(Neil Corbett/THE NEWS) Pitt Meadows mayor elect Bill Dingwall.

Dingwall’s agenda includes firefighters, Onni

Pitt Meadows mayor says new council faces key issues

Bill Dingwall didn’t sleep a wink on Saturday, the night he was elected mayor of Pitt Meadows.

“Saturday was a really long day for me. You just don’t know whether the community will validate you in terms of votes, or who will be on council with you … the emotion of the campaign that, for me, was over many, many months, all came together on that night.

“When I got announced, it was humbling, but it was also surreal because it just hits you – this is a big moment.”

Sunday, relieved, he started galvanizing his thoughts about what comes next.

“I started thinking about the next four years, what needs to be done, and the environment that needs to be set, and trying to meet public expectations,” he said.

The complex job of business planning for 2019 – setting a city budget of more than $30 million – will begin next month. During that process, Dingwall intends to present a case to hire two more full-time firefighters, to respond to more medical emergencies.

“It’s about public safety for me,” he said. “Our firefighters are great people, who want to do a lot for our community.”

Dingwall said councillors set the service levels and budget, and he wants them to look at having firefighters attend more emergency calls. He would also like to get public feedback about what service levels people want.

“I think with a relatively small investment, we can really improve some of our public safety service levels, whether with respect to attending ambulance delays or dealing with chest pains. This is an important one for me, and for our community.”

Dingwall contends that a cost of $125,000 per firefighter could be covered by a tax increase that will amount to $28 per year for most single-family residences, and $15 per year for multi-family homes.

Dingwall will also be asking council to approve a meeting between himself and developer Onni, to discuss plans for the Golden Ears Business Park.

Onni has planned four million square feet of light industrial space, built in four phases. Phase two is being completed, and Onni estimates the project will be completed in six to nine years.

Responding to residents who oppose the tilt-up concrete warehouse development, Dingwall plans to meet with Onni – as mayor, and accompanied by city CAO Mark Roberts – to see if it would consider changing plans for the remaining phases, which the outgoing council approved.

“To possibly look at other options, and, with agreement, come up with something different. I’m still optimistic that can happen.”

He would suggest some mixed use, including commercial, multi-unit residential and senior strata buildings.

Because it is a conceptual discussion, he was not prepared to discuss tax implications, yet.

“This is about the best use of the land, and the wishes of the community.”

He believes council passing the rezoning for the light industrial development was a game-changer in the election, pointing out there were 500 to 600 people who largely opposed the development at the public hearing, and 1,600 names on a petition against the development.

“I think that did play a huge impact,” he said, and agreed he owes it to those residents to try to change the project.

“And I owe it to myself,” he added. “I never endorsed [phases] three and four. I just didn’t get the vision.”

The official community plan is up for review. Dingwall said the last council deferred indefinitely any development of the North Lougheed Corridor, and he wants to bring that discussion back, particularly as it concerns the large-scale community vision.

“The North Lougheed in our OCP, it’s an important growth opportunity for us. We’ve just got to get it right,” he said.

It is a complex development, because it involves the Lougheed Highway interchange with Harris Road, and therefore the involvement of the provincial transportation ministry.

The city has received citizen feedback on the CP Rail overpass and underpass projects, combined with yard improvements and a third stretch of track. The next step for council will be to review the feedback on the $150 million investment in the rail infrastructure.

“One of the next steps is digesting that, and figuring out where we need to go, with the federal government and provincial governments, Ports Canada, Gateway, CP – there’s some major, major players involved in that one.”

This new council has a lot on its plate, but the mayor-elect is “thrilled” with the new council.

“This is a diverse group of talented people,” he added. “Four new ones, four women [of seven total], some in their 30s, some in their 40s, 50s and 60s, coming with all different backgrounds and a different lens, so I’m looking forward to some great discussions.”

When he’s not at council, the retired RCMP superintendent can be found with his wife Erna and their family. Both of his children, Jackie Ellis and Riley Dingwall, are serving as RCMP officers in the Lower Mainland. He said their competencies are off the charts, and “they make me proud as hell.”

He’s got four grandkids, aged six to 14, and the grandparents can often be found sitting at a sporting event cheering them on.

Dingwall also loves gardening.

“I got a green thumb from my mom and dad. And when I’m out there, if I don’t like something I pull it out, and I move stuff around. And I love the smells, I love the colour and I love just being able to really create a neat environment,” he said. “And it’s peaceful. After a stressful environment, you can go out there, and just leave it all behind, and you get your hands in the dirt, and it’s a whole different feeling.”

He wants to acknowledge outgoing mayor John Becker and the rest of council that is no longer serving.

“While John and I, and others, had our differences, I do acknowledge their public service to the community over many years. Some really positive change did happen in certain areas. For that, I am appreciative of their efforts.”

The first meeting of the new group will be council’s swearing-in ceremony on Nov. 6.

“It’s a really moving night for council, especially for four of them who are brand new,” Dingwall said. “You’re up there, and it kind of all hits you, about the importance of it and the responsibility of it. It’s a big night.”

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