Tag Archives: Gazette

City continues to benefit from slag fund

With a mining history, the City of Grand Forks is still able to make a profit, and in turn benefit from its Slag Sales Reserve Fund.

The slag pile fund is a reserve fund that collects royalties from the sale of slag by Pacific Abrasives, the company that now operates the site.

Slag is the remnants of copper that was mined at the Granby Mining site by the Granby Mining Company Ltd. since the early 1900s.

When the copper was removed from the mines, it was then refined and made into a product that could be utilized in various industrial operations.

During the smelting process, a byproduct that is produced is a black slag, caused because it has a strong iron component.

“There’s all kinds of mining slag around the world and this is one of the few slags that we would call inert,” explained Lynne Burch, Chief Administrative Officer. “There is no arsenic in it and therefore it can go right into the water, which is why the U.S. Navy likes to use it to clean their ships.”

The slate is crushed into a granular state and shipped by rail from Grand Forks to the U.S. Navy in San Diego, Calif.

There are two types of slag created by Pacific Abrasives.

“There’s the granulated slag, which are the smaller bits, seen in the large piles off Granby Road, and the blocks underneath called the ladle slag,” Burch described.
“The ladle slag, when the smelting process of the copper was underway near the bank of the water, becomes hard rock when it touches the cold water.”

The slag becomes diamond hard and has a thermal quality to it that makes it a good product for insulation, she stated.

“The city bought the rights to the slag pile in the 1960s and we have an exclusive agreement with Pacific Abrasives that allows them to utilize the slag and sell it,” stated Burch. “In return, the city gets a royalty, which is a payment per ton. Right now its $2.50 per ton.”

Depending on the market, some years are better than others, but Burch believes there is around 20 years left of slag material to be crushed and sold. “We make money off of that and all the money that we make goes into what we call a reserve fund, like a savings account. We’ve been spending money out of the slag fund for the city since 1977.”

The fund has been used to update buildings and facilities like roads, the aquatic centre, City Park irrigation line and campground, and James Donaldson Park, as well as upgrades and renovations to equipment and furniture such as the fire hall completion, and airport upgrades.

City Chief Financial Officer Cecile Arnott stated, “We’ve spent more than $12 million from January 1977 for projects in the city.”

As of December 2010, the Slag Sales Reserve Fund has a balance of just over $1 million. Figures for 2011 will be released sometime next month.

“Council decides when to use the slag fund, and different councils have different priorities for the slag fund,” explained Burch. “The last five to seven years, council has been reluctant to use the slag fund because it’s going down. It’s not a written policy, but they have determined that they want to use it for things that they consider to be determined a legacy.”

Burch explained that in other words, ‘legacy’ is things that will be a lasting benefit for the community.

Mayor Brian Taylor noted the Slag Fund is used for important matters, which is fairly open to council interpretation on how it’s used.

“Recently, projects are more regional and have a lasting legacy to it, like the trail system,” Taylor said. “It’s been instrumental in a lot of projects including the library, the arena and swimming pool. The Slag Fund has gone into a lot of major projects over the years.”

Burch added, “The city is very lucky and unique to have to slag fund.”

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Doukhobor recounts 1950s child seizure

From 1953 to 1959, approximately 200 Doukhobor children, aged seven to 15 years old, were removed from their homes from the Grand Forks and Kootenay region and placed at the New Denver Residential School by the B.C. government and RCMP.

Almost 60 years later, the event still leaves Vera Dutoff nervous. A mother of two at that time, Dutoff recalls hearing the yelling from a neighbour across the Kettle River and that was all the warning families received before police would start knocking on doors minutes later.

“There were around four to five police cars each time,” stated Dutoff. “The man who would warn us would stop at as many homes as he could and say, ‘Hide them.’”

Dutoff recalled her own father standing outside with a pitchfork working and how the police thought he would fight them.

The police would ask if we had any school kids and her father would reply, ‘No we haven’t any school kids,’ stated Dutoff.

“The police would ask again, ‘Where are they?’ and my father would repeat again, ‘We haven’t any school kids’,” she said. “And that’s the way they asked.”

Police would proceed to check all the homes for children, before leaving; sometimes physically removing a child, sometimes empty-handed.

Children were then taken to the New Denver Residential School, located in New Denver, B.C., roughly 200 kilometres north of Grand Forks, because parents had refused to send them to school. The government claimed that the children were removed from what was perceived to be negative influences. To avoid having their children taken, parents hid them beneath traps doors or they told them to run into the mountains to hide.

