As 2022 draws to a close, it presents an opportunity to look back at some of our achievements and successes over the past year. When I reflect on the past 12 months, the one word that jumps out is growth.
It has definitely been a year of growth and change at the RDEK. The 2021 census figures were released and the East Kootenay’s total population grew to 65,896 from 60,439 in 2016. Our Development Services team continued to see growth in new construction and for the second consecutive year the East Kootenay (including municipalities) has had over $300 million in building permits.
This strong development in our region has a direct impact on our local economy, trades, and suppliers
The RDEK’s Short Term Rentals (STRs) project is now moving into the implementation phase and staff will be working to develop regulatory framework and implement Temporary Use Permits for STRs.
We also anticipate a number of other planning projects to begin in 2023 as we strive to achieve well thought-out, sustainable growth in our rural communities that considers our East Kootenay quality of life, land use, and environmental protection.
Recognizing the growth in our region and increased demand for services, the RDEK Board undertook a comprehensive review of staffing levels and approved a new human resources plan this year to help our organization and staff meet the needs of our residents and plan for the future.
We have continued to expand the use of technology and to enhance our services and ensure effective, efficient service levels to our residents.
Our Board has actively supported the expansion of high-speed internet services for rural residents. We have provided funding for local projects and continue to advocate for affordable high-speed services through the region.
One of the big impacts on our projects in 2022 was related to price escalations.
One example of this is our Cold Spring Creek Debris Flow Mitigation project. With escalating construction costs, the project design is being modified to fit within the budget.
The construction tender is expected to be released in February with construction next year. Several other projects are being re-evaluated to determine cost-effective ways to move forward, including whether the scope can be adapted to fit within current cost constraints.
Climate Change is impacting the frequency and magnitude of emergency events in our region – from wildfires to floods, extreme heat to extreme cold. Our EK Emergency Management Program and Regional Emergency Operations Centre activated in support of a number of emergencies this year, including several wildfires.
On the planning and mitigation side, our team has been working on Regional Evacuation Route Planning and are in the final phases of the Regional Steep Creek Risk Assessment Prioritization project, which will modernize our understanding of flood and steep creek risks across the region.
Our East Kootenay FireSmart Program continues to grow and we commend all residents and community champions who’ve adopted FireSmart principles and worked to make their homes, properties and neighbourhoods more resilient to wildfire. Learn more: engage.rdek.bc.ca/firesmart.
From support for Accelerate Kootenays and electric vehicle charging infrastructure, to heat pump rebate programs, supporting solar panel infrastructure and lighting projects to our ongoing support for our Community Energy Manager position, there are a number of ways we are working to be proactive while also supporting residents to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.
There is no question about the critical impact our RDEK rural firefighters make in the communities they serve. They have also had an incredibly busy year responding to calls ranging from structure fires to vehicle incidents and first responder medical. We want to extend our appreciation to all of our firefighters for your dedication to our communities. Thank you!
In Environmental Services, we are working to establish a transfer station and Recycle BC Depot in Radium. Site design is underway and we are hoping to begin construction in 2023. Work also continues on the development of compost receiving facilities in each of the RDEK’s three subregions.
Information on our current and ongoing projects can be found on engage.rdek.bc.ca – watch for these two projects to have project pages started in 2023.
We continue to see growing use of our Recycle BC Depots at our staffed transfer stations (the Cranbrook and Kimberley curbside programs are also part of this program). These depots not only offer many more options for recycling, but are far more cost effective as the RDEK is paid per tonne of material collected (whereas we have to pay for every tonne in the yellow bins).
The RDEK’s Strategic Plan focuses on priorities around Governance Excellence, Safety and Preparedness, Economic Health, and Management Excellence. You can find a copy under the “About Us” tab on the RDEK’s website.
In October, local elections were held and over 50% of our Board is made up of new directors. This spring we will hold a strategic priorities planning session to establish the 2023 work plan.
Projects will be focused around our strategic priorities and will improve infrastructure; provide environmental protection; support wellness, recreation, agriculture, and economic diversification; strengthen regional planning; promote relationship building; and, continue to help us prepare for, and respond to, emergencies.
As you can see, it has been a busy year and we are anticipating another dynamic year ahead in 2023. None of this would be possible without our incredibly dedicated and hard-working staff.
From the teams that keep our arenas and parks in such beautiful shape, to the crew that cleans up our transfer stations in all weather conditions, to those who run our fire halls and protective services, or keep our water and sewer service working, or who provide that friendly “hello” when you call our offices, each and every employee of the RDEK is a part of our collective success. We want to acknowledge the work they do in support of our region and thank them for another outstanding year.
On behalf of the Board and staff, we wish the very best to you and yours and all the best for the year ahead.
Rob Gay is the board chair of the Regional District of East Kootenay and Area C Director