Regional Director’s Report for October

Howard Houle Regional Director, Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, Decourcy islands), Regional District of Nanaimo

Tuesday, October 17 2017

Community Hall funding

On September 22, 2017, I arranged for several senior RDN staff members to meet with me and two members from the Gabriola Island Community Hall Association Board (GICHA), Alessandro Lachelli and Laurie Mc Donald. The purpose of the meeting was to see how we could move the Board’s requests forward. Funding the Community Hall from local taxes is a problem because the way the RDN funds these things is through service bylaws. Both the Gabriola Recreation Society (GRS) and GERTIE are funded this way; they each provide a service - a recreation service and a bus service. Renting the Community Hall out is not a fundable community service but it is very important for the community to have access to facilities like it.

Part of our discussion was about what the RDN could and would fund and what we could not and would not fund. As a starting point we used the Board’s wish list by first isolating sports/recreation related items like carpet bowling, squash courts, etc. that we would not be funding, as we fund all recreation services through the Gabriola Recreation Society (GRS) services contract. What that means is those who want these recreation activities to be available need to go to the GRS to request them. Other things we cannot fund were admin-related services, paid program/event coordinator, newsletter, database, etc. Other facility related items listed including showers, saunas, electronic reader boards, etc. were left. In the end what remained was a generator, an HVAC system, window replacement, lighting upgrades and a lengthy list of long-term facility maintenance items. 

Then we discussed an alternative to increasing local taxes: all facility maintenance work could be funded from the Community Works Funds (CWF) up to $40,000 dollars per year. The GICHA Board could then apply for matching funds through grant applications that could leverage that to up to $80,000 per year. The Board would still need to prepare a plan and costing for each facility repair just as every other group that the RDN funds does. Currently, the RDN Board is waiting to hear what the Board would like to do.

Rollo Centre funded for up to $42,000

The Rollo Centre’s application for funding from the Community Works Funds was approved at the October 3, 2017, RDN Board Meeting for up to $42,000 dollars to finish the renovations that were started a few years ago. This group has been a pleasure to work with as they always come to the table with every cost itemized and all permits in place under a very clearly defined plan. 

Economic Development Gabriola

In October, the RDN Board also approved a service agreement with the Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce to provide economic development for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, DeCourcy, Mudge islands). There will be regular updates, a work plan and a budget to be approved by the RDN Board.

The RDN Board topped up the funds for the playground at Huxley Park by $66,500. Playgrounds are expensive but we believe they are a good investment in the future. 

The RDN Board also approved the parks bylaw referral from the Islands Trust for the Potlatch subdivision. This would be the 16.4 hectares of parkland off Church Street next to the medical clinic. The Islands Trust will need to move this on to the Province for approval, and at time of subdivision we will get the land in question.

Emergency Reception Centre (ERC)

I would like to make it clear that I did not dream up this mess, I inherited it. Ten years ago the RDN designated the Community Hall (the south end) as an ERC, but did not do a readiness and suitability study. RDN staff tells me that if that study had been done at that that time the Community Hall would not have been designated an ERC.

Moving forward to 2015, the RDN Board passed a motion to install a generator at the south end ERC, however, there was a staffing problem so a readiness and suitability study and installation did not happen. 

Late in 2016 RDN staff and I met with members of the Community Hall Board, their maintenance person and the electrician. The RDN asked for a load demand study on the building’s electrical system to determine what the draw on a generator would be.

Because RDN staff were already doing a readiness and suitability study for the Community Hall we also included one for the United Church just up the road, now called Christ Church, as an ERC as well. The report from RDN staff recommended moving the ERC to a more suitable location i.e. to Christ Church but the church has declined being designated as an ERC at this time.  We are now looking at other locations for an ERC, but do note that we have a mobile ERC in the south end so we are still covered. What has come out of this discussion on Gabriola is that islanders do not understand what an ERC is. The best description I have heard was “a kiosk in the midst of chaos.” There is no service at an ERC other than registration so we know where you are, via sending you to a hospital or hotel, etc.  There are no supplies or staff to look after you in an ERC in a local emergency.

Another related topic is where will people go in a large-scale regional disaster? 

After seeing all the problems in the southern United States and the Caribbean, there is a desire to have a bigger emergency plan than what the RDN emergency plan can provide. Originally, the Province recommended that we needed to be prepared to look after ourselves and resident dependents for 78 hours, but they are now extending that time to one week.

Howard Houle is the locally elected Director for Electoral Area B of the Regional District of Nanaimo, which includes Gabriola, Mudge and DeCourcy islands.