Open letter to all band and community members:
It is with mixed emotions that I write this open letter to our members and the Burns Lake community, announcing that I will be stepping down as chief on Dec. 31, 2013.
It has been my honour and privilege to serve as Chief of the Burns Lake Band. I made a decision to come back home to my community to contribute my time, energy, and skills to this role, and I am grateful for the support and encouragement provided by so many.
I ran with four clear goals in mind; to increase accountability and information, to ensure fairness and equality for all members, to focus on education, training and economic development and improve relationships and partnerships across our region
I am proud of the work I have been able to accomplish, despite the challenges we have faced in our band and in the Burns Lake community. Here are just a few examples of our successes:
In the area of accountability and information sharing, we hold weekly staff meetings, and band membership monthly meetings, to review our work to date, future activities, and to address any issues and concerns.
Our finances are audited each year, and we have begun posting financial statements and expenses. We have also begun the process to obtain certification through the First Nations financial management authority, increasing our credit rating to further economic development.
In the area of fairness and equality for all members, opportunities for consultation, feedback, and priority setting for our band now exist for all members, on and off reserve. Programs and services are available on an equitable basis for all members. We are working on further development of our website to ensure clear communication for all members.
My greatest focus has been education, training and economic development.
Examples include: demolition of the old Rainbow Motel and renovations to the Rainbow gas bar and convenience store, including adding a Lotto BC terminal, resulting in ten full and part-time jobs, with full serve at self-serve prices. We are close to announcing the construction of a new 29 unit hotel, complete with a fitness room and breakfast nook.
The Gathering Place. We were successful in securing funding for the installation of a heating system in our gymnasium. We have almost completed the development of a community kitchen. We have become a community resource for everything from weddings and conferences, to community Halloween parties.
Little Angels Daycare. When I was first elected, the daycare had a total of four children, and five employees and a significant debt. We have now filled our daycare spaces, employ 12 full and part time staff, and are on a sound financial footing.
Bare land strata. We are in planning stages for a bare land strata housing development project , proposed to be situated on the 125 acres of fee simple property owned by the band on the south side of Burns Lake. This would provide new housing opportunities for band members, as well as lease opportunities for revenue generation and employment for band members.
Peavine Point. This is an 18 acre parcel of property situated on the north side of Francois Lake, approximately 8.5 km east of the ferry landing. We have initiated work to attain this property for the Burns Lake Band. Opportunities could include a hunting and fishing resort, outdoor cabins, and camp rental facilities. This would create employment for band members and on going revenue for the band.
R.V. and trailer park. We are developing a 55-unit park complete with full hook-ups, water, sewer, electricity and cable t.v. Included is a managers office, with laundry and shower facilities, and planned construction will begin in early spring 2014.
Bio-energy. We are exploring a 10 mega watt green energy hydro generating plant that utilizes wood waste, and that would create 25 full time jobs.
Camp manufacturing facility. The largest project that we have been working on with support from Northern Development Initiative Trust, Natural Resources Canada, and FPInnovations, is the development of camp manufacturing facility.
Finally, in the area of building relationships, we ensured the Burns Lake Band was represented on several fronts within the community of Burns Lake and provincially, attending multiple meetings with First Nations organizations like the First Nations Summit, BC Assembly of First Nations, Union of BC Indian Chiefs maintaining dialogue and information sharing.
The most challenging part of my experience as chief, and president of Burns Lake Native Development Corporation was the terrible tragedy we all felt with the explosion of the sawmill, loss of life and injured workers. By working together with other First Nations, the Village of Burns Lake, the regional district and the broader community, we were able to achieve a rebuild of the sawmill for the benefit of all.
These are just a few of the many areas I have focused on as chief. As I move on to other opportunities, I want to express my appreciation to my family, my council, our staff I have worked with, the community at large, and the members of Burns Lake band.
Change is never easy and we have faced difficult decisions that needed to be made to get our finances back on track and to expand future economic projects to provide stability, employment, and a solid footing for our community,
Burns Lake will always be home, and I look forward to continuing to provide whatever support I can to keep these projects moving ahead.
Sincerely, Chief Albert Gerow
EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the length of this letter it was paid for in part