Ladysmith’s mayor looks back and looks ahead

We asked Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins a few questions about the year that was and the year that will be.

Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins

Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins

Q: What would you consider some highlights from 2013 for the Town of Ladysmith and the community?

A: It is difficult to identify just a few highlights as there are so many initiatives, big or small, undertaken by the Town, our partners, service groups, or individual citizens.  They all collectively add so much to our community and help make it such a wonderful place.

We saw in 2013:

• The CVRD investing $4.2 million to dramatically upgrade the Peerless Recycling Centre, which will be open to the public early in 2014

• The introduction of BC Transit to the Town of Ladysmith on Sept. 1, connecting us with communities south and laying the foundation for potential connections to communities north

• Tangible examples of greater collaboration between the Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town — the extension of water and sewer infrastructure to IR 12 and the successful relocation of a significant First Nation’s midden to allow for the expansion of the Town’s sewer plant

• The opening of the Ladysmith Maritime Society’s Harbour Heritage Centre (a must-see), the resurfacing of the Spray Park at Transfer Beach, a new roof and new entrance doors for Aggie Hall, upgrades to Holland Creek Trails, a new base for the Steam Donkey on Transfer Beach Boulevard, the removal and destruction of the abandoned barge on Slack Point by the Ministry of the Environment, additional parking at Forrest Field, acquisition of a new Rescue Truck for our Fire/Rescue Department, electric car charging stations on First Avenue, a new location for Arts on the Avenue with room to grow, and from all accounts the biggest and best Festival of Lights ever

Q: What are you most proud of when it comes to council’s work in 2013?

A: Beyond the collegial, respectful, thoughtful dialogue at the council table, I am most impressed that every councillor is also an active community volunteer and can be counted on to do their part to help make a project successful or an event happen.

Q: Is there anything you wish council could have achieved or moved forward on in 2013 that it didn’t?

A: We were hoping to commence the review of the Waterfront Area Plan by the fall of 2013, but that work has had to be postponed until the new year due to other initiatives such as the updating of the Town’s Zoning Bylaw and the Couverdon Boundary Expansion.

We need to invest in both a new Fire/Rescue Hall and a new City Hall. Preliminary work has been done on both initiatives, but much more work is ahead to ensure both these projects are realized.

Q: From your perspective, what were some of the biggest issues for Ladysmith in 2013?

A: The proposed Couverdon Boundary Expansion has been a cause of concern with neighbours in both North Oyster/Diamond and in Saltair.

The proposed closure of two elementary schools and the proposed move of elementary students to the high school has been a subject of much debate and concern within the community.

Q: As we begin 2014, what is the status of these issues and where do you see them going in the year ahead?

A: The proposed Couverdon Boundary Expansion will be reviewed at a special council meeting on Monday, Jan. 27.  Couverdon will be hosting a public open house on the matter in late January or February.  A town boundary expansion requires a public consent process. At this time, council is intending to initiate an Alternative Approval Process sometime in February.

School closures and reconfiguration of the high school to accommodate elementary students are in the hands of the board of school trustees. As a Town council, we will endeavour to work with our school trustees to ensure the best outcome for our children and our community.

Q: What do you foresee as some big issues for the Town in 2014?

A: 2014 will be a very full year with incredible opportunity for citizen engagement and participation in a number of significant initiatives, including the finalization of the Town Zoning Bylaw, consideration of the Couverdon Boundary Expansion, a review of the Waterfront Area Plan, and the local government elections both for mayor and council and the board of school trustees.

Q: What are you looking forward to in 2014 for Ladysmith?

A: Breaking ground on the final stage of the upgrade to our sewage treatment plant.

Co-hosting with Chief John Elliot a workshop on relationship building with 50 citizens from Ladysmith and 50 citizens from Stz’uminus First Nation.

Reaching an agreement with Stz’uminus First Nation and the Province on moving forward with the cleanup of DL 651(Dogpatch) and Slack Point.

The acquisition of a new site for the replacement of the Cowichan District Hospital.

Q: Do you have a year-end message for the community?

A: In our community, I believe the spirit of volunteerism and generosity is second to none. I am constantly amazed and delighted by the number of people who continually step forward to do their part to enhance our community or to lend a helping hand to others. We are a richer, healthier community because of what you do.

On behalf of Town Council, I would like to wish you all a new year full of good health, laughter and success.