Council raises concerns over bus service 

Council postponed decision on whether to adopt the service bylaw 

Burns Lake council raised concerns over the Hwy. 16 action plan last week when the village was asked by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) to approve the service establishment bylaw.

The bylaw would establish a bus service from Burns Lake to Smithers and Burns Lake to Prince George in which communities bear one third of the operating costs.

Burns Lake council has already decided that the village’s maximum contribution toward the plan would be $12,500 per year. By approving the bylaw, the village would commit to the contribution indefinitely.

Councillor Susan Schienbein said the bylaw isn’t clear on what happens if communities choose to withdraw from the plan at some point.

“When I looked at the bylaw, it seems to me that we can apply to withdraw, but it has to be approved by the other funding partners,” said Schienbein. “So if after two years we say we want to withdraw, and the other members say no, we can’t actually opt out.”

Although the province has indicated that they intend to support the bus service in the long term, their commitment to fund two thirds of plan’s operating costs is currently for a three-year period. Mayor Chris Beach raised the question of what happens if the province decides to discontinue funding after three years.

Councillor Kelly Holliday said it’s also unclear how much funding the province will provide to hire a local coordinator.

In addition, councillor John Illes said B.C. Transit hasn’t sent council a written confirmation that the revised bus route has been adopted.

Given all the questions raised during the meeting, council decided to defer their decision on whether to adopt the bylaw until Jan. 25 so that the village can gather more information.

The RDBN expects a decision from Burns Lake council before the RDBN’s Jan. 26 board meeting.

The Hwy. 16 action plan is a $5 million plan designed to alleviate hitch-hiking along the so-called Highway of Tears by providing a low-cost bus service along the highway corridor.