Under a padded mat, a room in Dutoff’s old home had a trap door that opened to a small crawl space, just big enough for a child to hide.

When her children were older, they hid for several days in a small shack near the Canada-U.S. border along with several other children in the Gilpin area. The cycle was repeated several times over the course of six years.

Born two years after the New Denver Residential School closed, Dutoff’s daughter Katie Slastukin does not remember much but has been informed of what occurred.

“I remember (being told) that my older brothers used to go up into the hills whenever they would hear a police raid coming,” said Slastukin. “They had a little shack out near the border and they would camp out there for a couple of days at a time.”

Though Slastukin’s elder brothers weren’t caught, she noted that it affected everybody.

“All the kids that were (at the school) were entitled to counselling (after) – healing therapy, the (government) called it, but many chose not to do take it. They don’t want to open old wounds,” she stated. “The event spread to their spouses, siblings and children as well; the siblings of older children were affected by them not being there.”

Children were required to attend school until they were 15 years old. After that, they were able to leave the school or didn’t have to hide anymore.

“There are a lot of people who don’t want to talk about it,” explained Slastukin. “People remember but it still affects a lot of them.”

In April 1999, the B.C. Ombudsman completed a full investigation that produced Report No. 38, “Righting the Wrong, The Confinement of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobor Children.”

The report concluded that the Doukhobor children were wrongly confined and experienced many losses, including civil liberties, loss of language, religion and culture.

Doukhobor religion was based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and followed the laws of the Ten Commandments.

Some of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors  retaliated through arson, and protested nude through the streets.

Currently, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal is hearing a complaint from the Sons of Freedom Doukhobor children, who continue to seek an apology and compensation from the government in response to the report.

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Clearwater’s Mullen wins Rail Trail


For the second year, Clearwater, B.C. resident Steve Mullen and his 12-dog Alaskan Husky Adventures team took top honours in the Rail Trail 200 International Sled Dog Race.

Jillian Taylor from Rocky Mountain House, Alta. was the first, and only team in the event’s two-year history, to complete the 100-mile (161 km) race with her eight-dog sled team.

As the only team remaining in Fiva, roughly 53 miles (85 km) from the finish line in Greenwood, Mullen was announced the winner by the race marshal who called for the end of the race.

The event began Friday morning in Grand Forks behind the Station Pub with the 100-mile race concluding in Beaverdell Saturday morning, while the 200-mile (322 km) race concluded at the Fiva checkpoint Saturday night.

Dr. Ruth Sims, an organizer for the event, stated Mullen was basically racing against himself near the end of the route.

“Mullen didn’t pull out of the race, but because he was the only one left it stopped making sense to continue the race,” explained Sims.

Mullen, who has been racing for over 30 years, stated the trail route was particularly difficult.

“This race has the distinction of being the toughest 200-mile race that I’ve ever been in,” he said. “It’s not necessarily that some sections of the trail were difficult, but there’s a lot of elevation changes, and a lot of climbing.”

The trail route was laid throughout the Boundary, following previous railroad tracks and logging routes that are no longer used.

“Some of those logging roads, I don’t know how they got those logging trucks up there, or down for that matter,” chuckled Mullen. “They’re more like skidding trails.”

Bruce Sims, a member of the board and route co-ordinator, noted the route did have some alterations from last year’s route.

“We’re still looking for the perfect trail,” he pointed out.

There will probably be more changes for next year to the route, Bruce, who is Ruth’s husband, pointed out.

Dr. Sims added there was more snow this year than the last year.

“It went well overall, but it was a challenge,” she said. “There was a lot of snow that came during the race which made the course a lot harder. The conditions weren’t ideal but the mushers made it.”

As he gets older, Mullen stated it’s always a good test for himself and his dogs.
“I love seeing what my dogs are capable of doing and I’m really proud of my leader,” Mullen said. “For the second year in a row, she’s really held us together. She found the trail in really difficult spots and I think she only missed a few of my commands the whole race, and there were a lot of commands.”

Mullen isn’t certain he will be returning next year, or if he will still be racing, but he would look to help with the Rail Trail.

“If I’m not (racing), I’d actually like to come back and help set the race, like putting the trail together,” he said. “I’ve been involved with putting races on in the past and I know the hard work put into it.”

Dr. Sims hopes that everyone returns next year, even though it’s uncertain what the weather will be like.

“We’re just going to keep trying to make it better every year,” she said.

