Ucluelet convoy headed to Victoria after UBCM yields lackluster response letters

Ucluelet’s council is not satisfied with the responses coming in from the ministers they met with during the Union of BC Municipalities Convention in September.

Coun. Dario Corlazzoli was frustrated by a response from BC Minister of Agriculture Pat Pimm that he felt contained factual inaccuracies and missed Ucluelet’s point.

“Some of the facts are very generic and I’m not quite sure how much information and background he has on this,” Corlazzoli said. “It really doesn’t address the real issue that we presented.”

Corlazzoli suggested Ucluelet arrange a face-to-face meeting with Pimm in Victoria rather than engage in a letter based argument.  

Mayor Bill Irving agreed and added Minister of Transportation Todd Stone’s response was also disappointing.

Coun. Randy Oliwa said both letters struck a nerve with him because Ucluelet’s council is experienced enough to recognize recycled rhetoric when they see it.

“It’s the same pitch every time,” he said.  “I’m really getting tired of these generic letters that we keep getting back with half truths.”

He suggested the district could have more success by focusing on ministry staff because while ministers come and go, staff members often remain cemented within their ministries.  

“Ministers themselves change far too often in my opinion,” he said. “Constantly in these letters there’s an echoing tone to refer to staff (and) the staff seem to be consistent.”

Council agreed to arrange meetings with both ministers within the next 60 days and to direct district staff to follow up with ministry staff.

Unorthodox water show prompts Mayor to promise action

Water, water, everywhere but in this case it’s pretty gross.

A group of Marine Drive residents brought council a particularly putrid show and tell display when they presented jars of what looked like black coffee but turned out to be samples of their tap water.

The group, which represented three residences and one accommodation provider, said their water has not been clear since the Black Rock Resort came onto the system in 2008.

“We have been dealing with crap water constantly,” said one of the residents who then pointed at the jars placed in front of council and said, “That looks like third world country material to me.”

One member of the group operates an Inn and said the water is yellowish at the best of times and has brought complaints from guests.

She presented a once-white pillowcase turned yellow by the water spouting into her washing machine and said this costly phenomenon is happening to all her linens.

“This is hundreds and thousands of dollars; you can’t repair it, you have to throw it out so from a business standpoint it’s driving me crazy,” she said. “It’s embarrassing and when somebody says to me ‘is your water drinkable’ I have to bite my tongue and say ‘yeah it is’ but would you drink that stuff?”

Another resident said she has taken black clothes out of her washing machine that went in white.

The group alleged the district’s public works department has been lacking in its response and that calls to the district’s emergency line have been fruitless.

Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving assured district officials would look into the water issue within the week.

Irving said the community’s water is tested weekly and district CAO Andrew Yeates added that this testing is done in over a dozen locations in Ucluelet though he could not confirm whether Marine Drive is one these locations.  

Irving said the district must ensure water is safe throughout Ucluelet.

“We do want to resolve this,” he said. “We are going to take this matter very seriously.”

Improvement needed on Highway 4

Walking through a winter wonderland may be a beautiful sight but driving through one can be a nightmare.

Mayor Bill Irving and Coun. Geoff Lyons both traveled over Highway 4 recently and were frustrated by what they perceive to be a lack of snow plowing being done.

Irving said these frustrations turned into a back and forth with Emcon—contracted by the BC Ministry of Transportation to maintain the highway—with Irving and Lyons saying plowing was not being done and Emcon saying plowing was being done.

This issue has been added to two highway concern mainstays: the messaging on overhead signs located on each side of Sutton Pass, and missing or damaged reflectors.  

 â€œThe overhead signs don’t make any sense,” Irving said. “I’ve asked a million times that they be appropriately changed, the road can be blocked with snow and the (sign) at this end will say ‘water ponding.’”

Council agreed to send a letter to both the Ministry of Transportation and Emcon expressing these concerns.

Transportation Parliamentary Secretary Jordan Sturdy is working on a Vancouver Island Transportation Study, according to Irving who said he will attend a meeting with Sturdy in Nanaimo on Wednesday to push for improvements to Highway 4.

Possibilities being discussed for Amphitrite Point

With the West Coast’s fight to keep its Coast Guard station all but over, talks have turned to what should be done with the Amphitrite Point site that has housed a Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) centre since 1978.

 â€œ(Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea) has written and said the closure is pretty much done but they are considering other uses for the property,” said Mayor Bill Irving. “It’s not really our style to sit outside of these kind of discussions.”

Shea’s letter said she heard from Nanaimo-Alberni MP Dr. James Lunney that Ucluelet’s municipal leaders have ideas for the property and she encouraged council to keep her updated.

Council agreed to write a letter to Shea expressing their willingness to be involved in discussions around the site’s potential future while also reemphasizing the district’s continued dissatisfaction with the federal government’s decision to close the centre.

The federal government announced its plan to consolidate Canada’s 22 Coast Guard stations into 12 modernized centres in May 2012, and Amphitrite was put on the cut list.  

The decision ripped about 25 jobs from the West Coast.

High winds raise profile of dangerous trees

Coun. Dario Corlazzoli noted the weekend’s windstorm and asked staff if there is an upcoming danger tree assessment.

He said he has noticed several trees in the district that are potentially hazardous and cited a specific pine tree located on district land near the Ucluelet Co-op grocery store.

He said the tree is “completely dead” and lost several limbs during the storm.

“I’d like to see that removed if we can before someone gets pummeled with a big limb,” he said.  

District CAO Andrew Yeates said no assessment is currently scheduled but suggested Corlazzoli could tour Ucluelet with the district’s contractors to determine which trees need to be removed.

Corlazzoli agreed and suggested this tour could take place within the week.  

Island’s top attraction only getting better  

Locals are encouraged to get their education on at the unveiling of new children’s interpretive signage along the Wild Pacific Trail on Jan. 22.

The event will kick off at the Big Beach Gazebo at 11 a.m.

Coun. Dario Corlazzoli suggested the district meet with the Wild Pacific Trail society prior to budget discussions to determine the type of investment the trail will need to maintain its global attraction.

He noted the trail is bringing a lot of positive attention to Ucluelet especially since being named Vancouver Island’s top attraction by Trip Advisor.

He said the society hopes to develop a training program for interpreters to guide users through the trail and suggested local youth interested in outdoor education could use the program as a springboard.

“It’s handy, I think, for Ucluelet to be able to train our youth to know as much as they can about our area,” he said.

He said the society met on Jan. 8 and has decided to hire a part time administrator.

Blessing for 2014

Tuesday’s council meeting started off with a blessing from Ucluelet First Nation elder Barbara Touchie.

Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving called Touchie  “a very important role model for us in the sense of leadership,” and said the annual blessing “reminds us how important our responsibility is and how much care we need to take in our responsibility.”

Ucluelet keeps a paper copy of each blessing it receives and Touchie’s blessing will be added to a diary that is kept in the district office and is open to perusal from interested locals.

reporter@westerlynews.ca