleanfarms acquires additional funding through grants.

Grant Approvals

The board also approved two grants within Electoral Area H, which encompasses Valemount, McBride, and Dunster.

The board awarded $5,805 to the Dunster Community Association, which will cover the cost of insurance for the Dunster Community Hall, Dunster Picnic Grounds, and the Dunster Station Museum. 

The board also approved an $8000 request from the Valemount Climbing Club. The grant money will go towards operating expenses for the club’s bouldering gym, such as insurance, rent, and BC Hydro bills, among other things.