Keremeos businessman Jeff Rowe spoke to council about farmworker and transient concerns during the December 17 regular meeting of Keremeos council.
Rowe discussed an open letter sent to council members, in which he voiced displeasure at comments made at a regional district board meeting by Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer last summer. He berated the mayor over comments Bauer made, that indicated the Village of Keremeos had fewer issues with transients this past year.
Rowe insisted that he had experienced great difficulties with transients this past summer at his business, Valu Plus Foods. He described his attempt to hire a security firm, which ended in failure when the firm refused the job because they knew what the situation was like in Keremeos.
Rowe asked council to consider beefing up bylaw enforcement like the Town of Osoyoos did, describing how they handled their issues with transient and farm labour. (The town’s crackdown on transients last summer apparently resulted in many leaving the town, only to relocate in Oliver, causing that town similar issues.)
Rowe insisted that the Osoyoos initiative resulted in many arrests of undesireables, forcing them out of the community while leaving the true farmworkers intact.
“Osoyoos officials are willing to help,” he told council, “I’ve talked to eight merchants in Osoyoos, who are all happy with the way things are working.”
Mayor Bauer promised to consult with Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells about the issue, warning Rowe that the matter came down to increased bylaw enforcement, which will ultimately cost the village more money.
Council received two letters from residents expressing their dissatisfaction over the village’s failure to install Christmas lights in time for the annual Christmas parade on December 7.
“It’s unfortunate this happened,” Mayor Bauer stated, noting that the village generally got negative correspondence like this only when something bad happens. Staff advised that they would be working towards getting the lights up several days prior to Light Up next year.
Council took its first public look at the 2013 budget, going lightly over preliminary budget figures presented by Chief Financial Officer Rob Hager.
Highlights of the budget discussion included the following items:
– concern raised by Mayor Bauer over the $5,000 cost for a referendum on the reservoir project. Bauer expressed reservations with respect to the village’s financial responsibility for the referendum in the event that it fails. CFO Hager admitted that the project should have an adminstrative fee built in.
– Council did not make a decision regarding a staff request to upgrade a part time worker position to full time employee. The source of funding ($60,000 salary and $13,800 benefit package) would be expected to come from part time staff funding and the money saved from the CFO position being reduced to part time.
The reason for the request is to hire a permanent full time employee who could take on a “much higher level of learning” in order to eventually take on the CAO position, a plan that would be consistent with goals set out in the village’s strategic plan.
– Council did make decisions regarding the dispersal of grant in aid funding.
– Council agreed to spend $4,010 on a phone system upgrade in order to prevent hackers from accessing village phone lines.
– Council agreed to spend $7,211to upgrade a sidewalk crossing on 7th Street, between Valu Plus Foods and Red Bridge Pub so that scooters can navigate the sidewalk.
– Council also agreed to spend a total of $12,722 to install key fob entry system in village buildings, to provide additional security and eliminate the need to rekey locks if keys are lost.
– Council agreed to spend $2,900 on new trash receptacles for the downtown core.
Council business ended for the evening with the adoption of the election procedure bylaw.
Question period saw members of the gallery ask council about staffing costs for the village’s succession plan and the need for a new entry system for village buildings. Questions were also asked about the cost and the need for two councillors’ attendance at a recent water seminar in Kelowna.