They came. They saw. They learned first-hand what’s happening in the northern part of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.
That’s one way to describe last week’s visit by SLRD directors, alternate directors and senior administration to Lillooet, Seton Portage, BC Hydro’s Bridge River power complex, Gold Bridge and Bralorne.
“The tour has been going really well,” said SLRD Board Chair Gimse at a July 11 open-air reception at the Miyazaki Heritage House. “The reason we do this tour is we time it with the election cycle. We had a quite a turnover in last year’s election and we’re dealing with issues that impact Lillooet, we’re dealing with issues related to Gold Bridge and Pavilion, Seton, issues around the Highline Road, so as a board, it’s really hard to fully understand what some of the challenges are for our rural communities and our northern areas without actually seeing how things look on the ground and talking to people who are impacted.”
She said the two-day tour of the northern SLRD also gave board members an opportunity to spend time together - outside of a formal meeting setting – and get to know each other better.
Gimse said board members had a very informative tour of the Bridge River power complex, which will help inform their discussions about Hydro Payments in Lieu of Taxes.
The District of Lillooet, led by Mayor Dennis Bontron, wants a larger share of those payments and voted last October to set the wheels in motion to extend its boundaries to include BC Hydro installations as “satellite areas.”
BC Hydro currently pays $700,000 annually in Payment in Lieu of Taxes to the SRLD as the local government jurisdiction where the Hydro installations are located.
“It’s good for the board, particularly those who are new to the board, to fully understand why we receive those funds and where they come from,” said Gimse. “We were standing there today, looking at Carpenter Lake and there used to be a community there. That’s a lost tax base right there. Who knows what potential that valley could have provided to the economy of the area?”
She said the issue of Payments in Lieu of Taxes is of “high interest” to the District of Lillooet and northern directors Debbie Demare (Area A) and Mickey Macri (Area B).
“I’m confident that before the next budget session, we’ll be having a conversation on the BC Hydro Payments in Lieu of Taxes and the distribution of those funds,” said Gimse.
Commenting on the Highline Road linking Seton Portage to D’arcy, Gimse said the regional board has had some discussion with the Ministry of Transportation regarding the status of the road; however, the ministry indicated it is not going to make any decision until a Supreme Court case is concluded in Kamloops.
“They’ve made it really clear they’re not going to do anything until that’s concluded,” stated Gimse. “But they did say they would look at putting a counter on, to better understand the numbers, and maybe if the numbers are higher than anticipated, they may be able to change the road’s classification, which could see some increased funding.”