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Mayor Brain scheduling multi-stakeholder meeting to save Alaska ferry in Prince Rupert

Council briefs: Beware of hogweed, permanent residents voting rights, marina revenues down
Harrison Holt takes a picture of the New Alaska Marine Highway ferry Tazlina at the Juneau terminal on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Michael Penn

Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain is working on a multi-stakeholder meeting to discuss long-term solutions to the service cuts from the Alaska Marine Highway System.

“The challenge has been trying to organize that many people and everyone has decided to meet in-person because the problem with this issue is that no one really met physically in the same room to discuss solutions,” Brain said to council at their July 22 meeting.

Brain said they are looking at bringing together the governor’s office in Alaska, the state’s department of transportation, members working on the Alaska Marine Highway System overview, members of the Southeast Alaskan conference, BC officials, and officials from the consulate general’s office.

READ MORE: Uncertain future for Alaska ferry terminal in Prince Rupert

Brain said during his recent visit to the state, celebrating the Fourth of July celebrations, the governor’s office was receptive to new approaches and to how the marine system operates into Prince Rupert.

“Although there might be some decreases this year, I’m certain if we get everyone in the same room solutions can be presented for a longer-term solution to the entire ferry system,” Brain said.

Prince Rupert will not see many ferry’s come to port from the Alaska Marine Highway System during their next scheduling cycle.

Service to Prince Rupert is scheduled once per month from October-April, excluding the months of January and February which will see no service to the city.

READ MORE: Ferry schedules cost an Alaskan team a spot in the All Native Basketball Tournament

The proposed ferry schedule does provide service to Prince Rupert during one day in November and February for the All-Native basketball tournament as well as in March for Spring Break Smithers.

No date has been organized yet for the in-person meeting, however, Mayor Brain will be up in Alaska at end of September of the annual Southeast Alaska conference where he will be meeting with different mayors in the state.

Other council news: Beware of hog weed, support for permanent residents voting rights, May financials

Councillor Barry Cunningham brought the issue of increased hogweed, white-flowered weed, to council’s attention saying that several residents have been experienced severe burns from cutting it down and picking it up without knowing the plant is toxic weed.

READ MORE: Spread of invasive species in Canada costs billions, changes environment

Council voted in favour of endorsing a motion Union of BC Municipalities convention in September requesting that the province change their laws to grant permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections.

The vote comes after council heard from a group called Fresh Voices about their Lost Votes Initiative in June regarding their campaign to help permanent residents participate in local democracy.

“I think this is pretty important because we have a lot of people that have lived in the community for years but don’t have the right to vote and they can contribute in a lot of ways. I think it is something we should try and emphasize and put through,” said Cunningham.

Mayor Brain echoed his statements and said the decision to support the motion was a “no-brainer”.

READ MORE: COCULLO: Permanent residents deserve permanent voting rights

Chief Financial Officer, Corinne Bomben presented council with the May 2019 budget variance report. Cow Bay Marina faced a slight loss in revenue for the month of May compared to 2018, which Bomben said other marina’s have felt throughout the province for no particular reason other than the ebbs and flows of business. Costs for water maintenance and quality testing were higher than May 2018 due to an increase in service repairs and the airport ferry refit came in at a higher cost than budgeted due to necessary repairs.

Steph Lysyk was reappointed for another two-year term on the Prince Rupert Library Board and welcomed Rosa Miller as the city’s new corporate administrator.

Council voted to move forward with rezoning property lots at Biggar Place by Five Corners from residential use to commercial use. A public hearing is scheduled on Monday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m., before regular council begins, where the public may speak to any objections.

Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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