Vanderhoof mayor and council returned last week from a productive time at this year’s meeting of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) in Vancouver.
Mayor Gerry Thiessen says there were three areas of concern for the municipality which council brought to the attention of various ministers. These were transportation, health and post-secondary education.
“One of our major meetings was with the Minister of Transportation Blair Lekstrom about the highway from Vanderhoof to Fort St. James,” said Thiessen.
In particular Thiessen is concerned about the need for more passing lanes on Highway 27.
“There is only one passing lane in between Vanderhoof and Fort St. James, and there’s none on the return journey,” said Thiessen.
“We hear reports of 50 to 60 logging trucks going from Vanderhoof up to Fort St. James a day and sometimes there will be five travelling together … so that’s a big concern,” he added.
He also mentioned that increasing mine activity with the construction of Mount Milligan also means the highway will gradually be getting busier and busier.
“The Ministry of Transportation are operating with information of history and what we’re saying is, you have to look at what your numbers are telling you about what the future is going to be … so we had a good meeting and we got a commitment from them that they were going to spend some time looking at it … so we’re very positive about that,” said Thiessen
Mayor and council also put health issues at the top of their priority list and met with health minister Mike de Jong about hospital renovations and tax concerns.
“A year ago we came down here and asked for the renovation at our hospital to be done and we have received a commitment from both the minister and Northern Health that they are going to work on this renovation,” said Thiessen.
Since last years UBCM some upgrades have been completed at the hospital including an upgrade to the electrical and airflow system.
However a plan for major renovations to the interior of the hospital is still being worked on.
“If our hospital is going to be there for the next 20 or 30 years, the last thing we want is a lot of dry wall dust for nine months and in the end have a similarly efficient hospital,” said Thiessen.
“There’s been a lot of stress put on our hospital at the moment because of all the mining and forestry activity going on in the area and so we want to make sure that it is a plan that is going to work.
“We’re very encouraged that a solution is going to come, and that the renovations will be a success,” he added.
The municipality also spoke to the health minister about the amount of tax money that is taken from Vanderhoof for the hospital board.
“Our hospital district is very small … yet in Vanderhoof, because our tax assessments are higher, we pay proportionality about 50 per cent more than the tax payers of the other communities in our hospital district for hospital services.
“We told the minister that this is unacceptable to the residents of Vanderhoof – we need to have a better way of appropriating taxes … something that makes sense to the tax payer of Vanderhoof because the average resident of Vanderhoof would not use the hospital 50 per cent more than a resident of one of our neighbouring communities,” said Thiessen.
“He seems to understand our concern as a community,” he added.
The final area that mayor and council took the time to work on was post-secondary education.
They met with Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto to talk about what steps need to be taken to make sure there is a good quality trade and technical school in the Vanderhoof area.
“If you are going to have a recession proof community, you have to have an educated community and so we have worked very hard with the College of New Caledonia and the school district to develop secondary courses in Vanderhoof … we have seen some successes and now we’re hoping to build on those successes to create a real quality post-secondary education system in the Vanderhoof area,” said Thiessen.
“It was a good conference and it’s certainly been a time where we as a community have gone out and addressed some issues that we wanted ministers to know about,” concluded Thiessen.