While staff and council of the Village of Burns Lake recognize the importance of hearing feedback from the community, the format of the annual town hall meetings might need some rethinking.
The town hall meetings give residents a chance to address their concerns face-to-face with councillors and village staff in a round-table format.
Burns Lake has held three town hall meetings so far. In 2013, there were 40 people present. In 2014, that number came down to 16. And in 2015, that number was even lower, 14.
The 2015 town hall meeting cost tax payers $3100. Out of the total amount, $2870 were used for paying village staff (preparing posters, agenda and power-point presentations; attending meetings with council to prepare presentations; taking minutes, etc.); posters explaining the proposed budget cost $100; snacks served during the meeting cost $30; and the rent of the facility cost $100.
During a budget meeting on Feb. 17, 2015, village staff asked council to consider the cost of holding these town hall meetings against its benefits.
A village staff report suggested changing the format or timing of the meetings to encourage participation of the public and reduce costs. Formats suggested by staff included hosting the event in the summer at Spirit Square, offering door prizes, hosting the event at the Lakeside Multiplex, serving dinner at the event or combining the town hall meeting with some other event such as the annual fall fair.
The most recent town hall meeting was held at the Vineyard Church on Jan. 29, 2015. Among the feedback that the village received from the public is that repaving the roads in Burns Lake should be a top priority, specially Eighth Avenue and its sidewalks.
During the town hall meeting, there were questions from the public regarding the water discolouration that people in Burns Lake experience. Staff explained that fixing that issue could cost the village $5 million.
It was also suggested during the meeting that the tree on Gilgan Drive near the post office can cause dangerous visibility issues for drivers.
Some community members felt that it was important to find ways to promote minor hockey as enrolment numbers are dwindling. Other community members proposed using solar panels on the roof of the Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena to reduce energy costs.
Community members also asked for youth programs to be expanded at the Lakeside Multiplex, and for the village to have a golf course. Also discussed during the town hall meeting was the idea of placing promotional highway signs outside of Prince George and Smithers, attracting more people to Burns Lake.
Council did not make a decision to change the format of the town hall meetings during the budget meeting of Feb. 17. Instead, council decided to bring this topic back for discussion at a later date.