Mullen added, “I really think this race can be a real success story with just a little bit of tweaking and fine-tuning.”

There were five participants for 200-mile race: Christina Traverse and Randy MacKenzie from Fort McMurray, Alta.; Gerry Walker from Pierceland, Sask., Rick Wannamaker and Steve Mullen from Clearwater, BC.

In the 100-mile race, participants Jillian Taylor and Steve Taylor arrived from Rocky Mountain House, Alta.

Rail Trail 200 is a pre qualifying race for both the Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska and the Iditarod Trail Sled dog Race in Alaska.

For more, visit railtrail200.com.

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Electricity rates in city set to rise

Grand Forks residents will see an rate increase of four per cent in the price of electricity effective Jan. 1.

Last April, policy 1205 was adopted by city council addressing the issue of electrical rate increases.

The policy states that because the city buys electricity from FortisBC at a wholesale rate, staff are directed to bring forward a bylaw that would amend the Electrical Utility Regulatory Bylaw.

As outlined in the amendment bylaw, the rates to be a minimum of 98 per cent of the rates charged by FortisBC for residential homes and that commercial rates are adjusted to maintain competitive rates compared to FortisBC.

“It’s been increased with accordance to council policy,” said Lynne Burch, chief administrative officer for the city. “Council policy says that any time that there’s a rate increase given to the city by Fortis, that we automatically bring a bylaw increasing the rate to 98 per cent of the Fortis rate for residential.”

Alex Love, the city’s electric utility consultant, noted through email that the FortisBC rate would be finalized through a hearing process starting in March.

“This means the final rate will probably not be set ‘till mid-summer,” he added. “I think if there is any change between the interim and final rate it will probably be a small amount.”

In terms of electrical utility rates and connection charges, residential services will be charged a basic minimum of $14.95 per month with an additional $0.09394 per kWh (kilowatt per hour) based on actual consumption.

For commercial, industrial or institutional services, the basic minimum will be $16.50 per month with $0.10255 per kWh for the first 200,000 kWh or less consumed in a two-month billing period.
Should the usage be above 200,000 kWh, it will cost an additional $0.0761.

For service charges on existing service connection and reconnection, there will be a $30 fee. The fee applies to applications including if the owner wishes to establish a new electrical utility account in their name, having the electrical meter read, turning off or on an existing electrical service and a reconnection of a meter after disconnection for violation of the terms and conditions contained in the bylaw.

The four per cent interim rate includes a 1.5 per cent revenue requirement and a 2.5 per cent rebalancing.

“The general rate increase (1.5 per cent) is the rate change that applies to all the FortisBC customers,” stated Love. “In 2009, FortisBC had a rate design hearing to review the rates of all their customer classes (residential, wholesale, commercial …) as a result of this hearing, it was determined that some customers were not paying their fair share of electrical costs (some were paying too much, others too little). Thus there was a rate rebalancing put in place that will take two to three years to implement starting in 2011.”

Rate rebalancing resulted in a 2.5 per cent increase for FortisBC wholesale and residential rates in 2011 and 2012.

“This rate rebalance is on top of any general rate increase,” said Love. “After all the rate rebalancing is completed, the customer classes should all be paying pretty close to their fair share of electrical costs.”

Love pointed out that 2012 would see the final rate rebalance seen in the wholesale rates to the Grand Forks electrical utility.

These current rates are subject to change should the final FortisBC 2012 rate increase, but it is not expected to occur until the summer of 2012. Final reading for the bylaw occurred last Monday.

The residential electrical rates increased by 9.9 per cent in March 2011 and 3.9 per cent in July 2011. These increases include the rate rebalance component.  Grand Forks and FortisBC residential rates have both risen approximately the same amount over the last several years.

It is currently forecast that the rate increase in 2013 will be about 6.5 per cent.

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City considers upgrades to Dick Bartlett Park

City council has accepted a report from city staff in regards to submitting an application for a government funded recreation program.

The Community Recreation Program was announced by the province at the end of October and provides funding to municipalities and regional districts, with a priority towards smaller communities.

According to the Government of B.C. website, the $30-million Community Recreation Program was created to “address the unique challenges faced by communities in the province with respect to meeting their recreational infrastructure needs. The program will invest in local government capital projects that make communities healthier, more active places in which to live.”

There would be a cost sharing formula, which would see the provincial government contributing 80 per cent to a maximum of $400,000 for recreational infrastructure in support of healthier families.

The aim is to increase physical activity by providing greater access to recreation facilities, including trails, recreation centres, bike paths, walkways and playgrounds.

