The Village of Burns Lake held a series of community engagement events throughout November to hear what community members had to say.
The first, called “economic development visioning,” was held at Lakes District Secondary School (LDSS) on Nov. 16. Participants were asked to identify community strengths, opportunities and priorities, as well as weaknesses and threats.
Through interactive activities intended to spur discussion, here’s what participants identified in Burns Lake:
• Biggest strength: access to outdoor recreation opportunities;
• Biggest weakness: taxation (limited tax base in municipal boundaries to support programs; low tax base drives up taxes);
• Biggest opportunity: partnering with First Nations;
• Biggest threat: Removal and lack of essential services from the community – both public such as medical and education and private services.
Participants were also asked what areas they would choose to invest a $1000 grant. Based on this activity, infrastructure development was the highest priority, closely followed by business retention and expansion and sector development.
Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold said that focusing on agriculture is one example of a potential priority for the region.
“We have seen an increase in demand for agriculture products including vegetables, beef, and hay crops,” he said. “We want to know if this is a priority for residents of the Lakes District.”
On Nov. 26, Strimbold hosted the “coffee with the mayor” at A&W. About 50 residents attended the event. According to Strimbold, one of the topics he received most feedback on was the closure of the re-use sheds.
Community members expressed how disappointing the closure was to them and said they were willing to work on a solution that would allow the re-use sheds to reopen. The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) announced the closure of the re-use sheds on Sept. 8, 2015. According to the RDBN, the closure was due to a number of troubling incidents affecting staff and public health and safety.
Participants also discussed the region-wide cardboard ban. Starting July 1, 2016, cardboard will no longer be accepted for disposal as garbage at any RDBN solid waste management facility. Community members discussed the possibility of individuals bringing their own recyclables to the recycling depot, rather than the village starting a pickup service.
In addition, many individuals expressed support for reviewing revenue methods through membership fees at the Lakeside Multiplex. Council has been discussing the significant increase in the recreation department’s budget after the Lakeside Multiplex opened in May 2014.
The third community consultation was held at Lakes District Secondary School during a craft fair on Nov. 28. Mayor Strimbold said the closure of the re-use sheds and the topic of recycling options came up again, as well as the topic of road repairs.
“People want the regional district to find solutions in order to safely reopen the re-use sheds,” he said.
Regarding recycling options, Strimbold said there was mixed response whether the municipality should collect recycling or that each person is responsible for bringing their own recycling to the local depot.
Village staff will now be compiling all the information gathered during the community engagement events and the information will be used to guide council during budget deliberations.