Late spring is finally in the air with the birds singing, trees and shrubs starting to bud but unfortunately the lake ice is still with us. It shouldn’t be long by its appearance.
Recently, the Sinclair Group announced curtailments for their 3 local sawmills. Apollo will be down 4 weeks in June while the other 2 will be down between mid May to late July. This affects the community from mill workers, loggers, local businesses and all their immediate families. Our community is resilient and will get through this again.
The forest industry is presently under a strategic review with representatives from Provincial government, First Nations, Local government, forest companies and all other stakeholders meeting and discussing the future of our forest ecosystems. The Mountain Pine Beetle ravaged a large portion of mature Pine throughout BC and we are paying the price today. The forest industry will not be the same going forward. If previous generations were to come back today I’m quite sure they would say “what happened?”
We are in that transitional part of the year from snow to water activities. Soon we will be able to get out and enjoy the summer with family and friends. Council and I put in a request for a perfect summer this year and are hoping someone reliable heard us and they pull through.
Another month has gone by and the days are starting to get noticeably longer. With luck we will receive considerably more precipitation before the start of the next fire season.
Over the past few weeks, Nak'azdli Whut'en and the District of Fort St. James have been working on building and strengthening our relationship for the benefit of "our" community. These meetings have been very successful and the next few have already been planned.
We hope to see you in the stands on February 25th at 6:45 pm for the First Annual Nak'albun Combined Community Hockey Challenge at the Fort Forum Arena. Come cheer on the teams representing the District of Fort St. James and Nak'azdli Whut'en.
Food for thought - Try not to focus on how we are different. Instead, consider how we are similar.
Lets look forward to spring, lets look forward to working and playing together.
Happy New Year to all and hope you were able to enjoy the Christmas season with family and friends and not affected by the cold or influenza.
It's budget time for myself, Councillors, and the admin team. Thank you all for your comments and feedback on our 2023-2027 financial plan budget survey! you can find a copy of the report on the front page of the website.
Now that the days are officially getting longer, its time to take advantage of the rest of the winter season. Be sure to get out and enjoy the Winter classic hockey tournament this weekend at the Ernie Sam Memorial arena and the Fort Forum Area this weekend, and the Caledonia Classic Dog Sled races at Cottonwood Beach February 3rd to 5th. Check out the District webpage for more planned WinterFest events throughout the month of February.
Take care and enjoy,
Greetings to all the residents of Ft St James and the surrounding area. Christmas is upon us once again, and I hope it finds you and your family well.
I ask you to shop locally and support our local merchants and artisans so that they can keep their doors open.
The winter season can be difficult for those less fortunate, hopefully you will show your kindness with a helping hand at this time of year.
On behalf of the District staff, myself and Council we would like to extend a heartfelt Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year.
Mayor Martin Elphee
At this time, I would like to thank the previous Mayor and Council for the commendable job they did over the past four years. The present Mayor and Council were recently sworn into office and are ready, willing and able to get on with the job at hand.
The first order of business for the new council is the 2023-2027 budget. As in previous years we are looking to you for input into this process through Public Survey. You can do this either by picking up a paper copy at the front desk of the District Office during regular business hours or go online to the District website fortstjames.ca, go to the drop down in the bottom right - 2023-2027 Financial Plan Survey. We welcome and value your input. Thank for taking a few minutes of your time to complete this survey. The deadline is November 30, 2022.
There is a tremendous amount of activity going on in the community presently with winter logging just starting up, the construction of the new hospital, seniors housing complex and the RCMP building. As well, Fort St James Forest Products has recently started operations with about 60 new employees.
Any concerns or ideas for change feel free to contact me at the District Office.
Influenza season is just beginning, and covid hasn’t yet gone away so we still need to stay safe and stay healthy.
Mayor Martin Elphee
When I was elected Mayor almost two years ago we were in the midst of Covid restrictions and almost all volunteer recreation and social programs in Fort St James, the very programs that make our community livable, had been cancelled. Finally, after Two Years to Flatten the Curve we were, in April permitted to once again connect with our families and friends and after two missed years. On July 1st, 2022 we held a celebration. Canada Day in Fort St James is the event that brings all our residents together. This year’s event was no exception and was an unqualified success. A big shout-out goes to Brooke Eschuk, our Economic Development Officer for her fine organization skills and for bringing her entire family to set up the barricades for the event. The weather co-operated, the fireworks were great, and we will work to make our 2023 Canada Day event even bigger.ImageImage
I have written this report on a forward-looking basis and I refer you to the Annual Report for a more historical perspective. The biggest news in Fort St James is that construction of the new Stuart Lake Hospital is now underway. This facility, when it opens in 2024, will provide our community with enhanced medical services including additional Extended Care beds and together with a recently approved 36 unit Senior’s complex will allow our senior residents to age in place in Fort St James instead of being moved to a facility in a neighboring community as is currently the practice.