Should Grand Forks be successful in its application, city staff noted that costs exceeding $400,000 would have to come from city coffers, specifically from the Slag Fund Revenue Reserve Fund.

Of the three options provided by city staff, it was recommended that Dick Bartlett Park see upgrades including a green gym, water park and a walking/bike path route.

The renovations to the walking/bike path route would add to the City’s Bicycle Network Plan.

The added route would go south along 19th Street, west along 68th Avenue, and north on either 27th Street or Spraggett Road (the road going north has yet to be decided), east along Highway 3 and 25th Street, south to 72nd Avenue and continuing east to the park.

City staff recommended the upgrade to Dick Bartlett Park that would include the walking/bike path with an estimated cost of $500,000.

Should the city receive approval for the grant, there would be a maximum of $100,000 city contribution funded from the Slag Sales.

Diane Heinrich, city corporate officer, noted the application for the grant has already been submitted to meet the Dec. 28 deadline.

“It’s going to be up in the air until we hear from the province,” she stated. “Until that time there’s not too much information. They didn’t give a date for when it would be approved by, so we’re in the waiting game like everyone else.”

Located behind Grand Forks Recreation and across from the developing Silver Kettle Village, Mayor Brian Taylor felt the program would be beneficial for everyone.

“It’s clearly going to be a big advantage to them for those who will be living at Silver Kettle,” Taylor said. “But the new upgrades aren’t just for the seniors. There will also be a lot of youth work and family work as well with the water park located by the pool. The outside fitness area will also be visited by a good cross-section of the community.”

Taylor added the length of the project has also yet to be determined until they hear a response from the government.

“We’re waiting to see what the government decides before we can start planning to upgrade the park and the walking/bike path route,” he concluded.

The other options by city staff – that council passed on – took into account upgrades to a facility re-development of the library for the exterior lower floor access and the lower floor interior upgrade.
Another version of improvements to Dick Bartlett Park had a walking/running track rather than a route, and finally, an added lawn bowling facility in City Park.

For more information on the Community Recreation Program, visit cdcd.gov.bc.ca.

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Ex-Pope & Talbot workers launch suit

Retired Pope & Talbot (P&T) salaried employees have filed a class action lawsuit against the former Superintendent of Pensions and the provincial government for ordering reductions to their pensions.

The lawsuit claims losses to date of approximately $3 million and ongoing losses in excess of $15 million.

Pope & Talbot had extensive lumber and pulp operations in British Columbia, but filed for bankruptcy in 2008. At that time, the pension plan was underfunded and had a 30-per-cent deficiency.

William Faminoff, a lawyer based out of Vancouver, noted the provincial pensions legislation allows company-funded pension plans to slide into periods of deficiency, and because of that, the pensioners felt their pensions were safeguarded.

“At the time of the bankruptcy, there was more than enough assets in the plan to pay the retired members their full pension benefits,” said Faminoff, who represents the group of 88 retired employees and widows of employees.

When it became clear their pensions were being cut, the group sought answers from the Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM) of B.C. and former Superintendent of Pensions Alan Clark.

“It first involved an action to review the activities of the former officers and directors of Pope & Talbot as to how the (pension) plan was underfunded,” explained Faminoff. “After that matter was concluded, it became readily apparent that the government took steps that we feel are contrary to the law.”

In 2010, the pensioners received letters from Morneau Shepell, a company hired by Clark to administer the pension plan, which informed them that their pensions had been reduced by approximately 30 per cent, retroactive to 2008.

“A lot of these guys only have their pensions and when one third of your pension gets taken away, how do you think this impacts you when you’re in your last years of your life?” asked Faminoff. “For a lot of the guys it has been dramatic.”

Don Stewart, one of the claimants and a member of the steering committee of the group, agreed.

“I think that some of the members are feeling quite uncomfortable,” Stewart said. “They’ve had a reduction in their pensions and I have a feeling some of them are not feeling too good. Financially, some people may be hurting.”

Stewart stated because it has already been three years, some of the older employees hope to see something quick.

“The intention is to get our pensions re-instated 100 per cent,” Stewart concluded.

It is alleged that Clark and members of his staff contacted management at P&T in the company’s final months demanding that it get rid of the priority provisions in its pension plan. When P&T refused, Clark reportedly ordered that the provisions be disregarded.

The pensioners say Clark had no authority to overrule the terms of a validly registered pension plan and distribute the plan’s assets according to their preferences. FICOM was contacted but declined comment.

