Council Briefs: Regular Meeting, July 14, 2020

New fire truck, rainbow crosswalk revisited, new McDonald’s menu, Wet’suwet’en relationship building

NEW FIRE DEPT TRUCK

Smithers Fire Rescue has a new pickup truck.

The GMC Sierra 3500HD 4X4 (one ton) vehicle was purchased locally from Coast Mountain GM for $48,450 to haul the department’s sprinkler protection unit and mass casualty trailer.

It replaces a 2009 Ford F150 4X4, which the Town traded in.

“The rationale for purchasing a one-ton pick-up versus a half-ton pick-up truck is to gain the gross vehicle weight (GVW) required for the fire department to pull its trailers,” a report to council stated.

The Town received three bids from Coast Mountain, Hoskins Ford and Frontier Chrysler. The GMC was the lowest by nearly $1,000.

At town council’s regular meeting July 4, Deputy Mayor Gladys Atrill raised the issue of whether an electric model had been considered. When council declared a climate emergency last year at this time one of the identified priorities was to transition the Town’s vehicle fleet to electric.

CAO Alan Harris said staff had explored electric options, but explained the replacement of the old truck was urgent and staff’s main concern was that an electric vehicle would not be able to be serviced in Smithers and as a first responder vehicle the department couldn’t really afford to ship the truck off if it required servicing.

Although Atrill accepted the explanation, she reiterated concern that a year later, the Town has yet to make its first entry into the electric vehicle market.

“I guess I’m just feeling like some vehicle is going to have to right first vehicle,” she said.

“My perspective is we have talked for a while about what we’re going to do to start moving forward. Electric vehicles is one way and I’m interested in pushing that a little bit.”

She said Smithers is hardly a trail-blazer in this area and that administration should be looking at the experience of other municipalities to forge ahead.

“At some point we just have to jump in,” she said. “We’re not inventing this. We won’t be the first community to buy an electric vehicle. It’s happening in other places and I just think we need to get going on it.”

RAINBOW CROSS WALK REVISITED

The discussion surrounding a council decision not to repaint a rainbow crosswalk on Main Street at Second Avenue resurfaced last week.

In a report to council at its June 9 regular meeting, staff reported a deficit of $1,047 in the traffic marking budget to repaint the crosswalk.

Council voted to forego the project this year for financial reasons and defer the debate until the next budget cycle.

In lieu of repainting, the Town installed a rainbow flag on both north corners of the intersection.

In a letter to council that appeared on the July 14 regular council meeting agenda, the Smithers Pride Society reiterated how important it is for the LGBTQ+ community to have this kind of symbol of inclusiveness in the town and requested that council reconsider.

Discussion of the issue was limited coming as it did at the very end of the July 14 meeting and Coun. Greg Brown made a motion to table the letter to the next council meeting.

Deputy Mayor Gladys Atrill said she did not know if there is an appetite on council to find the money to go ahead with the

“I guess there’s always a chance,” she said. “It’s going to come up at a time when I think council is fresher. It was a fairly long meeting with lots of complex discussions… so I think the decision just to wait until we’re a bit fresher at the next meeting makes sense.”

MCSIGNAGE

APPROVED

McDonald’s will be getting a new digital drive-thru menu.

At its regular meeting July 14, council approved a development variance permit for the fast-food franchise on the highway frontage road near Main Street.

The variance was required because the new signage does not conform with the Town’s Sign Bylaw, which allows only one free-standing sign on a property, does not permit internally illuminated signage and requires signs on commercial properties outside the downtown core be constructed “with one or more of the following: wood/metal/alupanel/composite, glass, and letters with relief.

Neverthless, staff recommended the variance noting that the trending technology McDonald’s proposes is not covered by the existing bylaw. The report to council also cited a similar variance granted to Tim Hortons last year.

“The subject proposal also brings to light on the changing nature of business signage in the community,” the report stated. “Increasing demand for drive-through businesses, and phenomenon like COVID-19 pandemic are likely to accelerate this transformation in the years to come.”

The recommendation did come with several conditions, however. These include: the display must only be directed at people using the drive-thru; the display shall not make use of full-motion video or give the appearance of animation or movement; the rear and lower portion of the sign shall not be used to display commercial messages; the display will be equipped with ambient light sensor that will keep the light level under three lux above the natural light level; the sign is located in the place as the existing menu; and that two other non-conforming signs currently attached to street light posts are removed.

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

Town Council has decided it will try to develop a closer relationship with the Wet’suwet’en after receiving an email from Walter Joseph, Office of the Wet’suwet’en Fisheries and Wildlife manager.

In the letter, Joseph asks the Town to reconsider its request for an earlier opening for the in-river recreational fishing season.

He said the Wet’suwet’en are opposed to any early openings and that they would be lobbying DFO to delay the season so they would not have to compete with recreational anglers for food fish.

Previously, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) had banned recreational chinook fishing in the Skeena watershed until July 15, at which point, the federal department said it would reassess the closure.

In late June, Smithers council sent a letter asking DFO to open earlier than July 15.

On July 15, DFO announced the recreational fishery was open for chinook with several restrictions including: a bag limit of two per day, only one of which could be over 65cm in the Skeena River mainstem and sections of the Bulkley and Morice Rivers; the Skeena, upstream of the Sustut River, remains closed; all tributaries and lakes remain closed except portions of the Bulkley and Morice Rivers; and the entire watershed will be closed Aug. 15.

Although both the Joseph letter to council and council’s letter to DFO are now moot, council voted to direct the deputy mayor Gladys Atrill to reach out to the Wet’suwet’en.

“I think the key piece for me is just the relationship building,” Atrill said. “Whatever education piece we get, that’s great, education and understanding both ways always helps us, but I’m not sure I would conclude there is a specific desire by council to be more involved in the fisheries issue.”

She said she has already reached out and they are trying to work out a time to get together at the canyon in Witset.

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