*Transcription of video recording*
This is Mayor Maya Tait with an address for April 20th. As I begin, I wish to acknowledge that we are gathered on the territory of the T’Sou-ke Nation.
I would like recognize Nova Scotia, my heart is with the victims and families of the mass shooting that occurred over this weekend. Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the Nova Scotia RCMP, died Sunday morning while responding to the active shooter incident. A very tragic event. Our thoughts are with you and we are standing with all of you during this time.
I am now going to proceed to give some updates, starting with the District of Sooke Council. You may recall that we held a special meeting on March 31st, the intent of this meeting was to adopt our five-year financial plan. However, direction to staff at that meeting given that all the budget meetings occurred in pre-Covid times, was for staff to return to Council with ideas on how we can amend our budget to reflect the current situation. Council meetings are now back to the regular schedule every second Monday; however, we are meeting remotely with the use of the zoom platform. Our meeting on April the 14th was recorded and is available for viewing on the District of Sooke website, the next regular meeting is scheduled for April 27th. Council is always available by email at Council at email@example.com. We are still limited on how we can include the public, for the moment this will need to be done via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highlights from our April 27th meeting included:
- Development Procedures. Council directed staff to report back on amendments on procedures that would enable us to maintain compliance, public transparency and progress applications while meeting the public health orders.
- Official Community Plan status update. The project is expected to span at least two years; 2020 will focus on a technical review. The last update for the OCP was completed in 2010 and there has been several revisions since this adoption. It is timely for us to complete the full review with serious consideration given to the district’s direction for growth and how best to protect areas that our community values the most.
This year’s community grant program has been eliminated and we will be reconsidering applications for 2021. As the community needs are still in a state of flux, as many of the programs are, we feel it was the most responsible decision to make currently. It is wonderful to hear about additional funding sources being made available to support many of our core service agencies, such as the Victoria Foundation’s donor driven rapid relief fund. We are grateful that many community organizations in Sooke have now received funding. We have also directed staff to obtain clarity of line-item funding within our budget, as there is a connection between the line-items and the grant policy.
Other District matters. The Provincial tax framework adjustment allows for local governments to delay School Tax remittance in order to help municipalities manage cash flow concerns. Provincial measures also include the ability for us to borrow from existing capital reserves to pay for operating expenses; however, it is our opinion that with the allowable delay in school tax remittance, the District of Sooke will not need to borrow from existing capital reserves. Please note that staff will be coming to Council with a report in the coming weeks. I would also like to remind everyone that the province does have a property tax deferment program in place for anyone 55 years and older, as well as for families with young children. There is an online tool that you can use, which provides assessment and mortgage loan details, to see if you qualify as there is minimum equity requirements.
You may have seen on Twitter that street-sweeping will be kicking off on April 21st, we are asking that residents park off the streets to enable the work to occur over the next four weeks. The sweepers start at 5:00 a.m. and will run until 2:30 in the afternoon. They will start on April 21st on the west side of the Sooke River, covering streets north of highway 14. If parking off street is not an option, if you see or hear the sweepers coming through please move your vehicles temporarily.
Calls for service, or Report an Issue, are available for residents, you may continue to report any maintenance concerns by completing the online form on the District website, calling the district at 250-542-1634, ensuring to leave a detailed message or by sending an email to email@example.com. Please provide as much detail as possible including a description of the issue location and contact information, should have follow-up be necessary.
Building permit applications continue to be accepted electronically by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or they can be hand-delivered through our drop box at the district entrance.
Land development applications are still being accepted and those can be directed to email@example.com.
Permit applications are also being accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Payments for property tax, permits and business license are all being accepted through the drop off at the district’s entrance. Any queries can be sent to email@example.com.
We have many residents who require proof of life service for international pensions, these can be arranged by appointment through phone or email, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fire inspections continue to occur, these will be prioritized and conducted at the discretion of our fire , please email email@example.com to book an appointment.
Road maintenance contractors and park staff are continuing to work and complete essential work, please practice social distancing by not approaching them closely with any questions or concerns.
Our CAO Norm McInnis and I are also in conversations on how we may progress Sooke’s community development plans that were scheduled to appear in person this month in a virtual setting. It’s timely now more than ever that we find collaboration in synergies amongst community stakeholders.
Backyard burning. Bylaw and the Fire department have been very busy responding to numerous complaints, it has been a record month and we’re asking residents to be compliant to help take the pressure off these departments, who are already stepping up to support the community during the pandemic. Please be reminded that no backyard burning of garden or yard debris is permitted at this time, but small campfires no bigger than two feet across in a contained ring are permitted. Before calling to report any illegal burning please ensure that it is not a campfire that is being enjoyed. This is a province-wide restriction. We wish to thank all the residents who are composting their garden and yard waste as an alternative, while we continue to explore other viable options green waste can be disposed off at A & P Garbage Disposal and Recycling on Marilyn Road, there is a fee for the service.
