Thursday, February 17, 2022 – I hope you and your family are well as we look ahead to Family Day weekend. After two years, we will (relatively) soon be turning the page on the pandemic. The province announced the easing COVID-19 restrictions while maintaining key protective measures to support health and safety. The provincial health officer has lifted restrictions on personal gatherings, organized gatherings and events, nightclubs, bars and restaurants, exercise and fitness, and adult sports tournaments while keeping the BC Vaccine Card, indoor masking requirements and COVID-19 safety plans in place.
The district will return to in-person meetings on February 22 with our Council Procedure Bylaw allowing for electronic meetings to occur in an emergency, special circumstance, or public health event that prevents or restricts members from being able to physically meet in one location. Please note that meeting attendance does not require the BC Vaccine Card, while indoor masking is required.
I am pleased to share the district has received $353,449 (100% funding) from the Province’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program’s Destination Development stream to invest in the Sooke Potholes. Ten local short-term jobs will be created for the project that will include building two accessible toilets, widening staircase access to the beach, installing wayfinding signage and a visitor information kiosk, and making parking improvements. Construction will begin this fall with anticipated completion by May-long weekend 2023.
We will also be seeing new (term) jobs created with the district as our team works hard to respond to increased demand with residential building permits (36% over the last two years). Stay informed about upcoming job opportunities by visiting sooke.ca/jobs.
Processing permits is a challenge and improvements are needed to develop capacity and efficiencies. I have shared my frustration in the journey we have taken in working towards a solution; this is a complex problem in a growing community. Please know our team has heard your concerns, is working on updates to the building bylaw and will be reporting back to Council in short order with revised targets for our service delivery when it comes to the processing of residential building permits.
The district was successful in receiving $494,270 through the Local Government Development Approvals Program to help us review the existing system and update our technology. The implementation of this project will take time (final reporting September 2023), so the filling of temporary positions will enable our team to catch up and improve service delivery.
Building and construction projects in the community include those within district operations as well. Residents will notice a trailer outside of the Fire Hall on Otter Point Road. Using funds from the COVID Restart Reserve Fund, the district is supporting emergency services planning and making enhancements for facility reopening after the pandemic. The renovation will rectify deficiencies identified in a Baseline Property Condition Assessment conducted in 2020, including occupational health and safety requirements, and upgrades required to the sprinkler, plumbing, and heating and ventilation systems.
The renovation also includes a universally accessible washroom in the Council Chamber and upgrades to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and its technology, along with first responder training facilities. The EOC is critical for the district to ensure public safety during an emergency. Such facilities will also allow space to provide emergency service public education sessions.
With that, I invite you to attend a virtual FireSmart education session hosted by Ashlene Aktarian, the district’s FireSmart Program Coordinator. Sessions are available on Tuesday, February 22 at 10am, Thursday, February 24 at 1pm, Monday, March 21 at 10am and Wednesday, March 23 at 1pm. These sessions are a great opportunity to learn about the threat of wildfire within our community and will help Sooke become a more wildfire resilient community. Reserve your space and book a complimentary home/property assessment at sooke.ca/firesmart. Through the program we are looking to develop neighbourhood participation pods, please reach out to Ashlene for more information.
Active community participation is something Sooke is known for, and I am thrilled to highlight a new facility that will bring our community together! The Sooke Branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library on Wadams Way will open next week. A grand opening event is being planned for Saturday, March 26. Many thanks to all involved in this project.
Speaking of opening events, stay tuned for details on opening celebrations of the Stickleback Dog Park (March 2022) and the sports box in Sunriver (June 2022). I will keep you informed on these events, and invite you to subscribe to the district’s monthly newsletter as a great way to stay connected or call us at 250.642.1634.
Finally, I would also like to remind local organizations that the district’s community grant program is open and applications will be received until March 15th for the 2022 funding stream. Please visit our website to learn more and to apply or call Finance at 250.642.1634.
Sooke is a remarkable point in our 22-year history. As we get set to celebrate several significant community milestones, I wish you and your loved ones all the very best on this Family Day weekend.
Mayor Maja Tait
The District of Sooke is within the Coast Salish territory, on the lands of the T’Sou-ke and Sc’ianew (Cheanuh) First Nations.