Over the past 25 years, the forestry sector has been Peet Vahi’s main client in the business of natural resources consulting and contracting. Increasingly, mines have been acquiring his services also.
By running for council in the Feb. 16 by-election, Vahi hopes to bring his experiences and educated opinions to the table as several projects make headway in and around Vanderhoof, including an initiative to establish a community forest.
“It sure has been a great place to live,” he said.
“I think I’ve been here long enough and now I’ve got the spare time to give a little bit more back to the community.”
Vahi, who has lived in Vanderhoof since 1981, graduated from college with a technical diploma in forestry. Later, he earned a Bachelor of Science in natural resources management.
His interest in the environment runs deep.
For many years, Vahi has been monitoring the water levels of the Nechako River next to his property, recording the data on computer spreadsheets. Should he ever decide to confront Rio-Tinto Alcan about how the company manages the river flow, he’ll have facts and independent research as supporting evidence, he said.
Beyond his capacity to provide council with input on environmental decisions, Vahi believes he has a good understanding about the opportunities available to both young and old members of the community and has identified numerous areas where improvement is needed.
Right now, Vahi’s two kids attend elementary school, and his 90-year-old mother is awaiting a room in The Manor, a long-term care home for seniors that took nearly 30 years to establish in Vanderhoof, said Vahi.
“We have to start getting projects like that on the shelf, and have those things in the works in order to realize them within a reasonable amount of time. That’s one of the things I want to be involved with,” he said.
Seniors also lack a means of public transportation, and there is still no recreational facility available to the community as a whole.
“I want to bring these points forward in the community,” said Vahi.
As a resident of Vanderhoof, Vahi supports the initiative to build an aquatic facility, saying that the benefits are obvious, but he questioned wether alternatives to the $12-million complex have been properly assessed.
He expressed concern, too, about the level of understanding people have about the Feb. 16 pool referendum, when electors will determine whether the municipality can borrow $4 million to put towards building an aquatic facility.
“A lot of people think they’re simply just voting for a pool,” said Vahi.
If approved, the loan will have different long-term implications on taxes for business, homeowners and industry. There is also the issue of finding the additional $8 million needed to build the facility, said Vahi.
“Our economic development officer is going to be worked to the core trying to find that money.”
Right now, there are greater priorities other than building a multi-million pool facility, explained Vahi.
“The big broad brush issue,” he said, “the big thing Vanderhoof really has to be working towards is the tremendous growth that, in theory, everybody says we’re going to see here in the next few years, thanks to the mineral sector.”
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to welcome these people, potential employees and new citizens.”
Vahi said that recent crimes have cast a negative light over Vanderhoof. Past tragedies have also blackened the town’s image and created undesirable publicity, he said.
For this reason, Vahi is promoting the town’s level of excellence in the medical community, the education system and at the RCMP detachment.
“We’ve got to get the positives out again,” he said.
“Once you get a person here, they’re quickly going to realize how nice of place this is to live.”
In the lead up to the Feb. 16 by-election, Vahi is pleased with the number of choices available to electors, including candidates Marje Makow and John Murphy.
In his spare time, Vahi remains involved with Green Side Up, a non-profit group that has been organizing events to acquire money for scholarships at NVSS since 1981.
He is also a huge supporter of events that bring members of the community together, such as the Pumpkin Walk or the Air Show, the latter of which he has largely been responsible for resurrecting in recent years.
“These events, they bring everybody out, and when you’ve got everybody in one spot, it sure is a happy town,” said Vahi.
Pete Vahi is running for council in the Vanderhoof by-election, Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Nechako Senior Friendship Centre.
Advanced voting is available on Wednesday, Feb. 6, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m at the Municipal Office.
The Chamber of Commerce is organizing an all-candidates forum on Thursday, Feb. 7, at 6:30 p.m. in the small auditorium at Nechako Valley Secondary School.