District staff is seeing a significant upturn in inquiries about sub-divisions and other forms of development as the number of housing units available locally, both purchase and rental, continues to shrink. I was informed by several employers recently that they are experiencing significant difficulty in recruiting workers for Fort St James positions due to the severe shortage of local accommodation. Fort St James is not alone in this situation – all Highway 16 communities have experienced a population influx over the past 12 – 18 months as city / urban residents, for many reasons, are choosing a rural lifestyle. Our local housing situation is even more pressing however as we risk being unable to attract the additional hospital staff that will be needed to run our new larger hospital if there is nowhere for them to stay. All housing options including public / private partnerships are being investigated and increasing available housing in Fort St James is now the top priority of our District Council going forward.
We continue to experience staffing struggles in the District Office with two senior positions currently unfilled and as a result it was necessary to hire, on a temporary basis, Martin Taylor, as Acting Chief Administrative Officer. Recruitment efforts are underway to fill the Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Officer positions however it will likely be September at the earliest before new staff members can be in place and until the positions are filled, we will all need to be understanding of the pressures our existing District staff are currently working under. A big Fort welcome to Doug Lowther, our new Public Works Superintendent. Doug grew up in Burns Lake and is pleased to be returning home to the Bulkley Nechako area.
A new District of Fort St James Municipal Council will be elected on October 15th and for those of you who would like to have a say in local matters or if you have different ideas on what the District should or should not do – I would strongly encourage you to run. Take a look at the Government section of our website for more information on how to gather nominations, and submit your name for candidacy.
The District of Fort St James recently signed an Agreement to work with Nak’azdli Whut’en with respect to the construction of a new Wastewater Treatment plant on Nak’azdli reserve. Nak’azdli Whut’en would own and operate the facility and the District of Fort St James would pay its proportional share of the facility’s operational costs. We have yet to be provided with any technical or financial data for the project as it was originally proposed and we were recently advised that inflationary pressures have now resulted in the need to make substantial revisions to the original proposal. These revisions reportedly required resubmission to the appropriate funding agencies and we would expect to be provided with a full financial outline for the project once that process has been completed. The District of Fort St James is in no way committed to move forward with this project and in fact cannot commit to anything without knowing what the full financial details of the project actually are. The District’s current wastewater facility is over 60 years old, does not meet current environmental standards and Band leadership want this facility shut down and the site decommissioned at the earliest possible date. Nak’azdli Whut’en is driving this project bus and I would expect that the District of Fort St James will be their co-pilot and sit in the front passenger seat.
On the economic front the recent purchase and reopening of the Fort St James Green Energy plant by Nak’azdli Whut’en and Arrow Transport and the new soon to be operational Hampton Lumber Fort St James sawmill are our local good news forestry stories and while I would like to be able to tell you that the cloud of uncertainty that was hanging over the interior forest industry is gone – I can’t. The industry continues to shrink due to a diminishing fibre supply and high operational costs, with even more economic pain to come as the new forestry business model is further implemented. And just when you think things couldn’t get worse, the just announced interest rate increase and the likelihood of further rate hikes in the coming months will depress housing demand and result in a drop in lumber prices, further increasing the economic pressures on industry players and forestry dependent communities, in the months ahead. The interior forest industry is a long way away from being out of the woods yet (pun intended).
I remind you that I am available to talk about any aspect of this report or in fact about anything Fort St James. My cell number is 250 996 3752 – just give me a call.
By its actions, our community has once again proven that we can come together in a time of need to make something special happen. You have reached deep, very deep, into your pockets to support our Fort St. James Search and Rescue Volunteers in acquiring a much needed training and service facility with individual donations in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars and a night to remember fund raising dinner.
The amenities we enjoy in Fort St. James today, from the Curling Rink to the Golf Course, Ski Hill, Seniors Centre, Music Makers, TV and Radio services and even the Fort Forum were all created and build by volunteers. The Search and Rescue effort has shown that we are still a community that cares and will volunteer to assist our neighbour and to help improve our community. This is what makes Fort St. James a truly special place to live and you all need to take a collective bow - you've done The Fort proud.
Bob Motion, Mayor