Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Port Edward representatives to UBCM seek out funding for District projects

Port Edward has sent four delegates to the UBCM convention in Penticton this week, all with a to-do-list that involves chatting up provincial officials for a number of key projects that they hope to see some movement on.

From meetings with Education Minister Shirley Bond to officials with the Ministry of Transportation and many others, the District's representatives have a full schedule and a hopeful list of possibilities for the community.

The District CAO Ron Bedard, defended the appearance of a large number of delegates from a rather small town, by explaining that by sending a delegation of this size they can spread out and cover as many of the sessions and gain access to more provincial cabinet ministers and officials, taking advantage of the convention to put forward some of their key issues in the community.

The Daily News featured some of the details on their plans as the front page, headline story in Tuesday's paper.

While attending UBCM gathering, district is planning to bend the ear of ministers
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Pages one and three

The District of Port Edward has four representatives attending Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual meeting this week, a gathering that the district's CAO, Ron Bedard, said Port Ed cannot afford to miss.

Bedard is currently in Penticton along with Mayor Dave MacDonald and councillors Christine MacKenzie and James Brown managing a tight schedule of meetings with various ministry representatives. The delegation of four will be pushing hard to secure funding for several important projects in and around the community that otherwise the district may not have been able to address. In addition to the regular UBCM schedule, Port Edward had one meeting Monday, a whopping 11 meetings today, five more tomorrow, and three set for Thursday.

"That's the reason council sends such a large delegation down, because we have a bigger impact and get full value for the trip," said Bedard. "If we had to go meet these individual people in Victoria the cost would be horrendous. This way, we target as many meetings as we can for a broad range of ministries and topics."

The Port Edward delegation will meet with Education Minister Shirley Bond to discuss the future plans for Port Edward Community School and find out what help, if any, the Ministry of Education can provide.

Another meeting is scheduled with the Ministry of Transportation and Highways to discuss a project that would see some of the brush along Highway 16 cleared, so that motorists will once again be able to see the Skeena River unobstructed while driving between Prince Rupert and Terrace.

"We've got a meeting with the infrastructure people to try and further our grant application to replace all of our water lines," said Bedard. "They're all 40 or 50 years old, and it's a major $3 or $4 million project. We're making application through a Building Canada Grant, where the federal government throws in a million, the province throws in a million and we throw in a million. That's the only way it's feasible for us to do this kind of work."
Another important topic the Port Ed delegation hopes to discuss is that of 'brownfield sites,' which are contaminated properties that are privately owned.

Bedard said Port Edward has several such sites, and even though the properties are strategically located, the owners have little chance of selling them since the cost of remediating the land is unknown.

"What we end up with is only taxation on a bare piece of land, whereas if somebody bought it and did something with it we would have much better potential for greater taxation on it," said Bedard. "And we're not the only community with that problem, every community in the Northwest has them. In fact, we're bringing it up as a topic at one of the small talk forums so it can be discussed widely."

Bedard said these issues and the many others that the Port Edward delegation will be talking about are invaluable to the district. More than $8 million in funding for different community projects has been garnered as a result of UBCM meetings since he became involved with the district.

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