(THE NEWS/files) Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall.

Pitt Meadows council considers busy first year

Council watchers critical of tax hike, pay increase

Members of Pitt Meadows council say they’ve had a productive first year in office, but some council watchers are critical.

Council recently offered a year in review report, prepared by staff, after passing its first anniversary on Oct. 20.

Coun. Tracy Miyashita said she has never seen a council accomplish so much.

“This is my fourth term on council and I think we’ve done more this year than my [other] terms combined,” she said. “I knew we had accomplished a lot, but when you see it on paper, it blows your mind. And there’s a lot that didn’t make this list.”

Mayor Bill Dingwall listed some of his highlights.

Near the top: re-starting development on the North Lougheed project. It’s a 50-hectare parcel between Harris Road and Golden Ears Way.

“The North Lougheed is huge…” he said, adding it will be “a whole community we’re going to be really proud of.”

Along with that comes consultation with the province on improving traffic flow on the Lougheed.

Also in the transportation file, he noted the city is also still working on agreements for the CP Rail overpass at Kennedy Road and underpass on Harris.

The city hired two more full-time firefighters, which he called “a huge public safety win,” and is in the process of designing a new fire hall.

The police services review will also result in improvements, like greater police visibility, he said.

“One of the biggest legacy pieces we can do for our community is the police review.”

Dingwall said the city has changed how it engages with citizens in a variety of ways, including social media, its committee structures and community engagement.

“We’ve changed the style of the way we do business,” said Dingwall. “We’re about principles and integrity, and having a code of conduct.”

Along with that, he said, there is an improving relationship with Maple Ridge.

He and CAO Mark Roberts recently met with Mayor Mike Morden and new Maple Ridge CAO Al Horseman, and discussed areas of mutual interest.

“We’ve turned it [the relationship] 180 degrees.”

Dingwall said the list of areas of progress for council is long.

The city is updating its official community plan and there are eight new development projects underway at Pitt Meadows airport, as are new flood protection initiatives and new daycare spaces.

William Wild, a council watcher, is not dazzled by the new council’s first year. He said they are a lot of rookies, so they are impressed with how much work the city does, but he doesn’t see it as an inordinate amount.

It was the first year in the municipality’s top job for Dingwall, and four of the six councillors were rookies – Nicole MacDonald, Mike Hayes, Bob Meachen and Anena Simpson.

Wild, who has been attending council meetings for about 20 years, said council mostly has not yet seen the fruit of its labours, other than hiring firefighters.

“There hasn’t been a lot done – there’s been a lot of talking,” said Wild.

City hall staff is tasked with producing the reports, bylaws, community engagement and other work that results from council initiatives.

“This council has taken on an awful lot of stuff – a little too much all at once,” said Wild. “Staff is getting buried with work.”

An example, he said, is the recent announcement that city hall will now organize Pitt Meadows Day, where the community event was once organized by volunteers.

The new council approved a 5.58 per cent budget increase, which Wild was critical of.

“They don’t seem to be too worried about pensioners or people living on the edge of keeping their home.”

Former mayor Don MacLean said he did not like that the new council voted itself a large raise, in part to cover changes in federal tax laws that will take more of their salary.

The mayor’s salary rose approximately $22,000, and councillors $11,000.

“It’s hard not to accept a raise when it’s dangled in front of you, and easy to blame the federal government,” said MacLean.

Several councillors and the mayor ran in opposition to Onni’s Golden Ears Business Park development, but that is now a major source of tax revenue, said MacLean.

“They’re using that tax money to pay for their initiatives.”

MacLean said the community should be concerned that there is a loss of “corporate history” at city hall, with a continued loss of senior staff members, and now a lot of newcomers on council.

He also said there could be a lot of work remaining on the North Lougheed study area, and has questions about who will be building the required east-west connector road, and who will be paying for it.


 

@NeilCorbett18
ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

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