Contributed by Rachel Lesosky, Local Journalism Initiative
Nakusp Village council gathered on Nov. 6 to discuss a new strategic priorities document in a Committee of the Whole (COTW) meeting.
The document includes four strategic priorities, each with various supporting initiatives with action items. The priorities are guiding lights to ensure council’s work is aligned with the community’s values. The supporting initiatives and action items are specific, achievable, goals that council can work towards over time. The four strategic priorities will come before council in the next few weeks for a formal decision.
Priority 1: Natural assets
The first priority focuses on maintaining, enhancing, and leveraging the Village’s natural assets, such as the hot springs, the waterfront, invasive species management, and water conservation. Council honed in on the waterfront.
“The fact that I go down there and there’s almost nobody there is shocking to me,” said councillor Aiden McLaren-Caux. “It should be full of people all the time.”
Councillor Tina Knooihuizen proposed the idea of bringing the farmers’ market down to the waterfront, but that raised questions of accessibility and the market becoming less visible than in its current location on Broadway Street.
Councillors also worried about the marina.
“It’s irresponsible for us to just let it disintegrate the way it is,” said Councillor Dolly Edwards. “We need to do something with it; it’s a major asset. It would be like never repairing your roof.”
Many hypothetical fixes were proposed, and all agreed that work needs to be done to find answers and concrete solutions before moving forward. But the marina remains a top priority.
Priority 2: Good governance
The next priority focuses on good governance and corporate excellence. Supporting initiatives include investing in the community, proper asset management, investing in staff, and improving communications.
Discussion turned towards taxation. Staff is currently paid through property taxes and a small government grant. There is no indication that the government will yank the grant, but if that does happen, there would be a significant tax increase in order to pay staff. Council would like to find ways to make staff wages more sustainable.
McLaren-Caux raised the importance of communication and ensuring the community knows when changes in taxation are happening. The strategic document specifically says that “a responsive and accessible government is paramount to building public trust.”
Priority #3: Organizational resiliency
Organizational resiliency is the next focus. Council discussed how resilience helps the Village better adapt to change and gives it the ability to plan ahead. Action items include collaborating with other local governments to share resources, looking for ways to reduce costs and improve service delivery, and reaching out to First Nations to build positive relationships.
McLaren-Caux raised the need to obtain concrete, measurable data on facility usage to inform the Village where to spend money most effectively.
Knooihuizen mentioned missed opportunities surrounding the arena. For a very minor amount of money, she said, the arena could be greatly improved.
“It’s the biggest budget line on our taxes and it’s not making money. It could be making us more money, or at the very least functioning and bringing people in.”
A topic that came up often was tourism.
“Further developing Nakusp as a tourist destination…but with what capacity?” said McLaren-Caux. He explained that he couldn’t book a hotel room for a friend for a Saturday night – in November.
“I think if we build a hotel next to the arena, that would be a great idea.”
Again, proper data and metrics would better inform the Village on how to best move forward on ideas like this. A proposal for a hotel development was brought before the previous council, but it was set aside because the proposed location was controversial. If it were to be brought back, residents would have a say through a referendum.
Edwards expressed concern about missed opportunities for hosting hockey tournaments due to the lack of accommodations.
Priority #4: Livability
Finally, council discussed the last, but not least, priority: livability and community building. Council hopes to enhance Nakusp as an attractive place to live, and as a visitor destination. Initiatives to achieve this include cost-effective recreation services, diversifying employment options, and improving and developing the Village’s trail network for active mobility. It also emphasizes the need to develop housing options, and creating conditions for residents to live in a safe, clean, and equitable community.
Mayor Zeleznik said the Village had applied for a grant that will help develop the industrial area, if successful. Columbia Wireless will soon be presenting a proposal for high-speed internet. Zeleznik also stressed that it is important to set aside reserves for repairs and replacements that may be needed in the future.