Three councillors – Casda Thomas, John Buikema and Gladys Atrill – vote against allowing a full waiving of the off-site works for the hospital CT scanner renovation. With three councillors voting for the motion to waive costs, Mayor Taylor Bachrach was the deciding vote, voting against the waiver as well. (Chris Gareau photo)

Three councillors – Casda Thomas, John Buikema and Gladys Atrill – vote against allowing a full waiving of the off-site works for the hospital CT scanner renovation. With three councillors voting for the motion to waive costs, Mayor Taylor Bachrach was the deciding vote, voting against the waiver as well. (Chris Gareau photo)

Smithers gambles CT scanner for ‘sidewalk law’

Despite letter from Northern Health saying delays or cancellation possible, ‘sidewalk law’ applied.

The bylaw that brought Smithers the ‘sidewalk to nowhere’ and forced the Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre (BVCDC) to build a short, dead-end sidewalk over a driveway to a neighbouring residential front yard is now putting the CT scanner project at Bulkley Valley District Hospital at risk.

Northern Health communications officer Eryn Collins said that work to put in the CT scanner has now been put on hold.

She said the financial impact will be reviewed and the board will be advised of any options. Collins added that the community will be notified as the process on deciding what to do next moves ahead.

Bylaw 1800 ‘Subdivision Servicing and Development Standards’ calls for off-site works to be done by any developer that builds or renovates on its property at a construction value over $100,000.

To make way for the CT scanner, an estimated $350,000 of internal renovations to the hospital need to be done.

A motion approve a variance application to waive the off-site works was defeated 4-3, with councillors Frank Wray, Lorne Benson and Greg Brown for, and councillors Casda Thomas, John Buikema and Gladys Atrill against. The tie vote was broken with Mayor Taylor voting against allowing the variance.

Northern Health’s health service administrator for the area Cormac Hikisch presented to council before the vote. He explained that 4,000 patient visits per year to Terrace and Prince George are from the Hazeltons to Burns Lake, which could instead go to Smithers.

A letter from Albert Sommerfeld, Northern Health director of development planning and projects, made clear the consequences:

“The financial burden because of the additional off-site works, which has never been accounted for, may lead to significant delays and possible cancellation of this project.”

Hikisch told council there was a misconception that internal work on the hospital would not apply.

He also said while not yet approved, a $1.2-million emergency room upgrade was in the works. Further down the road, master planning was beginning on building a new hospital in Smithers. Hikisch was clear the knowledge of off-site works requirements would not be forgotten making those budgets.

The CT scanner project was made possible with $1.75 million in donated funds, largely through the Bulkley Valley Health Care and Hospital Foundation and a $1.6-million donation to the foundation by Telkwa’s Fritz Pfeiffer.

With an insistence on applying the bylaw in the name of fairness, and the non-profit BVCDC’s partial off-site work variance used as an example, a variance to the hospital project was still granted. Instead of waiving the full costs, council unanimously approved a second motion that went with a staff recommendation that cuts the amount of work and costs down for the off-site works. The cost is now estimated at $131,000, down from over $500,000.

Read more: Northern Health approves CT Scanner for Smithers

After the vote to approve a variance that partially cuts the work needed to be done, Coun. Wray asked the group around the council table what their thinking was behind not allowing a full waiving of costs to get the project moving, versus allowing a partial waving of costs.

“I appreciate the staff’s rationale, but I’d like the elected officials’ rationale,” said Wray.

All four who voted gave a response:

“For me again, this is really important, and when we’re talking about other organizations that are non-profits that … we did vary some things — or I shouldn’t say we, I wasn’t here — but council did vary some of the requirements and upheld some of the requirements. So fairness being one,” said Coun. Thomas. “And also the fact that the frontage, as was explained by [development services director] Mr. Allen, with Columbia and Eighth Avenue being the most used area versus Tenth Avenue which is not at all, so I understand that rationale.”

Next was Coun. Atrill, who earlier in the discussion also pointed to the importance of accessibility for people with mobility issues who need to get to the hospital, and the need for pipe work brought up in the past.

“It’s a really good and fair question Coun. Wray. I think after hearing some of council speak to the motion that was defeated, I came to the conclusion that where I came in tonight was not likely to be supported. So, I had proposed a proposed amendment here which was to increase the of-site works by a significant amount, and so I guess I am attempting to read the room on the position of council that will allow some of this to go forward

“It was my position when I came here that all the work ought to be completed because I think that is a big connector and I actually think it’s reasonable. I made the decision as I made the motion that that’s not going to fly, perhaps I read that wrong, but that’s what I had on paper when I came in here today: that all works be done. So I responded a little bit to the motion and the conversation that was had just prior to this,” explained Atrill.

