Regional district unveils pandemic recovery plan

The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George unveiled what B.C.'s Restart Plan means for the resumption of district services and reopening of facilities on Thursday.

In a report to the district board of directors, district administrator Jim Martin a loose plan for what services and facilities will return when the province begins Phase 3 of the plan in June.

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"Needless to say, this is a dynamic situation," Martin said. "When I wrote this report, three days later we received a bunch of new information."

Some of the changes expected when the province moves to Phase 3 include the potential reopening of community halls and recreation centres in a modified capacity to meet public health orders; allowing walk-in access to the district's main office on George Street, with modifications to public areas; a potential return of district committee meetings and allowing public delegations to board meetings; and a potential resumption of building inspections of occupied buildings.

Martin praised the district staff and unions for their flexibility and understanding during the pandemic.

"We have flexed the collective agreement to protect the health and wellness of our staff," he said. "About half our staff are working from home."

While some staff haven't been in the office since March 20, others are working partly at home and partly in the office.

Before any of the Phase 3 changes can happen, the district will be required to prepare safety plans, Martin said.

"We have all the pieces of our safety plans, it's just not in one document. It will mean we may not open as quick as some people want," Martin said. 

The regional district has already reopened regional parks, and has maintained services at facilities like the Foothills Boulevard Regional Landfill with social distancing measures in place.

"We never really shut down, we've modified services,” he said. “We're still meeting the needs of the community."

The social distancing measures in effect at the landfill, along with the normal spring rush, means there have been long lines at times at the landfill, he said.

“We have received complaints of traffic – people parked on the shoulder waiting to get into the landfill,” Mayor Lyn Hall said.

Hall, who serves as a director on the regional district board, said he was glad the city was able to work with the district to allow city garbage trucks expedited access to the landfill. The long lines had been causing schedule delays for garbage pick up and resulting in trucks and crews having to work overtime to keep up, he said.

“Certainly the pressure at the landfill has spilled over to the transfer station at Miworth,” director Lara Beckett said. “I’ve received emails about the extreme amount of inappropriate stuff dumped there… mattresses, barbecues, construction waste,” Beckett said.

A full return to the pre-pandemic normal won't happen until Phase 4, when the threat from the disease has faded due to wide-spread vaccinations, effective treatments are developed or the majority of the community has developed immunity by having and surviving COVID-19.

"I'm looking forward to getting further along Phases 2, 3, 4 and the end of this," director Kyle Sampson said.

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