Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach, Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen and Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako Area A (Smithers rural) Director Mark Fisher gave state of the valley addresses at the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 18.
Bachrach said the Town will build a fire storage building for the fire department in the lot next to the Stork Nest. The capital and operating budgets will be voted on by council after being passed in committee.
“The new building is going to house the … command vehicle and our emergency response supplies and our hope is it’s going meet the fire department’s needs well into the future,” said Bachrach.
The 4,000-square-foot building will cost $465,000 and should be completed by the end of the year.
Bachrach also announced construction on the airport’s new departure lounge will be finished by the end of April.
“Our current departure lounge is quite small and it really only has enough seats for [a few] loads of passengers, as well there’s no bathroom past security which is a pretty key deficiency,” said Bachrach. “The new departure lounge is going to have 125 seats, it’s going to have washrooms past security and overall it’s just going to be a more comfortable facility for the traveling public.”
The Town of Smithers will be increasing their sidewalk budget to $100,000. It was previously $75,000.
“One of the things that we heard from the pre-budget consultation, specifically the citizen budget online feedback tool, was that maintaining and expanding our sidewalk network is a key priority for Smithers residents,” said Bachrach.
The Town will also be investing money to update its 2004 road study, which is what guides road work priorities.
Town staff is beginning a consultation process on a proposed revitalization tax exemption bylaw. The bylaw aims to incentivize the construction of residential units downtown by giving developers tax breaks if they meet certain criteria.
“It’s an efficient way to expand our assessment base because we’re adding new construction without having to expand our water and sewage infrastructure, which is very expensive,” said Bachrach. “We have a lot of single-family homes in our community but we don’t have a lot of rental options for young professionals or people who are looking for smaller living units.
“We do have a lot of young families, young professionals moving to town and we want to make sure we have a diversity of housing options available.”
Area A grant in aid program gave out $26,000 to 13 recipients for community group projects in 2017, Fisher said.
The program is available for nonprofit groups in the valley that are doing one-off events or projects that provide a demonstrable benefit to rural residents.
Bulkley-Nechako Regional Transit system and Smithers Farmers Institute and were the biggest recipients of the program as they received $5,000 and $3,000 respectively for Highway 16 service and a Carrots to Cattle Conference.
Solid waste management is a priority for the regional district, Fisher said. The director hopes there will be more engagement with the business opportunities in waste reduction and a transition to a circular economy in 2018.
“[Jan. 18] was awesome because there was three people that sent me emails afterwards that who said they were interested in having a full discussion around what a circular economy looks like, what a waste-based business look like,” said Fisher.
After the wildfires last year, emergency planning and preparedness will also be a priority for not only Area A but all regional districts across the province in 2018, Fisher said.