Mayor Bachrach said his thoughts were similar. He earlier in the discussion said the North West Regional Hospital District can have taxpayers from across the Northwest between Houston and Haida Gwaii pick up the tab for a portion of the off-site works.

Bachrach also brought up the fact that Hikisch mentioned the first step of “master planning” a new hospital in Smithers was to start soon. That first step comes before funding design, business plan, design, and finally construction. Hikisch pointed to other hospitals as examples on how that process takes years, often over 10.

“Focusing on that intersection on where the hospital actually exists — it’s a very large property and that seems reasonable and proportional. When the rest of that forested area is developed, I think our expectation should be that it’s brought up to municipal standard. In terms of proportionality, developing a $100-million-plus hospital, the cost of those works are really held into context with such a large budget, something that’s achievable,” said Bachrach.

“Like Coun. Atrill, there are aspects that are being waived that I would really like to see. Sidewalks seem to be the first thing that comes off the list because maybe we view them as more of an add on or the icing on the cake, but I think they’re a core part of our infrastructure and we should think of them as such. No less important than things like storm sewers and curb and gutter, and all these other things that allow our community to function. One’s about the movement of water, and ones about the movement of people. And we know from all the work that’s been done around population health that the more people who use their bodies to get around, the less they end up in the hospital. I don’t want to draw too disparate of a connection there, but these are priorities I think our community holds.

“I think this is reasonable and staff have told us that these are the aspects that they feel are more critical to the functioning of the community, and certainly my hope is over the next 15 years that we work with Northern Health and continue down this path so that by the time a new hospital is built, the portion of the property where the old hospital exists is really brought up to the municipal standard over time. I think that’s a conversation I’d like to have with Northern Health … It’s obviously not a perfect process.”

Coun. Buikema was the last to explain his vote against waiving all costs and for allowing some to be waived.

“I think I made my decision partly because of what happened with the CDC, even though I wasn’t a part of that decision. I also have a hard time requiring the hospital to do something on Tenth Avenue; I hardly see that stretch of Tenth Avenue as belonging to the hospital. And I guess for me the decision is, for lack of a better term, a happy medium — maybe it can be called an unhappy medium,” said Buikema.

Northern Health would have two years to build or pay for the off-site works if it still moves ahead with the CT scanner.

 

Council still decided to go with a variance that would lessen the cost of off-site works for the hospital, one that would at least delay the CT scanner project but lowers the amount of work needed to be done. The work to be done is marked “staff support.” (Town of Smithers map)

Council still decided to go with a variance that would lessen the cost of off-site works for the hospital, one that would at least delay the CT scanner project but lowers the amount of work needed to be done. The work to be done is marked “staff support.” (Town of Smithers map)

Just Posted

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Williams Lake’s Robert Webster, who helps operate the organization’s Parking Lot Clothing Drive, and Angela Kadar, executive director, collect clothing at BBBSWL’s new, permanent cargo trailer location at the Williams Lake Stampede Grounds infield. BBBSWL will be at the infield parking lot from noon to 1 p.m. every Tuesday until the fall collecting soft goods including men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, outerwear, boots, shoes, hats, mittens, scarves, ties, socks, purses, wallets, bags, bedding, towels and jewellery. Kadar thanked the Williams Lake Stampede Association for being so accommodating and for allowing them to use the space to park the trailer. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Williams Lake Parking Lot Clothing Drive gets new, permanent location

BBBSWL will be at the Stampede infield parking lot from noon to 1 p.m. every Tuesday

Williams Lake Stampeders forward Dylan Richardson thwarts a Quesnel Kangaroos defender as he skates in for a shot on goal during the 2019/20 Central Interior Hockey League season. (Patrick Davies photo - Black Press Media)
Stampeders plan post pandemic return to ice in Williams Lake

The eight-team Central Interior Hockey League includes franchises in Quesnel and Williams Lake

Interior Health’s mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic will be at the 150 Mile House Fire Department on Wednesday, June 23 for people to receive their first dose of the vaccine. (Monica Lamb-Yorski
Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic slated for 150 Mile House June 23

The clinic is for people who have not received a first dose

Drivers continue to go through rough areas on Highway 20 where repairs have been made to address areas impacted by a historical slide. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Highway 20, Dog Creek Road repairs won’t be completed until later this summer

Geotechnical and hydrotechnical investigation continues

Mackey Pierce stands with two of the four paintings she has in the Cariboo Art Society exhibit at the Station House Gallery. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Cariboo Art Society member exhibit June show at Station House Gallery

Title ‘This and That’, the show reflects the art of 11 members

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read