North Thompson leaders report during community-to-community forum

Representatives from all North Thompson Valley local governments, including Simpcw First Nation and TNRD

Simpcw First Nation band councillor Fred Fortier presents a ceremonial drum to Barriere mayor Virginia Smith during a community-to-community forum held in Clearwater on Friday. The meeting was one of a series held over the past few years to improve communication and coordination between all local governments in the North Thompson Valley

Simpcw First Nation band councillor Fred Fortier presents a ceremonial drum to Barriere mayor Virginia Smith during a community-to-community forum held in Clearwater on Friday. The meeting was one of a series held over the past few years to improve communication and coordination between all local governments in the North Thompson Valley

Representatives from all North Thompson Valley local governments, including Simpcw First Nation and Thompson-Nicola Regional District, met on Friday, Jan. 30 to communicate and coordinate.

The community-to-community forum was held in Clearwater’s new Dutch Lake Community Centre, the former Dutch Lake School.

During introductory remarks at the start of the forum, Simpcw chief Rita Matthew reported that there are no band members on income assistance, other than those with disability pensions.

“Our first goal is to see as many of our people employed as possible,” she said. A close second for the band is to see other residents of the Valley have jobs.

“We see the benefits of economic development. It’s a challenge to live in the Valley and raise a family,” the chief said.

Economic development also needs to be balanced with concern about the environment, Matthew said.

The chief noted that the Simpcw and the other residents of the North Thompson Valley have a history of working together. She hoped that tradition would continue.

Barriere’s new mayor Virginia Smith reported that her community’s sewer project is proceeding and should be in operation by July.

The project will serve many of the homes in the older portion of town, a number of which have problems with their septic tanks.

It will use an innovative approach. The sewage waste will be used to feed plants in a greenhouse. The purified water will then be used to water plants in municipal parks.

“I look forward to inviting everybody to look at our new sewage plant,” she said. “Now, doesn’t that sound exciting?”

Clearwater mayor John Harwood talked about partnerships – one of his favorite themes.

Working with the school district allowed the municipality to lease the former Dutch Lake School for 25 years at $1 per year. Working with other levels of government brought in grants that allowed the former school to be renovated into a community center at very little cost to local taxpayers.

District of Clearwater now plans to convert the building from propane heat to biomass (wood chips). Expected payback time for the investment will be five years, he said.

Building permits in Clearwater last year totalled $9.3 million, the most of any of the electoral areas or municipalities in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, other than Kamloops.

“It was an exceptional year,” Harwood said.

A septage receiving facility in Clearwater should be up and running within a couple of months to take in septic tank sludge from all the upper North Thompson Valley.

Since Greyhound cut back its service to the bare minimum, the area’s transit service has expanded enormously, the mayor reported. Buses now go twice a week to Kamloops.

The municipality would like to see a staffed intermediate care facility located in Clearwater. This would provide a level of care between that at Evergreen Acres, where people more or less take care of themselves, and Forestview Place in the hospital, where pretty well all of the patients’ needs are done for them.

At the Union of BC Municipalities convention last year, Clearwater helped ask for additional policing for Blue River.

That led to funding for extra policing over Christmas in Blue River, which in turn resulted in two impaired drivers being taken off the streets within a 30-minute period.

“We are part of the North Thompson Valley, and it’s exciting to hear of good things happening in the valley,” said Al Raine, mayor of Sun Peaks.

The resort municipality is having a successful ski season despite a relatively poor snow season, he said.

He thanked John Harwood for the work he did when he was a school trustee to get a school for Sun Peaks.

The school now has 60 students and is a big factor in retaining employees and others with young families.

The weak Canadian dollar is creating opportunities for growth at Sun Peaks, Raine said.

Community-to-community forums have been sponsored by UBCM and First Nations Summit since 1997. Purpose of the forums is to allow local governments and First Nations to communicate and coordinate better.

The local group has been meeting since 2009.