Should the City of Revelstoke do more to ‘buy local?’

This week, Revue reviews a few stories and issues related to Revelstoke's city hall.

Revue, by Aaron Orlando

This week, I have a collection of odds and ends from over the past seven days.

Should the City of Revelstoke shop locally?

Should the city shop locally? The rest of us are encouraged to do so, so why not the municipality?

Oh, wait. For the same reason that many people drive out of town to do their shopping: because they can get the same goods for cheaper elsewhere.

But doesn’t that take dollars out of our local economy? Sure it does. How do you balance your altruistic motivations with the need to keep an eye on your bottom line? And how do you prevent from getting gouged if you set up a policy that steers city business to local companies?

Perhaps the City of Revelstoke could open an exploration of their policies on that note?

I asked city CAO Tim Palmer about the status quo. He sent me a copy of the city’s existing purchasing and tendering policy.

In fact, the city’s policy does have a “Local Preferences” clause. Basically, local suppliers will be favoured if they can offer the same materials or service and their bid is no more that 5 per cent above out-of-town bids.

Could the policy be amended to consider triple-bottom-line considerations? That would be something council could do at their own choosing, Palmer notes.

He adds that they don’t have a free hand in the matter. Palmer is aware of legal challenges in other jurisdictions. Bidders who lost out based on buy-local clauses have sued municipalities and won.

He’s also aware of instances where companies made themselves “local” by renting a shingle and a telephone line.

Then there’s the consideration of provincial and federal legislation, such as TILMA.

What’s for sure is the 5 per cent clause wouldn’t have helped local company Jake and Jay Holdings Ltd. win the city’s recent gravel-crushing tender. They were out-bid by Okanagan-based Cantex by $117,264 for a contract to crush city gravel at the city pit on Westside Road.

Cantex’s bid was $375,760, while Jake and Jay came in at $493,024.

New fire mapping plans out

After a soggy weekend in the Interior rainforest, it’s hard to get anyone to take you seriously if you shout fire.

Only a few attendees showed up at the fire hall for a look at the city’s new wildfire protection mapping project. More neighbourhood-level meetings are planned this week, and I encourage you to attend.

Most of the information presented at the meeting was discussed in a previous story in the Times Review, but here are some interesting new points.

“It’s not if, it’s when,” says mapping plan consultant Archie McConnachie. “It’s supposed to be a Teflon forest, but that’s not true.” He should know. He’s the former Revelstoke fire protection base manager and has served around the world as a wildfire consultant.

Big fires have swept through here in the past, and they’ll come again, McConnachie said. He discussed a fire around 1900 and another one in the late 1930s.

Two areas are of particular concern. One is a wind-whipped fire racing across the west face of Mt. Mackenzie that would then bear down on Arrow Heights.

Another is a wildfire in the city’s watershed above Bridge Creek. The terrain is hard to access and fire-fighting chemicals are poisonous (they contain arsenic, for example). Fighting a fire there would be difficult and could cut power to the water supply.

Another unique challenge is the temperate rainforest. It takes all summer to dry out. By late August, crews based in Revelstoke are usually helping out with fires elsewhere, making it tough to hit lightning-caused fires hard and fast.

Cindy Pearce also served as a consultant on the plan. She explained the writing is on the wall for changes in the insurance industry. Homeowners in wildfire-prone jurisdictions such as California are getting hammered with steep insurance rates. How long will it be before that makes its way here?

If wasn’t a doom and gloom presentation. The city is making their plans and encourages homeowners to do the same. They have easy-to-understand documents that show homeowners simple steps they can take. Check out one of the neighbourhood meetings this week, or find the plan on the City of Revelstoke website.

OCP Land Use amendments

City planning director John Guenther tabled a draft of Official Community Plan land use changes at the June 14 city council meeting.

“Its basically subdividing the city,” Guenther explained to council. The land use changes have been in the works for years, including public planning sessions in 2010.

What does it mean for your neighbourhood? The city is proposing new development permit areas (DPA) for many areas in the city. It is hoped the DPAs will guide the form of the neighbourhoods (including new buildings) within the individual neighbourhood plans.

What the city wants now is your input. There will be public drop in sessions at the Revelstoke Community Centre from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from June 27–30. There will also be a presentation on June 29 from 7–8:30 p.m. at the community centre. Public input runs through July 31.