As you can imagine, the month of March 2020 has been challenging for any political figure. We are faced with some very hard decisions regularly while sitting in an elected seat and the developments that have taken place on a global scale lately have impacted all forms of government – including your local Town Council. I’ll explain that a little more later.
Regular Start To The Month
March began fairly normally for me. Here is a quick outline of the meetings scheduled for my attendance and you’ll see a pattern that developed as the month went on.
March 1 – 12 Noon - School District 58 Community Partners Meeting, PSS Commons
March 1 – 7:30 PM – Town Council Regular Meeting, Council Chambers, Town Hall
March 9 – 5:30 PM – Copper Mountain Mining Corp. Meeting, Copper Pit
March 16 – 7:00 PM – Public Hearing, Council Chambers, Town Hall
March 16 – 7:30 PM – Town Council Regular Meeting, Council Chambers, Town Hall
March 17 – Health Care Steering Committee, PGH CANCELLED
March 17 – PXA Meeting, Princeton Library Meeting Room CANCELLED
March 19 – Interagency Meeting CANCELLED
March 19 – Princeton Museum AGM, Museum Building CANCELLED
March 20 – 10:00 AM Special Meeting of Town Council, Council Chambers, Town Hall
March 21-31 All Other Meetings CANCELLED
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Makes An Impact
March changed for us in our household mid-month. We’ve had to temporarily close one of our home-based businesses as the venue it is located was closed to the public on March 16. Town Council acted quickly, following expert advice, and started taking measures to restrict public access to local facilities to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In our house, both my wife, Brenda and I are immunocompromised. This has forced us to restrict our physical contact with others to where we are currently self-isolated at home. As I have a work-from-home career, this has not affected my job much at all. We are doing our part to “flatten the curve” and I encourage you to do the same if you are able.
The News About The Aquatic Centre
It was at the March 20 Special Meeting of Town Council when the news about the grant for the Princeton Aquatic Centre being turned down was shared with us. Although it was a sad note, there can be many positives to come out of it. My feelings on the $27-million project are no secret. I thought it was too massive a project for the existing taxpayer base to keep open year ‘round. However, I do believe the community requires a “community centre” of some kind that would include an indoor pool and other facilities.
I think that with the grant being turned down – and I have to point out that the design of the project came from a different Town Council – it gives us all a chance to go back to the drawing board to design something that would fit better within the community and that the community could afford to keep open all year for the enjoyment of residents and visitors. Expect to hear more about that sometime in the future. But for now, let’s not worry about that and focus on getting back on track once the COVID-19 situation is resolved.
How You Can Help Now And Later
This means supporting local businesses as much as you can now (the ones able to operate) and into the future once they can get back to full operation. It has been a tough couple of years for local business (forest fires, road closures) and 2020 won’t be any easier. This is why I encourage you to shop locally as much as you can as we are all in this together.
Although February is the shortest month of the year, it was one of the busiest ones I’ve had in quite some time. In addition to plenty of activity at Town Hall, I have been kept busy with many committee meetings both in Princeton and out of town.
Here’s a quick look at my schedule for February 2020:
Out of 17 scheduled meetings/events, I attended all but three. One was canceled and the other two conflicted with other meetings I had scheduled.
Town Hall Meetings
Monday, February 3 – 7:00 PM Public Hearing
Monday, February 3 – 7:30 PM Regular Meeting of Town Council
Friday, February 7 – Special Meeting of Council
Wednesday, February 12 – Special Meeting of Council – 2020 Budget
Tuesday, February 18 – Regular Meeting of Town Council
Friday, February 28 – Special Meeting of Town Council
Regular Committee Meetings
Tuesday, February 18 – Princeton Health Care Steering Committee, PGH
Wednesday, February 19 – 5:30 PM - Princeton Arts Council, Riverside Centre (*)
Wednesday, February 19 – 6:00 PM - RDOS/Town of Princeton Budget Presentation, Riverside Centre
Thursday, February 20 – Princeton Museum Society, Princeton Museum
Wednesday, February 19 – 9:30 AM – Okanagan Regional Library Board, Kelowna (*)
Friday, February 21 – Local Government Primary Care Workshop, Penticton
Thursday, February 20 – Toured the BC Green Pharmaceuticals building in the Princeton Industrial Park
Tuesday, February 25 - Attended the Princeton Posse Award Banquet on behalf of Mayor Coyne who could not attend. (*)
Wednesday, February 26 - Pink Shirt Day - I participated in Pink Shirt Day activities at Town Hall with other members of Town Council and Staff.
(*) denotes meetings attended as the lone representative of Princeton Town Council.
My busiest day this month was February 19 where I had four different meetings scheduled in three different communities. I was able to attend three of them. The Mayor’s schedule makes mine look pretty slow, as it turns out.
In no particular order, I was introduced at the Okanagan Regional Library Board meeting on February 19 in Kelowna as the new ‘lead’ representing Princeton. Last year I was an ‘alternate’ but attended two of the four regular meetings held.
In the February 18 Regular Meeting of Town Council, we approved a Staff Recommendation to spend $14,683.60 on 1,600 Blue Boxes. These will be distributed to each household within the Town of Princeton to be used for curbside recycling pick-up.
