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Council sets out-of-town travel wish list

Staffers will now determine costs

District of Houston council members have now put together a list of potential out-of-town conferences and training sessions they wish to attend this year and have asked staffers to come up an idea of the costs.

The list takes in nine potential trips with three involving six council members.

Those three are the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler each fall, the annual Northern Central Local Government Association conference and a specific training session for council members from around northern B.C.

Four council members have indicated a willingness to attend the annual B.C. Natural Resources Forum which takes place each January in Prince George, one council member wants to attend the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference, three want to attend the Council of Forest Industries convention, three wish to attend the annual Minerals North conference, four are interested in the next Nation2Nation forum in which resource and other companies with meet Indigenous governments and leaders and one council member is interested in the annual conference of community forests from around B.C.

This year’s list of conferences and training sessions would mark a complete return to in-person events of the pre-pandemic period.

In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, council budgeted $76,700 but did not spend that amount. The following year featured events held remotely and council budgeted $10,999 for related expenses.

Chamber lease renewed

The District is going to renew its lease with the Houston and District Chamber of Commerce for the building and portion of the property it occupies in Steelhead Park.

This lease would be for just over three years, backdated to October 1, 2022 and lasting until Dec. 31, 2025.

The cost to the chamber would be $1 per year.

The building serves as the chamber’s business office and also as the tourist information office.

Summer jobs grant wanted

District staffers hope to hire four people over the summer with the help of a subsidy from the federal government.

Two positions would be classified as student labourer positions, each for 14 weeks, and two as Recreation Worker I positions, each for 16 weeks.

The Canada Summer Jobs program provides wage subsidies to not-for-profit groups, the public sector and private businesses with 50 or fewer full time employees to hire people between 15 and 30 years of age.

Staffers estimate that the full cost of hiring four people would be $78,000 and that a federal subsidy would offset that cost by approximately $18,000.

Cell tower location sought

Rogers Communications wants to erect a tower in the downtown core area to boost its wireless service but its first choice, Jamie Baxter Park, isn’t being favoured.

Although Rogers has told the District the tower must be placed in or near the downtown, the District has a long term plan to modernize the park and so the structure might interfere with those plans.

“The tower may be considered unsightly to some people, and therefore consideration should be made to locate the tower in a location that is less visible to the public,” a memo to council from chief administrative officer Michael Dewar indicated.

The tower would be 35 metres tall and be surrounded by a seven-foot chain link fence in an area of 15 metres by 15 metres. “Other District-owned locations such as behind the leisure services facility or the Houston Curling Club (Alexandra Park) should be considered,” Dewar wrote.

Rogers is offering the District a property lease agreement that over its forecast 20 year length would amount to $278,460.

District officials will now speak to Rogers about alternate locations.

Hospice grant finalized

A final payment of $3,000 to the Houston Hospice Society has been approved, marking half of the original allotment agreed to by the District of Houston council.

The $6,000 came from a COVID-19 relief account set up by the District using a grant provided by the province in 2020.

Grants were approved to various local organizations in light of the pandemic with one half being provided right away and the second half after an organization submitted a progress report to council.

Accordingly, the Houston Hospice Society reported on a weekend training seminar for volunteers which brought in 21 people from Smithers, Telkwa, Houston and Terrace and conducted by two people from the Prince George Hospice Society.

The September 2022 session at the Rock Nest Ranch continues moves by the Houston Hospice Society to increase and then train volunteers in bereavement support and other functions.