It may just be the start of summer but District of Houston councillors and mayor Shane Brienen are already focused on September when B.C.’s local governments meet in Whistler for the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention.
The convention is also the time when local governments meet directly with provincial cabinet ministers and executives of large companies doing business in their areas to discuss pressing local issues.
Topics this year include longstanding council lobbying efforts ranging from a desired expansion of the Dungate Community Forest, which is majority-owned by the District, and pressing the province for a share of the taxation it receives from large industrial projects in the region through a regional benefits sharing alliance.
One topic continually raised in the past several years is that of Cottonwood Manor and council’s position that the level of care for seniors living there should be increased.
Cottonwood Manor has 16 independent living units which were built in 2018 and six assisted living units in which meals and basic care services are provided.
But care provisions don’t extend into the evening and overnight hours and that’s a deficiency pointed out by council in past lobbying efforts with Northern Health and the provincial government.
Brienen and councillor Tom Stringfellow, who has been council’s most consistent Cotttonwood Manor advocate, raised the matter with Northern Health officials in May following the annual convention of another local government group, the North Central Local Government Association.
Cottonwood’s 16 independent living units are managed by the Smithers Community Services Association and its six assisted care units come under the Northern Health umbrella.
“We’ve been on this topic for a long time now,” said Brienen of the meeting he and Stringfellow had with Northern Health.
Brienen acknowledged that a lot of Northern Health’s focus the past several years has been on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic but that now, with the pandemic declining, it is time to bring Cottonwood Manor back into a sharper focus.
“We do feel there is a need for more services,” said Brienen.
That’s particularly the case during the evening and overnight because while residents might have bracelets that can broadcast alerts, depending upon circumstances, not all residents might be able to use them.
“We’re ready to work with Northern Health,” Brienen added in explaining why council will raising the topic in Whistler this September.
Aside from Cottonwood Manor, Brienen said the area’s population is getting older and that more consideration should be given to increasing housing options for seniors.