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Pemberton, district, explore joint services options

Mayor concerned about expediency of service implementation

By Cindy Filipenko

The Village of Pemberton and Electoral Area C will be working on three new initiatives to streamline local government.

At the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board meeting on Sept. 25, Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy proposed that the SLRD’s Area C and the Village of Pemberton join forces to establish joint service areas for distributing grants in aid, trails and parks and the implementation of an economic development officer for the area.

“I was hoping to get some service areas in place for 2007. And I’m not sure whether the timeframe is too short,” said Sturdy.

While time could be an issue, so could money.

Sturdy estimated the annual budgets for the initiatives at $20,000 for the grants in aid program, $50,000 for parks and trails and $100,000 for the economic development officer.

The budget for the parks and trails initiate would pay for a part-time staff person who would act as a liaison between all interest parties, with the remainder of funds set aside for capital expenditures and trail construction. There would be another vehicle put in place for land acquisitions.

Describing the current process for how grants in aid are awarded as “very haphazard,” Sturdy noted that it wasted time.

“The grant in aid (joint service) is a pragmatic thing, we spend more time screwing around with 50 bucks here, 100 bucks here,” he said.

Area C Director Susie Gimse agreed in principle with Sturdy’s recommendations for the three joint services, but expressed concern about some aspects of the proposed budget.

“In respect to grants in aid, I agree, there is use in us working together,” said Gimse. “In respect to parks and trails, we’ve already agreed to that. Not sure about the magic number, it warrants more discussion. It’s something we have to talk about. In respect to an EDO I agree we need to get something going here in Pemberton. We haven’t discussed numbers and what we’re going to do with the money. We need a feasibility study for Pemberton and Area C. I share Director Sturdy’s frustration and would like to see something in place.”

The suggestion of a feasibility study seemed to further frustrate the mayor.

“If we don’t start moving on these issues, we’ll soon be talking 2008-2009,” he said. “As for the budget for the EDO, we didn’t pull $100,000 out of the air. The chamber has done a lot of work on this. I would not like to have to spend two or three months debating whether or not it’s necessary. I don’t want to see it put at risk. I can see it being another year or two before anything happens.”

Paul Edgington, SLRD administrator, said that a feasibility study concerning the implementation of an EDO would not significantly affect the proposed project’s timelines.

“I’m not saying we have to do a protracted analysis. Preparing the bylaw is easy, linking it to expectations and proper service delivery is the more challenging part. We would like to be afforded the time to do it well to avoid future problems,” said Edgington.

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed voiced concerns over staff resources.

“I’m sympathetic to Mayor Sturdy about having to deal with this in a timely manner. Staff is currently consumed by their workload, it seems out of step to move at this speed for something that sounds like a considerable amount of work,” said Melamed.

Edgington noted that the SLRD currently has a number of service requests on the books, including establishing Howe Sound Community Services and implementing 911 service in the northern corridor. He said that it was his intention to deal with service requests during November.

All requests for the establishment of service areas have to be processed through Victoria by February for adoption by March 31, 2007.

Gimse agreed with Edgington that a clear plan needed to be in place regarding the proposed services before they could be taken to the community. Due to the tax implications of these services, voter assent will be required either in the form of a referendum or counter-petition.

The VOP and Area C will meet to discuss how best to proceed with their initiatives prior to October’s SLRD board meeting.