Smithers council covers much ground at their final meeting

The former Smithers town council covered a number of issues at their final council meeting on Nov. 8.

  • Nov. 25, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The former Smithers town council covered a number of issues at their final council meeting on Nov. 8.

A truck route bylaw was introduced and given first, second and third readings. The bylaw would remove truck traffic from Toronto Street, Railway Avenue and Tatlow Road, unless trucks are making specific deliveries to those areas. Staff consulted with both mills while drafting the bylaw, which limits truck through traffic to Highway 16; Tatlow Road, Pacific Street, Alberta Street and Dahlie Road to the west; and Victoria Drive, 19th Avenue, Fulton Avenue and the stretch of 16th connecting Fulton to Highway 16 to the east.

“We don’t like to have the logging trucks moving down Toronto Street and Railway, and now that we’ve resurfaced Railway, the truck weight is just too heavy and it would wear that out so quickly,” said outgoing mayor Cress Farrow.

The Town of Smithers was recently the subject of an External Audit, and became the tenth municipality in B.C. to be awarded COR Certification for its Occupational Health and Safety Program, and only the second municipality in B.C. to be certified for its Stay at Work/Return to Work Program. This dual certification will see a 15 per cent rebate for the Town’s Worksafe B.C. Assessment over the next three years.

“We received a score of 92 out of a possible 100 in that audit, and that represents the town of Smithers being the second municipality in British Columbia to be COR Certified, out of 184 municipalities, so it’s quite a significant achievement,” said Director of Corporate Services Susan Bassett about the Stay at Work/Return to Work certification.

Council received a report from an appointed Council Remuneration Review Committee, which recommended a slight increase in stipends for both mayor and council. Currently the mayor earns an annual stipend of $18,741, while individual councillors receive $8,785. The committee recommended that the mayor’s remuneration start at $22,000 for 2012, and councillors at $10,000, with one per cent increases each year.

Council, however, opted to leave stipends at their current rates, while keeping the annual increase. Of more concern was a proposed hard cap on travel costs – councillors all agreed that travel was well worth the cost, even if it occasionally exceeds the proposed $45,000 annual cap.

Outgoing councillor Lorne Benson said the community is well served by the travel done by the mayor and council, and nobody should feel pressured to avoid taking part in beneficial events or organizations due to concerns over travel costs.

“There’s value to the community in council being able to make those sorts of commitments, and more effectively represent the community where we’re from,” he said.

Some councillors said they’d rather keep the remuneration the same, while allowing flexibility in the travel budget.

“There isn’t any one of us that does it for the pay,” said outgoing councillor Jo Ann Groves.

Councillor Norm Adomeit agreed, noting that “whatever we get paid, we’re still going to do our job here.”

Outgoing mayor Cress Farrow pointed out that travel for council and the mayor, which came in at just over $45,000 last year, is usually worth it in the long run.

“The return on the investment for the travel that I took this year was $120,000 coming back to our community, just for one organization,” he said, referencing three separate investments by the Beetle Action Coalition in Smithers.

Council voted to leave the stipends as they are, with an annual increase, and refer travel to the budget, rather than cap it at a specific number.