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Grand Forks campground bylaw updates prove hot topic

Councillors trade thoughts on proposed winter caretaker, costs and cancellation fees
Campground bylaw updates were a hot topic of discussion as council had several questions over a proposed winter caretaker, security, costs and fees. Gazette file photo

A proposal to review and update the city campground bylaws became a detailed debate over health, safety and security.

The campground policy bylaw update was on the agenda for the Sept. 11 regular council meeting. Recommendations were made during a committees-of-the-whole meeting by staff to update the bylaw. Mayor Everett Baker pointed out these recommendations are going into a draft version of the bylaw.

While voting on resolutions separately, several questions came up about recommendations to have a potential winter caretaker oversee the site after it closed for the season.

Councillor Rod Zielinski wanted to know where this caretaker could reside while on the property, seeing that heat, electrical and septic would be likely turned off and the site isn’t fully equipped to deliver utilities like electricity, water and sewer.

“I cannot support this because not only are we sticking someone in a place that’s not serviced and having all those issues, but we cannot afford any more staff increases,” he said. “I’ll remind council that we spent somewhere around $5 and $6 million on staff wages and benefits and we only take in $4 million in property tax.”

He added placing a person in a trailer during the winter with no water is not an acceptable standard the city should be advertising.

He added there are many more expenditures down the road, such as maintenance of the dikes and pumping systems will add to the workloads. Water lines will freeze and heating the service kiosk would likely cost around $2,000 per billing cycle.

Alex Adams, director of Public Works explained the plan for the caretaker is to house them in a fifth wheel trailer in the campground and the city would provide power, but there would be no water and they would have to bathe or shower elsewhere.

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Despite the conditions, he said this would be a minimal cost to the city and provide some security with a person stationed there for the winter to deter transients and vandalism.

Councillor Christine Thompson said she was in support of it, but asked Adams if they could take one of the city-owned and permanently move it to house the caretaker. In addition, she also asked with services available nearby if they could access those to provide water and septic.

The city should take steps to make sure whatever the city decides for housing it has to be temporary because of the ongoing flood risk, said CAO Duncan Redfearn.

“When I met with the minister (Bowinn Ma, Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness) not long ago down there, I was pointing out the height of the dike compared to the height of the buildings and if we were going to protect anything it had to be the same height of the dikes in that area,” he said. “Whatever we want to protect in that area it has to be the same height as those dikes.”

Provisions can be made and the city can look into seeking out service connections to link to the trailer on a temporary basis, he added.

Councillor Zak Eburne-Stoodley added he understood Councillor Zielinski’s concerns over expenses, but pointed out the community’s needs for more security and a caretaker would add a layer of that with their presence.

The current caretaker is not a trained security professional, but does a good job managing the site, pointed out Councillor David Mark. What he wanted to see was having the bylaw officer patrol the site more often in the winter and extend the view of the security camera that is already there to cover as far as the BMX track, or add more cameras.

Redfearn explained the current camp attendant already calls the bylaw officer to deal with issues in the area outside the camp.

There were also questions about why there was a provision that allowed the CAO to make exceptions to these bylaws at their discretion. Redfearn said that existed before he arrived, but it likely existed in case there was a cancellation due to emergencies like flooding. He never used it and suggested it be removed and allow city staff to have the discretion to refund or modify reservations in the event of emergencies.

In addition, there was a request to review cancellation fees because it seemed unfair to charge people money if they had to leave suddenly, or not even be able to be in the campground, if there was an emergency or other circumstance beyond the person’s or city’s control.

By the end, what was supposed to be four recommendations turned to seven to cover the concerns of council members, but there were still detractors. The provision to end the camping season on Oct 4 was approved unanimously, as was an earlier start date for reservations, review current rates, cancellation policies and fees, remove clauses that allows the CAO to make exceptions to bylaws and policies and complete and estimate for another security camera to cover more of the campground up to the BMX track.

The proposal for a winter caretaker was opposed by Mark and Zielinski, but carried.

About the Author: Karen McKinley

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