On February 20 I joined other members of Town Council and Staff on a tour of the BC Green Pharmaceuticals structure in the Princeton Industrial Park. By the time you are reading this, the rooms will be filling up with marijuana plants for production. The facility is extremely high-tech meeting and exceeding standards set by Health Canada and other regulatory bodies. The rooms are built to “clean room” and “hospital grade” guidelines and there are several vestibules in the hallways to keep the environment as clean as possible. It is truly a stunning marvel of engineering on the inside right to the air showers and cameras in every possible corner. Following Health Canada approval, the facility will go into production which could be March or April.
February was Budget Meeting time. Town Council has taken an aggressive stance going into the rest of 2020 with the annual budget. Expect to see a good chunk of it spent on infrastructure needs both above and below ground. Details will follow from Town Hall.
There is no doubt that 2019 was a very busy year for me. I did have a summary of the highlights for me published locally over the Christmas holiday but I left out several things in the article. So, I am going to fill in some blanks with this blog post.
Tons of Regular Meetings
The average month for me includes anywhere from 10 to 15 regular meetings. This includes Town Council meetings and meetings related to the handful of committee appointments I have. I sit on many different local boards and also attend between 1 and 3 meetings out-of-town per month. They include SVPS (Similkameen Valley Planning Society), IHA SOS Division Health Board (Penticton) and Okanagan Regional Library Board (Kelowna).
The First Part Of The Year
I started 2019 with attendance in Kelowna for the LGLA (Local Government Leadership Academy) conference. That ran from January 23-25 and it included numerous workshops and meetings that were informative and involved. The next convention I attended was SILGA (Southern Interior Local Government Association). That was in Penticton from April 29-May 3. I rode in with Councillor Gould and the two of us ended up in many of the same events. Mayor Coyne and I were together in a few of the other workshops.
On May 20 I rode in my very first parade as an elected official. It was the Keremeos Elks Rodeo Parade and Mayor Coyne and I represented Princeton at that event. On June 29 I had an unusual opportunity as part of the annual Princeton Days Parade. I got to ride down a section of Vermilion Avenue on the running board of the historic Princeton Fire Truck. All members of Town Council were there and I had a cordless microphone. Once we reached Veteran’s Square, I hopped off and proceeded to MC the Parade. I have to admit that the event was a real highlight for me that stands out for the innovative approach taken by adding an MC.
My wife, Brenda, joined me on July 1 (Canada Day) and we manned a booth where we handed out flags, pins, and other Canadiana. Bren quite enjoyed putting temporary tattoos on children (and a few adults). On August 8 I took a solo trip to our Sister City, Tonasket, Washington. I met with City of Tonasket Mayor Dennis Brown and long-time friend Councillor Jensen Sackman. Jensen and I had originally met to discuss the Sister City relationship over dinner and bumped into Brown who was also very interested in proceeding with the Sister City program.
Another Convention Leads To Fall
I had heard about UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) for about as long as I’ve been involved in the media industry. From September 24-26 I had the opportunity to attend my first ever UBCM convention. It was in Vancouver and all of the Town Council, including the CAO, were in attendance. There were full days of workshops, a couple of sessions for resolution voting and scheduled meetings with BC Government Ministers or their staff. It was truly amazing and the 400+ logging trucks that traveled to the event got the attention of everyone there. I was filled with pride when I saw local truckers in the convoy.
Planning, Planning, Planning
On October 11 we entered into our annual Strategic Planning Session with a day-long event at RockRidge Canyon. The second session, October 15, was at Town Hall. The planning sessions covered a lot of territory and lays out the plans of Town Council for the next year and beyond. Projects are suggested and discussed. Those that are accepted find their way into budget sessions later in the year.
A Couple More Personal Highlights
On November 11 I placed the wreath at the cenotaph for the Government of Canada on behalf of MP Dan Albas. This was the third time I have done this for our MP. I was also requested by our MLA, Linda Larson, to place the wreath from the Government of British Columbia on her behalf. As a son of a veteran, I attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies anyway with my wife but what truly made the event a greater honour for me was to place those two wreaths.
One more thing that happened to me in the past year was truly unexpected. I got very ill in mid-November. While in Penticton ICU Mayor Coyne, Councillor McLean and CAO Thomas each made time to stop by and check on me. Not only was their visits crucial to my recovery but once I was out of hospital I feared missing Town Council meetings. Thanks to the ingenuity of the Town Hall Staff, I was able to attend a Regular Meeting of Town Council and a Special Meeting of Town Council via telephone. I made history, although it wasn’t my intention, as the first member of Princeton Town Council to attend a meeting on the phone. I was recovering in Osoyoos during both meetings and the effort made to include me boosted my spirits and demonstrated that we really are a ‘team’ – Town Council and all who work at Town Hall.
Finally Getting Back On Track
I started to attend my regular monthly committee meetings earlier this month after finally feeling well enough to do so. As you can see, it’s been a busy year for me. My schedule is just a small part of what your local elected officials do for you and your community. Hopefully, by sharing with you some of my personal highlights you will see that although there is a lot of work being done, we also enjoy what we are doing.
My name is George Elliott. I have been in the Media Industry since 1978. I spent 23 years in Broadcasting and worked in a total of six different radio stations located in southern British Columbia Canada during my career. In 2000 I switched gears and moved into the Print Media Industry at a small town, local weekly community newspaper. In 2004 I bought the paper and operated it with my wife, Brenda until July 2016 when we closed it. I launched a freelance web content and article writing business from my home in January 2014.