The Kitimat Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual luncheon with Mayor Phil Germuth, to discuss the council’s strategic plan that will take place over the next few years. (Kitimat chamber of Commerce poster)

The Kitimat Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual luncheon with Mayor Phil Germuth, to discuss the council’s strategic plan that will take place over the next few years. (Kitimat chamber of Commerce poster)

Council to focus on LNG construction impact

More housing also on its ‘to do’ list

For the first time ever, the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual luncheon with Mayor Phil Germuth discussing council’s strategic plans.

The virtual luncheon was open to the public and residents got the chance to ask questions about council’s priorities.

A key strategy is to manage the impact of the LNG Canada project to ensure the appropriate resources are in place.

“We had to recognize significant resources are needed to manage community impacts and build capacity. […] Staff are constantly reviewing the workload and number of personnel, the council has approved additional positions for increased activity within the community and in the event of losses to other employers with new positions as needed,” Germuth said.

“We now have a dedicated by-law officer, the municipal office hours have been extended to make it more convenient for people, public works is undertaking a review of space and reconfiguring the yards and buildings -as per approval of the 2020 budget. Leisure services have hired a trades gardener, the engineering department will be hiring technical services manager, and environmental services manager, and a Haisla Bridge construction coordinator.”

The mayor also said the District of Kitimat will complete a housing needs assessment to increase the amount and variety of housing.

“We need to address affordable housing, seniors housing, and derelict properties,” Germuth said.

The second strategic plan is to protect the environment and adopt sustainable practices by reducing and diverting landfill waste, completing solid waste management and implementation plans, implementing curbside recycling and composting, and providing educational opportunities for residents and developers.

“We are implementing our new solid waste management strategy to reduce the volumes going to the landfill, and increase our recycling services,” Germuth said.

“Although this may be a coincidence because we are early into the new program, the number of bear issues this spring has been much less than it has been in the past years.”

Council also wants to align community and corporate emissions reductions to protect the environment.

“We also want to be an active member of the Kitimat Airshed Group, so the district has appointed a representative and an alternate, approved the bylaws, and granted $10,000 a year [to the Kitimat Airshed Group] for 2020 and 2021,” Germuth said.

The third strategic plan is to diversify the economy and support existing and future industry, by revitalizing commercial centres. Council has reviewed concepts like pop-up shops, food trucks and additional space for market vendors and other mobile vendors.

The council will also be working on completing the downtown master plan, as well as focusing on Nechako Centre, Lower City Centre parking lot, and Mountainview Square.

“We want to identify tools and policies that encourage investment and rejuvenate our commercial centres and also create vibrant public areas by improving our infrastructure and public spaces,” Germuth said.

The council also hopes to attract small and medium robust enterprises.

“The public consultation is complete for the downtown plan and design guidelines. Also, the downtown plans and visual design principles have been adopted with the design guidelines, making it easier for developers coming in and knowing exactly what’s expected of them,” Germuth said.

“We’ve also been working closely with the chamber to support them and their tourism attraction initiatives as well.”

The fourth strategic plan is to build working relationships based on mutual respect and trust with the Haisla and the Gitga’at First Nations, as well as to identify opportunities to partner, collaborate, and develop an improved shared vision between Kitimat and Kitamaat Village.

“The Haisla Nation cultural awareness is being planned and options are being developed for increasing the Haisla Nation representation within the district,” Germuth said.

Relationship building with other bodies in the region is also on council’s ‘to do’ list.

“We want to participate and join initiatives to benefit the region, including the northwest BC workforce and resident attraction initiative, and to collaborate regionally, to implement the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance,” Germuth said.

The fifth strategic plan is to enhance social wellbeing by advocating and working with senior levels of government, to protect community members from negative social impacts.

“At the LNG Canada social management round table, which holds quarterly meetings, we represent the community with six department heads,” Germuth said.

The district also plans to create a community engagement manual leading to better communication between the council, residents, local stakeholders, and members or representatives of vulnerable populations.

The manual, which is planned for 2022, is an attempt to make the development process easier for industries or companies coming into town.

“This communication manual is for any type of industry or anybody coming to town to let them know about community organizations so they can figure out who to talk to and get better input instead of finding out later in the process they missed the chance to engage with a particular group,” Germuth said.

Council also committed over $1.7 million for community grants in 2021, as well as working with Unifor and Haisla to make the workforce more inclusive.

The sixth strategic plan focuses on human resources and asset management, by establishing the District of Kitimat as an employer of choice.

“Policies and procedures are been reviewed on an ongoing basis including, the hiring procedure, medical leave forms, harassment policies, and parental leave forms,” Germuth said.

The district is also looking into new formalized safety procedures to ensure consistency throughout all the district departments.

To ensure accommodation for the town’s existing needs and future growth, under the same strategic plan, Germuth also emphasized that the district is preparing a water system master plan. Water system upgrades are planned to start taking place this year which will include a new filtration system that should help ease turbidity problems during heavy rains and runoff.

“Our system is older and we’ve had some upgrades over the last few years, but we’re now working with Northern Health to develop a capital plan for significant upgrades over the next few years. […]We’re hoping by the end of this year will have a new filtration system that will hopefully put [water quality advisories] to an end or greatly decrease,” Germuth said.

During the virtual luncheon, Germuth also discussed the district’s 2021 budget and Kitimat’s asset management, which will be covered in the paper over the next few weeks.

READ MORE: Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth joins protest against racism