With B.C. entering Phase 3 of its COVID-19 recovery strategy, Regional District of Nanaimo has approved a plan to help it bounce back from the pandemic.
There have been no new health-care facility or community coronavirus outbreaks, according to B.C. Ministry of Health’s June 24 update and with numbers seemingly trending the right way, RDN directors approved a blueprint intended to guide the region back to normalcy at a meeting Tuesday.
According to a staff report, the COVID-19 resilience and renewal framework consists of four stages. The first stage ran from late May through mid June, consisting of restoration of access to outdoor programming and parks and reopening RDN’s head office with limited hours.
The second stage has just begun, running through September, and will see reopening of recreation facilities based on demand and restoration of indoor and outdoor recreation programs, with social distancing.
A third stage is estimated to begin in September and would include transit and solid waste services at full service levels. Stage four would see restrictions on trails, sports courts, playgrounds lifted and full counter service at the RDN administration office. It is estimated this would likely take effect after a vaccine is available.
Recreation, transit and solid waste were among areas the RDN suffered a loss in revenue, said the report. Adjustments to regional district work plans for 2020, as well as its five-year financial plan approved in February, will be identified by staff in order to allow appropriate delivery of service, stated the report, “while providing an adjustment to the tax requisition from current projections in future years.”
The RDN will review its strategic plan in the fall, when the effects of COVID-19 are better understood, and that could lead to changes. As a recovery is projected to span over a number of years, RDN plans could be continually examined and adjusted, the report said.
Ian Thorpe, RDN board chairperson, was pleased to have guidelines in place.
“This framework will guide us through the pandemic, providing clarity and ensuring economic continuity and resiliency in our region,” Thorpe said in a press release. “The RDN will continue to promote the health and well-being of residents first and follow direction from the provincial health officer as we provide … service for residents.”
While future reports would examine “distribution and use of community works funds (gas tax money) with capital projects that meet the board’s key strategic priority areas, with a focus on efficiencies and reduction of the overall tax requisition in these service areas,” Leanne Salter, RDN Errington area director, introduced an amendment to remove that.
”Quite honestly, from what I can see, all that we do with our community works funds already reduces taxes to our electorate, so we’re already doing that with the work we do in the communities,” said Salter. “I am not prepared to allow this to happen and to give up our community works funds to the regional district for your tax reduction mitigation considerations.”
Bob Rogers, Nanoose Bay director, voiced support.
“I make what I think are some fairly efficient uses of community works funds within electoral Area E, or recommend use of them supported by the community,” said Rogers. “I also don’t think it’s appropriate to have this referenced within this resiliency program.”
The framework also prepares for the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19, with a Stage Zero phase where the RDN would return to stringent measures.