“To take funds away from those members of the plan, that were already retired, that already had their pensions protected by a private, not government, pension plan and they arbitrarily broke those registered provisions with the government,” stated Faminoff.

The lawsuit is aimed at returning the pensioners’ plans to their full amount and not to disrupt the pensions of younger members, Faminoff added.

“I want to stress that none of our clients want to see the younger guys have any difficulties in respect to any kind of pensions benefits,” he said.

Faminoff hopes the matter can be resolve amicably with the government.

“But failing that, we are going to stress that the courts move very quickly on this because those people we represent are senior citizens and some of our clients have passed away since we first took them on as clients,” he pointed out. “We are concerned with their health and life expectancy, so we are going to ask the court to expedite this.”

The trial is expected to begin early next year, in which Faminoff aims to have litigation proceedings commence.

Pope & Talbot had operations in Nanaimo, Grand Forks, Castlegar, Fort St. James, Midway and Mackenzie.

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Walter Reis: creation through touch

Crafted with meticulous details, Walter Reis’ wooden carvings are brought to life with precise accuracy.

From the delicately pointed ears of a rabbit, to the individually strands of hair on a bear’s back, Reis gently chisels and scores for hours on end.

What may surprise most is that Reis is now legally blind.

“I’m completely blind,” affirmed Reis. “Everything is done by touch.”

It was in 1958 when he first picked up a stump of wood and began his first carving. Working at Bralorne Gold Mine provided him the opportunity to begin what he would continue to do for the next 50 years.

“When I came to Canada and I worked at Bralorne, there was a lot of wood over there lying around,” said Reis. “So I picked one up and started carving, just like that.”

What inspired him was seeing an elk carving when he was 13 years old. It had been a gift to his mother from a friend.

“I said, ‘Gee, I sure would like to make one like that’,” he laughed. “And that never went out of my mind.”

His first carving was also an elk, which he later gave to a hospital in Vancouver.

“The second one was a mastodon and I gave that one to the school in Bralorne because they had history about old-age animals,” said Reis, who no longer sells his work. “My third carving was a grizzly bear and horse on one large slab of wood facing each other.”

He explained how he placed two pieces of 4×8’s glued together to carve this piece.

Reis had no favourites amongst his creations, but he loved to carve otters and bears. From beavers and rabbits, to bowls of all shapes and sizes, he enjoyed every aspect of carving.

His carvings, which can now be seen at the Woodworker’s Guild and at the Boundary Museum, is a lesson of learning.

“Nobody told me how or what to do. I had no schooling, no education, nothing like that,” stated Reis. “I had a magazine that had some animals in it and I copied the animals then carved them out.”

“It’s a fabulous collection,” David Bevan, a fellow woodcarver, praised. “The man must have been carving 24 hours a day.”

Bevan pointed the detailed faces of a pair of beavers and the wings of the eagle.

“I think they’re brilliant,” Bevan stated.

His decision to donate all of his carvings to the guild and museum was a result of two separate incidences of having his home ransacked several years ago.

“They broke in and took a bunch of the carvings, especially my otters and special plates,” Reis recalled. “You cannot duplicate them.”

Even as Reis gave thanks to the Lord for providing him patience and ideas, he stated that was also why he didn’t sell anything.

“I gave away everything to the museum so that when people came they could look at it,” he said. “If somebody buys it, they’ll put it away in their house and nobody will see it anymore.”

Each carving, depending on the size and intricacy, would take from a week up to four weeks to create.

“Some of the carvings are made really fine, with little knives and chisels,” he clarified. “A small rabbit would take me up to a week. When I make flowers, one little leaf could take me a full day.”

Despite his lack of sight, he continues to be a self-sufficient man, creating his own jam from his backyard garden as readily as he carves his own sculptures.

“I couldn’t carve any more animals because my eyes couldn’t stay fixed on the eyes or nose or things like that,” explained Reis. “I wanted to make some owls but I couldn’t get them straightened out, so they’re halfway finished.”

Reis’ eyesight started to wane seven years ago, but in the past several years it has gone completely.

As he pours a pot of hot water into a cup of instant coffee, he laughs, “This time all the water went into the cup.”

Though detailed creations are no longer an option for him, he still keeps his hands busy by carving outside.

“I make little canoes,” said Reis. “I can’t see anything so it’s all by touch. Shaping and carving is done by feeling.”

Even though the branches against the skyline are all that’s visible to him, he remains jovial as he whittles away at another small carving.

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