After two years, we will soon be turning the page on the pandemic.
The province is easing COVID-19 restrictions while maintaining critical protective measures to support health and safety. The provincial health officer has lifted restrictions on personal gatherings, organized gatherings and events, nightclubs, bars and restaurants, exercise and fitness, and adult sports tournaments while keeping the B.C. Vaccine Passport, indoor masking requirements and COVID-19 safety plans in place.
The district is returning to in-person meetings with our Council Procedure Bylaw allowing for electronic meetings to occur in an emergency, special circumstance, or public health event that prevents or restricts members from meeting in one location physically. The meeting attendance does not require the B.C. Vaccine Passport, while indoor masking is needed.
I am pleased to share the district has received $353,449 (100 per cent funding) from the province’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program’s Destination Development stream to invest in the Sooke Potholes.
Ten local short-term jobs will be created by the district for the project, including building two accessible toilets, widening staircase access to the beach, installing wayfinding signage and a visitor information kiosk, and making parking improvements. Construction will begin this fall with anticipated completion by May-long weekend 2023.
We will also be seeing new (term) jobs created with the district as our team works hard to respond to increased demand with residential building permits (36 per cent over the last two years). Stay informed about upcoming job opportunities by visiting sooke.ca/jobs.
Processing permits is a challenge, and improvements are needed to develop capacity and efficiencies. I have shared my frustration in the journey we have taken in working towards a solution; this is a complex problem in a growing community. Please know our team has heard your concerns, is working on updates to the building bylaw and will be reporting back to council in short order with revised targets for our service delivery when processing residential building permits.
The district successfully received $494,270 through the Local Government Development Approvals Program to help us review the existing system and update our technology. The implementation of this project will take time (final reporting September 2023), so the filling of temporary positions will enable our team to catch up and improve service delivery.
Building and construction projects in the community include those within district operations. Residents will notice a trailer outside the fire hall on Otter Point Road. Using funds from the COVID Restart Reserve Fund, the district supports emergency services planning and enhancements for facility reopening after the pandemic.
The renovation will rectify deficiencies identified in a Baseline Property Condition Assessment conducted in 2020, including occupational health and safety requirements and upgrades to the sprinkler, plumbing, and heating and ventilation systems.
The renovation also includes a universally accessible washroom in the council chamber and upgrades to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and its technology, along with first responder training facilities. The EOC is critical for the district to ensure public safety during an emergency. Such facilities will also allow space to provide emergency service public education sessions.
With that, I invite you to attend a virtual FireSmart education session hosted by Ashlene Aktarian, the district’s FireSmart program coordinator. Sessions are available on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 1 p.m., Monday, March 21 at 10 a.m. and Wednesday, March 23 at 1 p.m.
The sessions are an opportunity to learn about the threat of wildfire within our community and help Sooke become a more resilient community. Reserve your space and book a complimentary home/property assessment at sooke.ca/firesmart. Through the program, we are looking to develop neighbourhood participation pods. Please reach out to Ashlene for more information.
Active community participation is something Sooke is known for, and I am thrilled to highlight a new facility that will bring our community together.
The Sooke branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library on Wadams Way will open next week. A grand opening event is being planned for Saturday, March 26. Many thanks to all involved in this project.
Speaking of opening events, stay tuned for details on opening celebrations of the Stickleback Dog Park (March) and the sports box in Sunriver (June). I will keep you informed on these events and invite you to subscribe to the district’s monthly newsletter as a great way to stay connected or call us at 250-642-1634.
Finally, I would like to remind local organizations that the district’s community grant program is open, and applications will be received until March 15. Please visit our website to learn more and to apply or call the finance department at 250-642-1634.
Maja Tait is the mayor of Sooke. Email email@example.com.
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