Ten gathered to welcome Local Community Commissioners (LCC) Chair Earl Rook, Brian Webster, Gayle Baker, and Commissioner, as well as Electoral Director, Gary Holman. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Darryl Martin, doing the honours as our facilitator, began by asking all what they hoped to gain from this CRD/LCC-focused gathering. While responses varied, the clear message was that participants wanted Commissioners to tell them about the major issues before the LCC and what they thought the LCC had accomplished in its first six months.
Much our time together focused upon some key LCC issues of discussion, including the 2024 budget, Portlock Park, the possible transition of the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance (SSWIPA) to CRD, roads, and the proposed encampment.
We only spoke briefly of the major issue confronting Commissioners: the 2024 budget. With final decisions to be made at the January 18, 2024 LCC meeting, beginning at 9:00 a.m. in the SIMS (former Middle School) Boardroom, there are still opportunities for Salt Springers to make suggestions:
All are welcome to attend this January 18 meeting as a delegation to speak for three minutes (please register with CRD - 537-4448 before this meeting),
Local Commissioners will have office hours each Wednesday in the CRD offices next to Apple Photo, with the exception of December 20 and 27: Ben 8:30-10:30, Brian 10:30-12:30, Gayle 12:30-2:30, and Earl 2:30-4:30.
A Town Hall focused on the 2024 budget will be held in SIMS Boardroom Thursday, January 11, 5-7.
So. . . there are still plenty of opportunities for you to offer your budget suggestions to Commissioners.
Being a strong team does not assure agreement, and Commissioners are trying to achieve consensus concerning the requisition for LCC services, currently estimated to be an almost 13% increase over last year. While some of these expenditures are unavoidable - like union-negotiated salary increases and higher prices for needs like supplies and utilities - others, like increasing depleted capital and operating reserves, are being strongly debated by Commissioners. Please join them as they conclude this debate on January 18.
A participant acknowledged the LCC for not moving forward with the hotly-debated Portlock Park Master Plan. While Commissioners would have postponed decision on this plan, PARC Manager, Dan Ovington, also requested more time to fully address user suggestions before asking the LCC to make a decision.
While much of the impetus for changes to Portlock Park stem from the long-unmet need for a baseball field large enough to accommodate players over 12 years old (currently traveling off-island to play), proposed changes have raised serious concerns, especially to track-users. Some months ago, many of the key Portlock users convened to devise a plan that met all needs, including retention of the oval track. However, their proposals appear to involve a smaller parking area and removal of the office/support building on the site. It is unclear whether their recommendations will be included in the final Portlock Plan offered to the LCC. It is expected that the next step in this long process will be a recommendation for more community engagement to attempt to reach a solution that most effectively meets the needs of all.
At the most recent LCC meeting last Thursday, December 7, the Local Trust Committee’s recommendation to transfer the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance (SSIPA) https://www.ssiwpa.org/wp-content/uploads/Public-Library/SSIWPA-Structure-and-Management/SSIWPA-TOR-Current.pdf to CRD was briefly discussed. This interagency group, charged with sharing information and making recommendations to member agencies regarding Salt Spring’s water protection issues, has been administered and funded by Islands Trust for some years. A planner has been contracted by Islands Trust to interview SSIWPA members and recommend next steps. Commissioners agreed that no decision should be made until this report has been concluded. There was agreement, however, that the information-sharing of SSIWPA was valuable, and Islands Trust was asked to reconvene SSIWPA at least one more time so that members could review the strategic plan that was developed prior to the Trust’s SSIWPA’s recommended transfer of SSIWPA to CRD.
The future use of the former Phoenix School location on Drake Road was briefly discussed as a significant opportunity for our community. A large property, its potential for community use is enticing. With a high likelihood that the property will be rented rather than sold, School District 64 plans to convene a community discussion this spring with the many community groups interested this property. Will the LCC have interest in leasing and managing this property? Expect a discussion of this in 2024. . . .
Switching gears to our roads, a participant asked who was responsible for the clogged culvert causing flooding and beach destruction in the Moby’s area. It is possible that this culvert was on private property. (Remember: We are each legally responsible for the culverts under our driveways!) But, as the high likelihood is that it was on Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) property, this participant was told that the first step would be to call Emcon (https://www.emconservices.ca/) our roads maintenance contractor, at their Hazard Line: 1-866-353-3136. With many of our culverts needing repair and replacement, culvert management is only one of many responsibilities of Emcon.
Whatever happened to the promised repaving of Ganges Hill on Fulford-Ganges Road from the village to Cranberry Road? asked one participant. Scheduled to begin in 2023, as announced by MoTI’s Minister Rob Fleming at his June 2 visit to ASK Salt Spring, this project has not yet begun. We learned that the unexpected volume of water runoff, requiring culverting of the ditches, has added complexity and delays. Also, the larger-than-expected amount of adjacent property needing to be purchased has added to the delays. Still expected to be completed in 2024, it is possible the flood-required construction on Fulford-Ganges Road between Cusheon and Blackburn Lakes (called the Blackburn Bridge Project) may now be linked to this long-awaited Ganges Hill project. Stay tuned. . . .
