The Cariboo Crafters Society has been selling handmade arts and crafts out of the historic Hudson Bay Building on Carson Avenue for more than 25 years, and the City of Quesnel is helping ensure they can continue to do so amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council voted at its Sept. 29 meeting to forgive the rent from the Quesnel Crafters Society for the use of the Hudson Bay Building from April 2020 to September 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19 on the non-profit group and set the monthly rent payment for the remaining term of the society’s current lease. The City will cover the property taxes for this building.
“This is the only non-profit leasing of a City building in Quesnel,” said Coun. Scott Elliott, chair of the City’s Financial Stability and Audit Committee (FSAC), which brought the recommendation forward to council. “It is a very important location in the eyes of the City, and the organization has been going through hardships because of COVID and other issues in that specific area that are not in their control, so the committee is suggesting trying to help this important organization that does a lot of work and keeps a lot of people busy.”
This was carried unanimously by the FSAC and then by council.
“I definitely support this motion,” said Coun. Mitch Vik. “That is a co-op of many local artisans who have obviously really had their livelihood affected by COVID-19 and other factors. Having toured the facility recently, I really am proud of the work they have done in there and the variety of partnerships with local artisans in our community.”
Mayor Bob Simpson said the discussion at FSAC was consistent with what other landlords have been asked to do to support the continuity of businesses.
“For us, having the continuity of business in that building is very important to us as well, and so giving them the best opportunity for success and being able to continue there is an important public service too,” he added.
Council gave early approval to the City’s 2021 capital fleet purchases in the amount of $1,080,000, with the funds coming from the City’s equipment reserve and financing through the Municipal Finance Authority (MFA) Equipment Financing Program.
“This doesn’t have budget implications in the sense that we’re tapping into MFA; it’s an approved budget item for council — we’re just moving it forward,” explained Simpson.
Elliott explained this recommendation is coming from FSAC because it has been “extremely difficult” to find vehicles and move this fleet replacement forward.
“There is a need to approve the capital funds early due to the challenge of obtaining vehicles at this time,” he said.
In his update as the council liaison to the North Cariboo Seniors’ Council (NCSC), Vik shared an update on the work they have been doing to help local seniors.
“The most meaningful grant that has had an impact this summer, in addition to the meal preparation, is the yard work grant we received through the [Quesnel] Community Foundation, which is also administered by the City of Quesnel, and obviously, the NCSC is very grateful for the partnership there,” said Vik. “That lawn care grant has enabled many seniors in our community to have routine yard maintenance on their properties, which otherwise might not have been done. I can tell you that the NCSC is really tuning in on trying to make this a sustainable feature going forward, even after this grant has expired and runs out.”
Vik says there will be some money left over in the grant because they had a late start, and he has been asked to speak to the Quesnel Community Foundation about the possibility of moving that last bit of grant funding into a snow removal project to help seniors this winter.
Moving forward into October, the NCSC will be putting “a huge focus” on volunteer recruitment, and the council will be tying that in to its Open House Week Oct. 26-30, Vik told council.
At the Sept. 29 meeting, economic development co-ordinator Jennifer Reed shared two tourism video campaigns that launched this summer and their statistics with council.
The City launched a mountain biking video featuring mountain biker and trail builder James Doerfling July 2, and it ended Sept. 30. Although she didn’t have complete date because the campaign still had one more day, Reed told council the video had reached 102,813 people and had been viewed 2,378 times. It generated 873 new users to a new mountain biking landing page on the website tourismquesnel.com.
The City also ran an “Explore the unexplored” tourism video ad campaign from July 21 to Sept. 21. This video reached 111,744 people and had 3,822 veiws. The video generated 4,582 new users to the tourism website.
Both videos can be found on the Explore Quesnel YouTube channel.
“They’re amazing, and listening to the comments from [James Doerfling], those are really high praises for the intent to build those opportunities,” said Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg. “The second video about the explorer’s spirit — when we were doing our marketing … one of the words that kept coming up was explorer. People weren’t sure if we were going to be able to tie in that piece with trying to make us look a little more forward-thinking, but it works. It really ties in nicely to where we’ve come from to where we’re going.”
Reed says in terms of industry benchmarks, compared to Destination B.C.’s industry benchmark for engagement, the City is “well within or better.”
“The range is one to five per cent engagement rate,” she said. “The mountain bike video is sitting at 7.7 per cent, and the explorer’s spirit video is 3.2 per cent.”
Council approved holding electronic council meetings in cases where council members and/or the corporate officer are unable to attend in person and council quorum could be compromised.
“As cases of COVID-19 increase in Quesnel and people are required to self-isolate due to a known case of COVID-19, or out of an abundance of caution due to suspected cases of COVID-19 or the flu, it is recommended that council pass a resolution that would allow for electronic council meetings to be held in the Fraser River Meeting Room on an ongoing basis during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gina Albers, the City’s manager of legislative services, writes in her report to council. “This could avoid the cancellation of council meetings and would allow for continued governance by Quesnel City Council during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A recording of electronic council meetings will be posted on the City of Quesnel’s website the day after the meeting, and the public can send in their input regarding a specific agenda item by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should a council meeting need to be held electronically, City staff will notify all participants with a Zoom invite and will notify the public how they can access the video recording through the City’s social media channels.