Dave Ridley asks council when Lake Cowichan’s municipal hall renovation will begin. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

VIDEO: Town residents get chance to take aim at Lake Cowichan council

Peeling paint on town hall, young people on council, blocked fire access, and more spark debate

Lake Cowichan town council stands up to take it on the chin twice a year.

Recently, Mayor Ross Forrest fielded comments about the need for seniors housing, and assisted living accommodation, and about improving accessibility for seniors in town.

Other residents said, “access to the lake is terrible”, “too bad there is no walkway along Point Ideal Road”, “are we looking at ways to bring business into Lake Cowichan beyond service jobs and tourism”.

City planner James Van Hemert replied to that last one, saying, “we want to identify ‘employment lands’. The people moving here still have a willingness to start businesses. Yes, we can attract these people but we are still competing for them with folks who are located along the Trans Canada Highway.”

Justin Martin said he wanted to see “more quality of life for professionals working remotely. We can’t just say we want it to be the way it used to be.”

Dave Ridley wanted to know what’s being done about the municipal hall because its appearance was embarrassing for the town. Also, the council chambers need a sound system because folks sitting in the audience can’t hear what councillors are saying.

Forrest said, “We want to work to begin on the hall this year. It is an eyesore. We haven’t wanted to borrow money to do the work. We’ve probably got $1.3 to $1.4 million right now in reserve funds for it. We’ve also applied for grants. Hopefully, work will begin soon. It’s time. We’ve had hand-me-down buildings for 75 years.”

Richard Weir of Brookside asked what could be done about the old J. H. Boyd School site, which, he said, is a fire hazard in summer with the long grass drying out.

The mayor explained that “It’s private land. It’s not under town control. He’s been issued letters about the derelict building.”

Weir also asked that another problem be addressed, saying that when Palsson Elementary School, down the hill from the subdivision, was holding school concerts, cars were parked so high up Grosskleg that “no firetruck could get up there. It needs signage.”

Betty Sanddar said that plants along sidewalks along Wellington Avenue were encroaching on the walking area.

“The hedges grow over the sidewalks. There’s no space for moms and buggies,” she said.

Rod Peters said, “I’m worried about the financing of the ball field. Do you have a final cost? Was it on budget?”

“Yes,” Forrest replied.

Martin then asked how younger people can be encouraged to run for council, and Forrest said that “every citizen has the right to run. Our election is on Oct. 20”

Christa Franklin wanted to see more control of traffic speeds on North Shore Road.

“We need 40 km on North Shore Road. The fast drivers are locals, not tourists. It’s high time North Shore Road was fixed.”

Forrest said that council was looking at getting a speed reader board for that road.

Cathy Wagner raised a common concern about forest fires in Lake Cowichan’s summer droughts.

The situation could be desperate if there’s a fire in Lake Cowichan because there is only one car bridge across the Cowichan River.

“We need a plan of our own. If we get a fire, we’re out of luck. What happens if something horrific happens? The CVRD is 20 minutes away. What is our game plan? What can I do to help?” she asked.

Forrest said, “We’re working on that one.”

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