CRD Parks have issued 2 media release reminding all visitors to use the parks responsibly for the parks to remain open, this includes the Sooke Potholes Regional Park and the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. Please also keep a physical distance from park workers as they work to keep our community clean and safe. It would also help if you could please pack in and pack out any trash, including doggie waste.
Community watch is becoming important even while we are at home. It does help to have all eyes and ears on the neighborhood. We’ve received reports of vandalism rising in the recent months, which diverts tax dollars from more meaningful and important work to clean up after senseless vandalism acts. Examples of this are things like supergluing garbage can lids closed and ripping branches off of trees and shrubs.
Our local Chamber of Commerce has launched a new Better Buy Sooke program, this is a way for businesses to showcase an online store and enables residents an opportunity to buy a gift card now that can be used later. If you visit www.betterbuysooke.ca you’ll have a sense of what’s happening, since the Chamber launched this last week, they now have 30 live businesses and about 30 more about to launch. They have had over 4,400 views and over 700 users. I am also pleased to share that the Sooke Lions Club have completed the business directory of the printed phonebook and are updating the online version for businesses at no cost.
The Canada Emergency Business Account now provides up to 40,000 and government guaranteed loans to businesses that had payrolls last year between $20,000 and 1.5 million. It had previously offered loans to businesses with a narrower range of payrolls between $50,000 and 1 million, these loans are interest-free until December 31, 2022 and if paid off by then 25% of the total will be forgiven.
A reminder to please check the Covid-19 information page for regular updates, including a financial support information page, a summary, and links to various financial supports to residents and businesses. This page is updated regularly as new supports are announced.
You will notice that our Fire department has started up a drive-by birthday for residents. This is for anyone under the age of 12 or over 75, the Fire department is helping to celebrate these birthdays with lights and sirens during this time of social distancing. To register, there is a fillable form available at the Sooke Fire Rescue page on the website.
The Greater Victoria mental health resource guide is now available online and in print. This document is in partnership with various community agencies, the guide explores mental illness, local resources and how you can help.
I would also like to give a shout out to Brook Ervin whose been cooking up a storm for our community. Her inspirational story was picked up by Chek News last week, as she has now made over 1,200 homemade meals and delivered them throughout our community. As you may know her late daughter, Hannah Day, continues to inspire Brook’s personal recipe in rediscovering her own strength and joy while taking care of others. Her goal in this is that no one goes to bed hungry and she will continue as long as there is a need in our community. Thank you so much Brooke.
The Sooke Food Bank continues to be busy week after week. They are in delivery mode in supporting over 200 households, just under one thousand people in our community.
Many students are online learning in virtual classrooms. To support families looking for additional resources to help their children the Ministry of Education has created the Keep Learning website https://www.openschool.bc.ca/keeplearning/ , which is updated almost daily with new activities for children of any age. The website receives hundreds of thousands of visitors and pageviews every week.
BC Transit is still serving Sooke with an approximate fifty to seventy percent reduction in ridership. Additional cleaning measures have been implemented and a reminder to board through the rear doors, unless the ramp is needed, and please note that fares are not collected at this time. BC transit today announced from the Board of Directors that they have made the difficult decision to defer all planned 2020/2021 expansions until 2021/2022 in order to focus on service and ridership recovery in every transit system. BC Transit will work closely with the Commission and the province to better understand the financial implications of this pandemic and to evaluate available funding to enable expansion planning to resume one’s ridership returns. This was provided to the Transit Commission this morning, so we are just in the process of receiving this information. It is difficult because here in Sooke we had finally received our own transit plan and that had the necessary expansion built into it.
The Capital Regional District board currently has its meetings every two weeks via teleconference, the board agendas go live per normal and directors are telephoning into the system. All the committees are suspended. The CRD budget has been passed with no change, as regional boards have earlier filing deadlines than municipalities.
A few other community reminders. The Diabetes Canada donation bins, this is not the time right now to donate items at the bins. The District has been contacted from Diabetes Canada to remind residents to please hold off on donations for now, the Saseenos and John Muir school bins are overflowing and have become an eyesore. Our staff have been asked to help support clean up at these areas, so anything that has being dropped off here is likely going to be land fill. Please just hang on to your items at this moment. Also please stay the course with social distancing, we are making a difference together. Go for a walk in the neighborhood and limit your shopping to essential items only, as needed. Dr. Bonnie Henry reminder us that the rate of new Covid-19 cases is slowing down because of our collective actions, but we are in the eye of a hurricane right now and to fully weather this storm we must remain a 100% committed the modelling. It is clearly shown that if we relax the measures too soon, we will face more severe and unnecessary damage.
Please stay safe Sooke. Continue to be there for one another and thank you so much for all that you are doing!