Before leaving road safety issues, Gayle told us about an initiative discussed by the LCC at its last meeting. Even though road safety issues are not under the authority of the CRD, the LCC has agreed that it has an important role as road safety advocates.
Did you know that Salt Springers contact MoTi and Emcon with a daunting array of requests, often as many as 100 different ones each month? A difficult situation for MoTI and Emcon, the LCC is proposing to launch a community engagement to identify and prioritize our most concerning road safety concerns. To be presented to the LCC by May 2024, it is hoped that the LCC will adopt and strongly advocate for quick attention to these community-generated priorities. Interested in participating? The first community meeting to identify these priorities will be 1:30 Friday, January 12 at SIMS. Watch for more information in What’s On of the Driftwood and Events of the Exchange.
Let’s speak with one voice and get it done!
The proposal for a temporary winter area on CRD parkland where campers in vans who were recently evicted from the Drake Road Property can legally park was brought to the LCC by the Chu’an Society (https://www.facebook.com/chuansociety/)at its last meeting, December 7. While complex details still need to be agreed upon by Directors of the Chu’an Society as well as Commissioners and local PARC staff, there is the recognition that the LCC cannot ignore the fact that many in our community have no safe, secure place to sleep during cold winter months.
Commissioners charged Ben and Gayle with developing a plan for a temporary camper parking location on CRD parkland that was agreeable to all before winter grips us. A daunting challenge, a participant remarked that, if the LCC can successfully address this complicated problem, they will have accomplished something extraordinarily important for our community. With this vote of confidence, Commissioners will do their best to find sanctuary for these evicted campers.
As 1:00 was approaching, the rest of our time together was spent discussing challenges Commissioners face. Participants began by acknowledging the very hard work of Commissioners a well as the teamwork and respect for each other Commissioners have demonstrated in their six months working together.
Responding to this acknowledgement, Commissioners noted that, while the road the LCC has to travel is difficult, they have worked hard to begin to build the solid foundation it needs. That said, Commissioners are aware of the challenges and united in their frustration that so much time has been spent clarifying seemingly simple basics like a meeting schedule.
As an explanation for these frustrations, we were reminded that this new form of local government has only been tried in very, very small communities. Using the LCC model for a community as large as Salt Spring is significantly different.
Just over a year ago, this governance model was approved by voters. It was only then that the real work defining how the LCC would function began. While Local Commissioners have worked hard to solidify these definitions, Brian reminded us that CRD staff - both in Victoria and Salt Spring - were also dramatically impacted by this new form of governance. It is likely that the advance thinking about the administrative impact of increasing elected officials from one Electoral Director (Gary) to a total of five Commissioners had not been fully anticipated. A major shift in both expectations and basic functioning, Commissioners believe that CRD staff was not prepared for the magnitude of this change.
In addition to hard work to address critical issues, Commissioners agree that it will take time for them and staff to learn how to work together effectively, aligning on goals and objectives. United in their appreciation of the support of CRD Victoria, most notably CAO Ted Robbins and Kristen Morely, General manager, Corporate Services who have travelled to Salt Spring to attend many of these early LCC meetings, Commissioners are hopeful that alignment with CRD local staff can soon be achieved.
Already after 1:00, participants thanked Commissioners for their hard work, commitment to address the complex issues, apparent pleasure working together, and determination to successfully address seemingly impossible barriers.
Please join us this Friday, December 15, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) classroom next to the Boardroom to welcome North Salt Spring Waterworks District’s (NSSWD) manager Mark and chair Brian.
As their first ever visit as special ASK Salt Spring guests, we trust you will have plenty to ask them.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for NSSWD in 2024?
What are the NSSWD’s top priorities for 2024?
Do you anticipate any NSSWD headline news this year?
Do you see any role for NSSWD in addressing our worker hosing crisis?
Please join us this Friday to welcome NSSWD’s Mark and Brian!
Did you know that ASK Salt Spring now has an Event Organizer? Grand Fredrickson has stepped up to identify special guests and and coordinate their visits. . . Wahoo!
Who else would like to help? Maybe you would like to take charge of weekly media? Do you see yourself facilitating? How about writing reports? Or. . . ?
Please join us making ASK Salt Spring ever better!
ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!
***New fundraising option***
You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.
Any questions, anytime: email@example.com
Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings,
monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings? Asksaltspring.com.
Want to listen to interviews of our special guests?ASK Salt Spring Answered
Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.
We love your receipts! Remember: #15
Our Partners. . . .
Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings' Simple Generosity grant.
A heartfelt Thank-You!