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City welcomes new fire chief, rescinds vaccine mandate at Williams Lake council meeting

Council highlights
Williams Lake retired fire chief Randy Isfeld, centre, who has been temporarily acting fire chief, passed the helmet to Evan Dean, left, Williams Lake Fire Department’s new fire chief. Dean is the 11th fire chief to head up the department, and was honoured at the Williams Lake city council meeting by Mayor Surinderpal Rathor, the city’s 11th mayor. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

At a Dec. 6 regular city council meeting Mayor Rathor and council heard from three delegations and tackled some tough issues.

COVID-19 vaccine policy rescinded

The meeting took nearly three hours and saw Williams Lake City Council rescind their COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccine Council Policy which had been put in place in January of 2022. Councillor Angie Delainey asked for the policy to be rescinded rather than suspended in order to allow for implementation of a different policy if it needs to be brought back in, due to her unvaccinated status.

She said she preferred this option so if a vaccine mandate policy did have to be brought back it could be “cleaner and clearer.”

She wanted to see the opportunity to have a staff policy separate from a council policy.

“If at a future date we have to bring something in we can do it in a way that separates council from staffing,” said Delainey.

Councillor Flaspohler said while she is vaccinated, she supported rescinding the policy to enable more opportunity for recruitment and so council could focus on providing the services the community needs.

“I don’t want to see where we have an extra hurdle when we could be acquiring really good staff,” said Flaspohler.

Councillor Sheila Boehm also voiced her support for rescinding the policy in order to facilitate staffing. “I think that this has effected staffing.”

Gary Maraca, chief administrative officer for the city of Williams Lake did state in the meeting they had not heard from their human resources representative the policy had been a barrier.

Councillor Michael Moses voiced concerns over the timing of rescinding the policy and pointed out the commendation by health experts on the city providing leadership by creating the policy, though he said he would not be opposed to rescinding it in the future when hospitals were not as strained.

Council voted to pass the motion to rescind the policy, with Councillor Moses voting against the motion.

New fire chief honoured

The meeting began with a delegation from the Williams Lake Volunteer Fire Department as the new fire chief Evan Dean was honoured with the traditional “passing of the helmet.”

The longstanding fire hall tradition included acting fire chief Randy Isfeld reading the names of all previous chiefs of the local department. Dean has been a city employee for 11 years and has been a firefighter for nine years.

Colleagues from the Williams Lake Fire Department attended the ceremonial passing of the helmet in uniform to cheer Dean on.

Discussion on repeat violent offenders continues

Council agreed to send a letter to Hon. Murray Rankin, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing regarding amendments to the BC Prosecution Service’s Bail - Adults policy. They encouraged the BC Prosecution Service to utilize electronic monitoring on prolific offenders

Handy-Dart agreement approved

An agreement with the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) for Handy-Dart services has been renewed for three years. The city and the CRD are part of a community transit partnership for the past 11 years.

The agreement includes servicing the areas of 150 Mile House, Wildwood, Mountview, Esler and South Lakeside and the CRD pays about $11,000 per year for this service.

Grant applications approved

The council also approved a number of grant applications for projects which include the Williams Lake Regional Airport.

One through the BC Air Access Program will help replace two security gates, a project worth an estimated $60,000, with the possible grant funding covering 60 per cent of this. An application to the BC Air Access Program Airside Project Stream for Airport Airside upgrades will potentially upgrade apron lighting with LEDs for $55,900 and the grant would cover 75 per cent.

Another grant could support the creation of a Utility Master Plan for the airport, to “help guide future development at the airport” according to the city and help the CRD in planning for future upgrades to the Pine Valley sewer system. The study is estimated to cost around $100,000.

Fee-for Service agreements

The city also approved renewing their three-year fee-for-service agreements with a number of local organizations.

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Williams Lake - $15,000 per year BGC Williams Lake Club - $15,000 per year
  • Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society ‘Water Wise’ Program - $42,000 per year
  • Social Planning Council of Williams Lake and Area - $5,000 per year
  • Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin Society - $24,000 per year
  • Williams Lake Stampede Association - $25,000 per year
  • Williams Lake Food Policy Council - $6,000 per year
  • Downtown Williams Lake Business Improvement Association - $4,000 per year
  • Williams Lake Community Policing Committee - $15,000 per year

Council also approved a Central Cariboo Joint Committee recommendation to renew the Performances in the Park services agreement between the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society, the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District for a three-year term at a cost of $22,000 annually paid to the Society for coordinating the event.

They deferred fee for service agreements to future budget discussions for Scout Island Nature Centre, Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society ‘Waste Wise’ Program, Williams Lake Stampede Parade, Williams Lake Hospice Society, Potato House Sustainable Community Society and Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce.

Scout Island washroom contract awarded

A contract for the replacement and upgrade of the public washroom at the park has been awarded to Spruce Lee Construction. The contract is for $298,225 plus taxes with a possible cost overrun of $26,829 as well. Three-quarters of the cost for the project will be covered through the Canadian Community Revitalization Fund.

Cemetery bylaw amendment

Council has approved another three-year agreement with the CRD for cemetery services for those in electoral areas D, E and F.

They also gave three readings to a bylaw amendment which increases the fee schedule. A report from the Municipal Services Coordinator noted the cemetery will be nearing capacity in the next 12 to 15 years and Councillor Scott Nelson asked council to consider addressing this in the Official Community Plan.

Read more: Council hears request for mobile overdose prevention site in Williams Lake

Read More: VIDEO: Drums, bagpipes play in new Williams Lake mayor, council in culturally rich ceremony

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