Village of Pemberton (VOP) council received quarterly updates from four of its departments at its regular meeting held via Zoom on May 5.
Heading up one of the most acutely affected departments, manager of operations and projects Tom Csima described the response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the precautions taken are: increasing bathroom cleaning to twice daily from two to three times per week; posting signs notifying the public of playground and skate park closures; splitting crews up into different shifts to maintain physical distancing; and increasing disinfecting of its vehicles and equipment.
Even before pandemic precautions ramped up in mid-March, toward the end of the first quarter, it was a busy winter for operations after several significant snowfall events.
"Our winter snow and ice removal operations were working very hard, despite all the challenges we faced with the new downtown configuration, the restrictions for using salt on the new concrete and equipment failures and staffing issues," he said.
One major issue was a blockage of the wastewater treatment plant's outfall diffuser ports, which was discovered during a routine inspection. There were roughly two metres of sediment covering the outfall pipe, Csima said.
The second pipe was still flowing, though there was a risk that it would eventually be blocked as well, Csima said.
The VOP consulted engineers, river hydrologists and environmental consultants and determined a solution, with work starting on March 31.
"We found there was about 1.8 metres' depth and about 30 metres in either direction of the diffuser port that we removed so it would not fill back in," he said.
During the process, crews repaired the port and modified its assembly in an attempt to ensure that the work lasts for the long haul.
"We're very hopeful that these repairs will be long-term solutions. I have some planned operational changes that might have a cost associated to it, but that is something we could budget for and do maybe next year," Csima said. "Also, I would like to do some more monitoring to make sure that everything that we're doing is working."
Csima added that instead of completing dive tests once every five years as required, testing would be done annually.
Covering the costs associated with the work has proved challenging, as the VOP's emergency funding application to the provincial government was denied because the problem did not stem from a single event, Csima explained. The removal and building work came to roughly $285,000, and with consultants' fees added in, the total rises to more than $400,000.
CAO Nikki Gilmore explained that the initial plan was to do emergency works and determine next steps for a permanent fix.
The estimated cost of the fix is $2 million, so as part of the 2020 budget process, the VOP put $200,000 from reserves into its sewer budget because if the disaster assistance is approved, the VOP would be responsible for 20 per cent of the costs.
Additionally, Csima reported that staff members have been looking at options for a new backup well after discovering water quality concerns with the current secondary well at Fougberg Park.
With new provincially mandated maximum measure of contents of manganese and iron in the water, the department started looking for new options after discovering that those amounts were higher than allowed.
"This is an ever-evolving situation," he said.
Operations staff and consultants tested two sites: one in Pioneer Park near the existing primary well and another near the existing backup well. Neither are promising solutions, as the former indicated a low yield and the latter indicated similar water quality issues.
As it analyzes other sites, the department has continued testing its backup well, Csima said, and found decreasing levels in recent tests.
"That may still be an option if we do some measure like redevelop the well or brush and bail, which is a way to clean the well," he said.
Meanwhile, manager of development services Lisa Pedrini reported that the VOP issued 24 building permits while collecting $47,699 in permit fees during the quarter as the department continues to do brisk business.
"We've been quite busy, very steady in both planning and building," she said. "Building inspections [were] declared an essential service during the pandemic, so we have been able to continue with providing that service through contractors in the first quarter."
Pedrini noted that the VOP hired a new building inspector at the end of April.
Also presenting was fire chief Robert Grossman, who noted that callouts in the first quarter more than doubled over five years from 48 in 2015 to 98 in 2020.
Notably, he said, there were more burn complaints and more motor-vehicle incidents this quarter and, all told, 13 of the quarter's 91 days had three or more calls.
In response to an inquiry from Coun. Ryan Zant, Grossman said that the department's 12 new recruits fulfilled the required training and will keep the membership pool well stocked as that number stands at 35.
"The recruits that came on last year, they finished their training before this all took place," he said. "Now they're ready to respond to calls and learn what we're doing and they get a little more hands-on.
"In September, we start the full training again, and a lot of that is online training and practical skills."
As well, manager of corporate and legislative services Sheena Fraser provided updates on eight outstanding resolutions, including the mountain bike skills park proposed for Frontier Street north of the downtown barn. Since the last update in January, staff has determined a potential site and will update council at a future meeting.
Noting that recreation grant funding could soon be available, Richman sought further information to confirm that the project would be shovel-ready in the near future.
Gilmore said staff members are currently determining what kinds of upgrades might be made to the site.
Council approves $1,000 for food task force
Council approved half of what was requested by the Whistler Centre for Sustainability's (WCS) Squamish-Lillooet Regional Food Task Force.
After cutting its Community Enhancement Fund budget in half to $7,500 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, fulfilling the full $2,000 request, the same amount it approved for the two-year project in the 2019 budget, would have left just $250 in the fund for the rest of the year.
Coun. Ted Craddock felt uneasy all but draining the fund so early in the year, while Coun. Amica Antonelli followed up by proposing granting half the requested amount.
"I think the program is really valuable and I would like to support it, but we've only done partway through the year and we don't know what other requests are going to come from the community, basically, from citizens of Pemberton," she said. "I know it's kind of like counting pennies, but I think it would be helpful to save something for the residents of Pemberton in that fund."
WCS sustainable community development and project specialist Dawn Johnson said after securing $2,000 from the Resort Municipality of Whistler and $3,000 from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, its $29,000 matching funds from the Vancouver Foundation were secure. She said the group was appreciative of the $1,000 from the VOP.
"That's great, and I think given the circumstances, all communities are in the same situation," she said.
The task force's planned projects for 2020 include: promoting sustainable food packaging and reducing food waste; inventorying food education in local schools; designing and developing a regional food procurement policy; and helping the Lil'wat Nation set up a farm school.