“I think one of the biggest losses for the year, is the opportunity to build relationships with the communities who are part of us and surround us,” said Funk. (Village of Burns Lake photo/Lakes District News)

“I think one of the biggest losses for the year, is the opportunity to build relationships with the communities who are part of us and surround us,” said Funk. (Village of Burns Lake photo/Lakes District News)

A QA with Burns Lake’s Mayor

With 2020 behind us and a new year to look forward to, we decided to speak with Burns Lake’s Mayor Dolores Funk. A Q&A with her, gives a peak at some of the projects planned for 2021 and what the village hopes for in the new year.

Looking back on 2020, what are some accomplishments you would like to highlight for the Village of Burns Lake?

2020 has been an extremely busy and challenging year. COVID has required that we consistently adapt to a changing environment and a moving target. Despite this, together, Council and staff have successfully completed a number of projects and started many more. We have pivoted from our planned course of action to respond to the economic challenges of COVID and developed strategies to help our business community through this time and are working hard to develop a strong foundation to boost our economy over the coming years.

Economic Development highlights like implementation of the Lakes District Economic Diversification and Community Development Strategy which saw the development of the new Burns Lake Tourism Plan and new Community Brand, worked in partnership with Rio Tinto to develop the Business Accelerator Program to help business owners transition their businesses online, created the Economic Recovery and Development Committee to respond to the current crisis and look into building a strong economic foundation for the future. There are some exciting potential projects, which we look forward to revealing them as details become firmed up.

Planning highlights such as completion of an under 55 housing study, completed a rezone for a supportive housing development, completed a rezone and development variance permits to allow for multi-family dwellings designed to accommodate seniors.

Infrastructure improvement highlights like the Splash Park and Radley Beach improvements, began work on preliminary engineering for water/sewage to Industrial Site; downtown parking lot; the Water Treatment facility is 90 per cent complete, upgrades at Gerow Island well site, seventh Ave sewer lift station upgrade, new sidewalks from LBN office to bottom of Government in partnership with LBN, increased spending for paving, new sewer line connected for future expansion for Burns Lake Band/housing, working with the Burns Lake Band (BLB) and True Engineering to rebuild the BLB sewer lift station, purchased a new street sweeper, increased Public Works services.

Recreation department highlights such as running a full summer camp program safely during covid, splash park opening, facility improvements such as updated gym equipment, curling rink dehumidifier, upgraded gas detection systems.

What are some things you wish had gone differently in 2020?

Without a doubt – we desperately wish for a 2020 that didn’t have a pandemic. The challenges that it has created for our community are hard to quantify. That said, we are extremely resilient here in B.C.’s north and I am very certain that Burns Lake will weather this storm in a fashion that we have weathered most storms. We come together. We work hard. And finally, we care for each other.

I think one of the biggest losses for the year, is the opportunity to build relationships with the communities who are part of us and surround us. For the first time in Burns Lake history, we had planned a Community 2 Community Forum. A time where the leadership of all six First Nations and the Village could come together and discuss the past, the present and make plans for a better future. This was a significant loss. However, despite this, we are grateful to have had the opportunity to move forward in some projects that have resulted through partnership with Burns Lake Band and Lake Babine Nation. We look forward to many more in the future.

Some things that were planned for 2020 but didn’t go as planned for the village?

Community events that were cancelled, Kinette Park Washroom project, line painting, replacing stairs to the Museum, mobile visitor information centre, mural project and curling rink stairs.

What lessons did 2020 bring with it that you’d carry forward?

I think staff and Council can agree that flexibility, an open mind, grace for each other and a greater sense of personal social responsibility are lessons that we will carry with us into the future. We learned that we can get more done, collaboratively to find the solutions needed for unprecedented challenges. We learned that working in a virtual world can be quite effective. Members of Council attended a virtual UBCM and met with a number of Ministers, virtually. Mayors across the region, worked virtually with the province and with industry to ensure that the tree planting season would go forward. Weekly, biweekly and monthly conference calls were held with the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Minister of Health, Northern Health, EMBC and numerous other entities to manage these challenging times that we find ourselves in.

What does 2021 look like in terms of plans for the village? What should people of Burns Lake look forward to in 2021?

We are very excited about the coming year! First off, we are hopeful that this year we will see the end to this pandemic which, I believe, may bring a time of hard-earned celebration. The Roaring Twenties came after the Spanish Flu epidemic and knowing how each one of us is more than ready to have this weight lift off our shoulders, I feel like we could experience something similar. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Project wise this year the village of Burns Lake purchased a 22 acre parcel of land, known as the Matvenko property. It is the property, within Village boundaries that is between Lino’s at the east and the Blue Spruce Mobile Home Park. During our 2021 strategic planning session, we hope to create concrete plans for the future of this property.

Next, the Anglican Church is always on our radar and we have applied for funding to do a significant renovation. This fund covers 100 per cent of the project and we believe that we have a strong application.

Burns Lake will be launching the new community brand. We are working hard and prioritizing projects that benefit the community and its residents. Residents will see more marketing of the community and its assets. We are also implementing a new tourism plan to help diversify the local economy.

The water treatment plant will be commissioned in late Spring of 2021. This will also coincide with aggressive water main flushing and sewage lagoon upgrades. Additionally, the village has two grant applications submitted for rebuilding of sewage lagoons and treatment facilities and the Pioneer Sewer Lift Station. The village will also apply for grant funding for Phase 2 of sidewalks and if awarded will see a sidewalk down 9th Ave and along Center Street to Highway 16.

What message would you give to the community?

The Village is currently in a very strong position. We have a solid team at the Council table, staff carry years of experience in the successful running of the village day-to-day and the completion of projects, we are in a healthy financial position – Northern Capital and Planning Grant, along with restart funds, and multitudes of other successful grant applications, have resulted in an opportunity to complete necessary infrastructure projects and look at development in a way we haven’t had the opportunity to before. We look forward to a COVID free future, not from a place of defeat, but rather a place of strength. Yes, it’s been a very difficult year, but our community, your Council and our staff are more than ready to move into 2021 with excitement and hope. In the meantime, we have a few months of this left to weather. Let’s do it well. Keep your head down and your chin up. Follow the public health orders. We are almost there.

We wish you all the very best of this holiday season — Christmas, Hanukkah and the myriad of other cultural celebrations that take place at this time of year. But mostly, we wish you a Happy New Year. Bring on 2021.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist


Like us on Facebook and follows us on Twitter.