Burns Lake council decided to replace the annual town hall meeting with several public engagement events starting 2016.
The last town hall meeting – held at the Vineyard Church on Jan. 29, 2015 – had 14 attendees. Given the dwindling attendance of town hall meetings, the Village of Burns Lake held a series of community engagement events last month to hear what community members had to say.
According to Sheryl Worthing, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village of Burns Lake, council found the engagement events much “more cost effective and far reaching” in terms of public feedback.
While the 2015 town hall meeting cost the village approximately $3100, the four engagement events held in November cost approximately $700.
A village staff report says council will be able to gather significantly more feedback by attending events that the public already attends.
“By attending events that the public is already drawn to, council is able to engage with more residents, and better represent the constituents,” says the report. “This reduces advertising costs, and allows for a more information dialogue with the public.”
In 2016, council will consider a more protracted system of engagement whereby council volunteer for certain events with a high volume of resident
traffic such as Aboriginal Day, Canada Day, the Kidney Walk, or other local fundraisers. The village staff report says that this strategy would allow council to keep informed of public feedback throughout the year while also providing support for local initiatives.
“While all members of council habitually volunteer for a variety of events already, a more formalized system could use this exposure to create a more cost efficient means of engagement that is far more effective than past efforts have been,” adds the report.
Worthing said council will continue to explore public engagement strategies and will consider doing more events throughout the year.
Results of survey distributed during events
The Village of Burns Lake held a series of public engagement events in November to gather feedback on the most important issues the village will face in 2016.
Consultations included a discussion with a Lakes District Secondary School (LDSS) youth leadership class made up of students from all grade levels; a meeting with members of the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce; a public event called “coffee with the mayor” at A&W; and an information booth stationed by council at the craft fair held at LDSS.
At each of these public engagement events, council distributed a survey to participants. The results of this survey will be used as part of the decision making process during the upcoming budget deliberations. The results of the survey are as follows:
On July 1, 2016, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako will initiate a cardboard ban. This means that the public will no longer be allowed to dispose any cardboard in the garbage that is collected by the Village of Burns Lake.
Respondents were asked what they think should happen once the ban is in effect.
The majority of respondents, 55 per cent, said they would prefer to dispose their cardboard by taking it to the recycle depot themselves; 20 per cent of respondents said they would rather have the village pick up cardboard with a recycle truck (this could result in an increase of about $24 to their annual utility bill); 16 per cent of respondents said they would rather have the village start a full recycle program (this could result in an increase of about $102 to their annual utility bill).
When business owners were asked the same question, 18 per cent said they would choose to dispose their cardboard by taking it to the recycle depot themselves; 14 per cent said they would rather have the village pick up cardboard with a recycle truck for a fee; 10 per cent said they would rather hire a local contractor to provide them with a bin and pick up their cardboard; and 58 per cent of respondents said this question didn’t apply to them.
Eighth Avenue repaving project
The Village of Burns Lake has applied for a grant to repave a section of Eighth Avenue, including all water lines, storm drains, curbs, gutters and sidewalks.
Residents were asked what they would choose to do if the village does not receive the grant funding.
– The majority of respondents, 34 per cent, said they would choose to resurface Eighth Avenue with storm drains and a sidewalk (no water pipes) borrowing the money which, for an averaged priced home, could result in approximately $62 extra on their annual tax bill for 25 years;
– Twenty six per cent of respondents said they would choose to resurface only (no sidewalks, water pipes or storm control), using comfor funds, at no direct cost to them;
– Seventeen per cent of respondents said they would choose to resurface only (no sidewalks, water pipes or storm control), using village funds at no direct cots to them;
– Fifteen per cent of respondents said they would leave Eighth Avenue as it is and repair potholes periodically;
– Eight per cent of respondents said they would choose to resurface only (no sidewalks, water pipes or storm control), borrowing the money which, for an average priced home, could result in approximately $23 extra on their annual tax bill for 25 years.
Community members were asked what should be the biggest priority in the economic development of the Village of Burns Lake.
The majority of respondents said the biggest priority should be infrastructure development (34 per cent); followed by workforce development (30 per cent); support programs for existing businesses (29 per cent); community marketing and promotion (23 per cent); investment readiness (10 per cent); and sector development (two per cent).
Increasing Lakeside Multiplex fees
Council has been discussing the significant increase in the recreation department’s budget after the Lakeside Multiplex opened in May 2014.
Currently, the Lakeside Multiplex is approximately 50 per cent subsidized through taxation, and 50 per cent funded by user fees. Residents were asked if they would you be supportive of increased membership fees at the Lakeside Multiplex to prevent the village taxpayer from having to further subsidize the facility.
The majority of respondents, 67 per cent, said “yes” while 33 per cent said “no.”