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Deal with the smell: Gibsons residents help identify budget 2024 priorities

Residents ask about the smell at the Wastewater Treatment Plant and share their concerns about road safety

As around 20 members of the public gathered at the Gibsons Public Market to discuss their priorities and wishlist for the 2024 town budget, one topic that received a lot of commentary: the smell from the wastewater treatment plant. 

Mayor Silas White, who was guiding the town dialogue event on Feb. 7, estimated that half of the people in attendance live close to the treatment plant.  

In regards to plans for the design and expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, director of infrastructure, Trevor Rutley, said there have been operational changes since he’s started that seem to have made some improvements to the odour. Odour control will also be an “integral part of the expansion of the plant in the future,” the presentation said. Rutley noted that when the part of the system went offline for a longer period last winter, staff ordered replacement parts and backstock so when the same component failed again, staff had it up and running again the next day. 

The building itself isn’t the most airtight, one attendee noted. One resident who said he lives near the tennis courts said he used to smell the odour often but hasn’t in the last six months.

White started the two-hour event by asking attendees for their priorities. He said the intention was not to go line by line through the budget getting to know citizen’s concerns and feedback — positive or negative — about what Gibsons should be putting money into or taking away from. He listed resident priorities from 2023, which included prioritizing the Official Community Plan update, the desire for traffic calming, a dog park, encouraging rentals, seawalk enhancements, and odour control for the treatment plant. 

White noted that the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s budget deliberations are farther along, so Gibsons knows the SCRD portion of its taxes is going up significantly. On top of town-related costs and services (42 per cent), Gibsons’ taxes go toward the regional hospital (one per cent), BC Assessment (less than one per cent), police taxes (currently four per cent but will increase once Gibsons’ population reaches 5,000 residents), school taxes (25 per cent), and the Sunshine Coast Regional District (27 per cent). 

Capital projects that have been completed or advanced in 2023 include the design for the Pebbles Beach access (which staff aim to fund from capital reserves and open for the summer), water main work at Venture Way and Cascade Cres., and a sanitary sewer strategic plan, among others. 

In the presentation slides, the Town of Gibsons identified its 2024 priorities as active transportation / pedestrian safety, stormwater management, paving, housing, the preliminary design for the wastewater treatment plant expansion, a water main replacement for Skyline Drive, and Well 3 upgrades. 

Some points of discussion at the event included the desire for garbage cans by bus stops and the seawall, the “neglected” look and lack of colour of Marine Drive, as well as traffic, speed and road safety concerns on both municipal roads and the highway. 

Attendees also had questions about how the town finds grants, the upcoming tax increases for RCMP services, about requiring frontage improvements from developers, and development cost charges (DCCs). Staff acknowledged that the DCC rate is low compared to construction costs, and an update is coming to council this year, after which staff hope to review the rate annually to keep up with inflation. 

One woman complimented Town staff on their gardening, the hanging baskets and the well-stocked doggie bag stations. Another attendee complimented the town’s new urban forest plan, which is in development.

At this stage in the budget process, the Town of Gibsons has made decisions regarding utility bills, but discussion regarding which projects will be included and a projected tax increase are still to come.