Pemberton council amends bylaw to ticket people who ignore park closures 

COVID-19-related items discussed, April 7 council meeting cancelled

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOEL BARDE - Working remotely The Village of Pemberton council held its first meeting via video conferencing on March 31. Sheena Fraser, the VOP's manager of corporate and legislative affairs, is pictured.
  • photo by Joel Barde
  • Working remotely The Village of Pemberton council held its first meeting via video conferencing on March 31. Sheena Fraser, the VOP's manager of corporate and legislative affairs, is pictured.

The Village of Pemberton council is adjusting to new physical-distancing requirements, holding its March 31 special council meeting via video-conferencing service for the first time.

During the meeting, council passed an amendment to its Parks and Public Spaces Use bylaw so that people who violate closures and restriction can be ticketed $200.

Under a ministerial order passed last week, municipalities around the province have been given the right to adopt a bylaw the same day it receives third readings during the current Provincial State of Emergency, meaning the bylaw doesn't have to come back for a fourth and final reading.

VOP chief administrative officer Nikki Gilmore advocated for ticketing power, saying that it was important for the VOP to have an enforcement mechanism in place.

People have been ignoring the current closure of the skate park, leaving the VOP with little recourse, she explained.

"I think [bylaw] needs the tools to make sure that our citizens are protected," said Gilmore.

Councillor Amica Antonelli—the lone councillor to register opposition against the ticketing amendment—said she was concerned about some of the language included in the amendment.

One of the additions allows for the VOP's manager "to provide for rules of behaviour as may be considered necessary to address public health and safety concerns or to respond to public health emergencies."

"I think we could probably use a close look at the definitions and get some public feedback on this before we rush through it," said Antonelli.

Council also passed an amendment allowing it to hold special meetings by electronic means in the event of a health, environmental or safety emergency.

Sheena Fraser, the VOP's manager of corporate and legislative services, explained that a recent ministerial order allows councils to meet electronically, but that this amendment could be helpful in the event of future emergencies.

"We decided to proceed with this amendment because it may be helpful and useful in the future, but it would only be used in emergency situations such that council members would not be able to all attend the meeting," said Fraser.

Antonelli said that it is imperative the public be be able to attend any meeting virtually.

(The March 31 meeting was recorded and released online, but the public was not able to attend virtually.)

"We haven't had time to fully explore all of the livestreaming options, but we are working on that and intend by next week to have the Committee of the Whole live streamed and made available for the public to view," said Fraser.

Council also passed a resolution cancelling its scheduled April 7 regular council meeting.

It will still hold the Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for that day.

In his comments, VOP Mayor Mike Richman said that the COVID-19 situation will result in changes to the Village's proposed budget.

"Obviously, we're going to see changes in the budget as a result of the ongoing situation," he said. "The numbers are going to change as a result."

In an interview with Pique prior to the meeting, Richman said the VOP has moved its staff to working remotely where possible, with the few who remain on premise working in isolation.

"We're all trying to keep as many normal operations running as possible," he added.

"Almost all of our staff is working remotely. To give you an example, development services is as busy as ever working through building permits and that sort of thing."

Other departments, he said, are largely focussed on issues related to the COVID-19 situation.

Richman said that while he's noticed an improvement in terms of physical distancing in the downtown core, it is important that residents keep it up.

"This is good work that we're doing, and if we keep it up, we will make a difference," he said.

"The basic recommendations have been coming out for weeks now, which are physical distancing, isolate when you need to, wash your hands a whole bunch, and don't touch your face.

"[It] feels kind of silly repeating them. But we're hearing from the health authorities that this is making a difference."

While stressing the importance of physical distancing, Richman highlighted the need for the community to remain united through this difficult time.

"We need to maintain all other levels of connectedness," he said.

Smile when crossing the street and check in with people neighbours, he suggested. "Let's stay connected in every other way."

As a way to help people learn about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the host of government initiatives related to it, the VOP has put together a list of resources.

These include links to healthcare agencies with the latest information and the various supports available to businesses.

You can see the resource list at www.pemberton.ca/municipal-services/covid-19-business-preparedness.

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