This is the Life: Director enjoys his work

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In election terms, Regional District of Central Kootenay Area C director Larry Binks got the “Get out of jail free” Monopoly card. While all other local government officials (with the exception of Area A director Garry Jackman) are fighting for their political lives, Binks is happily going about his business, working on projects and planning for his next three-year term.

I try to avoid giving too much newspaper space to those who are fighting in elections, so it was a pleasure last week to sit down for a chat with Binks. And I couldn’t help reminding him about a lecture I gave him shortly after his election in 2008. He was adamant that he only intended to be in the position for one term. Don’t say that, I advised. You don’t know what the job entails, how you will like it and whether you can accomplish what you want to do in three years. No one else is thinking right now about whether you will run in 2011 and you shouldn’t be either, I told him.

He laughed at the reminder and admitted that he remembered that conversation.

“I needed someone to point that out to me,” he said. “I know now that I have enjoyed representing my area (which includes West Creston and the flats) and that there is more I want to accomplish before I stepped down.”

Binks got the job by defeating Tom Mann, certainly one of the RDCK’s most knowledgeable directors. He admits the learning curve has been steep and that it takes months, and even years, to learn the ins and outs of the system, and how to make it work best for his constituents. It’s fair to surmise that the folks he represents must be satisfied with his approach — none came forward to challenge him for the position.

Like most elected representatives, Binks takes umbrage at information that he finds to be untrue, or at least misleading. A good example is a recent letter to the editor in this newspaper that described the new emergency services building now under construction at the airport as “a fancy clubhouse paid for with public money that will serve the wealthy few.” The “$375,000 clubhouse” — the writer’s words — is, according to Binks, an unfair and inaccurate description. A $100,000 grant from Columbia Basin Trust paid for the materials and almost all of the rest of the construction has been provided in kind by volunteers, who apparently are convinced that a facility that puts local emergency services under one roof is important to the Creston Valley. Binks said the building even includes a bed and bathroom for emergency medical flight pilots who might have to wait for several hours before a patient arrives by ambulance to be flown out for further treatment. I’d take his word that it’s important — he spent his career in the BC Ambulance Service.

He turned the conversation to initiatives now underway. Area C will likely go to referendum next spring to determine whether residents will pay “about 94 or 95 cents per thousand” of assessed property value to fund a fire service, which would likely reduce insurance costs and increase safety.

Working with his advisory planning committee, Binks is committed to the creation of an official community plan for Area C, something it hasn’t had previously. In the past, it has been lumped in with the rest of the valley. He has also worked to stretch tax dollars by encouraging the Ministry of Transportation to save costs by seal coating rural roads instead of paving them.

Binks is a no-nonsense, call-it-as-he-sees-it man and he can be blunt. I was at one meeting where he looked across at an RDCK staff member and said, “You can roll your eyes all you want, but you know what I’m saying is true.”

At the same time, he is happy to give credit where it is due. In his first year as director, Binks said he received about 200 calls from residents complaining about snow removal on Area C roads. Last year those calls dropped to “two or three”, the result of improved communication with the contractor, he said.

Clearly, Larry Binks is excited about the prospects for the coming term, and what he can do for the people he represents. From my perspective, I’m glad he didn’t stick to his guns and go out as a one-term wonder.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.