Smithers Town Hall. ((Marisca Bakker photo))

Smithers planner awarded childcare plan contract

Project intended to address gap in childcare availability in town

Smithers council directly awarded the contract of the Smithers Childcare Plan Implementation project to a local Registered Professional Planner at its Jan 10 regular meeting.

Alison Watson of PLAN54 will take on the task.

According to a report from town staff, Watson is an exceptional local planner whose fee estimate, project proposal and timeline meets the project needs.

Alternative options are limited due to tight timelines and limited local supply, staff said. Directly awarding the project contract will save an abundance of staff time and allow the project to be ready for initiation as soon as possible to meet the short timeframe.

While all of town council voted in favour to hire her, Deputy Mayor Frank Wray cautioned against continuing to directly award contracts.

“I’ve been concerned for a little while now that we’re awarding too many contracts directly,” he said. “Any given one has made sense. And that’s part of the problem. They’ve all made sense. But taken as a whole, we’ve been giving out, in my opinion, just councillor Wray’s opinion not deputy mayor Wray’s, is that we’re starting to form a pattern where the same people are getting contracts.

“And again, they do good work. It’s not about the work that’s being done. It’s just about the perception from the public. And I know, we’re getting rushed into some of these by external circumstances. But I think we have to as a council, if we’re feeling like we’re being rushed into decisions, that we need to have some pushback from the councillors around the table. But that being said, PLAN54 has done good work in the past and I’m anticipating good work on this in the future.”

The Smithers Childcare Plan was completed in 2021. It outlines three strategies to support childcare space creation.

The first strategy is to create a local framework which includes taking actions such as establishing a policy, updating existing regulations, creating tax incentives, and conducting periodic monitoring.

The second strategy involves the town playing the role of an active partner in space creation by taking actions such as sharing the Childcare Plan findings, supporting co-location, supporting reduced lease rates, and exploring the use of town land.

The third involves the town advocating and communicating by taking actions such as advocating to the province, providing care information to the public, and participating in further discussions regarding childcare in Smithers.

A previous staff report to council said the implementation of the Childcare Plan is important because adequate childcare supports healthy children, benefits local businesses, develops human capital, supports working parents, improves equity for women and single parents while enabling poverty reduction, and builds stronger communities.

The report went on to say that a critical first step in implementing this plan is hiring a consultant to explore potential childcare policies and to incentivize space creation.

This project will be 90 per cent funded by Northern Development Initiative Trust and the remaining 10 per cent (totaling $3,000) will be funded from the Development Services Contracted Services budget.

READ MORE: Smithers continuing to work on childcare plan


@MariscaDekkema
marisca.bakker@interior-news.com

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