An update from Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher

District of Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher highlights what has been keeping City Council busy.

The District of Elkford has multiple projects on the go, continuing their work to improve the area. The Free Press spoke with District of Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher to highlight what has been keeping City Council busy.

Deer relocation project

Elkford was one of four communities in the East Kootenay that participated in a deer relocation trial project, which is now finished in Elkford. McKerracher says he is interested to see the projects findings.

“At the end of the day we had 15 moved. We had eight collared and seven tagged – ear tagged – so if they show up in the community, we will know that they are our deer,” he said. “I was told that it went very, very well. The animal rights people were here and they were very pleased at how it went.”

Vast Resources, a Cranbrook-based nature resource and engineering firm, will collect data from all of the tagged deer over a two-year period.

“If it’s successful, it will be a huge win for all of Canada – not only us, but all of Canada because it’s never been tried before, for mule deer to be translocated. They have translocated elk and all kinds of other different animals, but never mule deer,” said McKerracher, adding it is a more positive option than a deer cull, which is a huge challenge to local governments.

“When they did the start of the translocation, the biologist and scientists took all kinds of blood tests and they checked them for worms and ticks, all that information is now in the data bank. If there is a deer down, they can go and check that deer in a year and see how it is then compared to what it is now. It’s tremendous information for everybody and I think it’s going to be a great success.”

Previously, when Elkford participated in a deer cull, McKerracher says he received 7,000 emails in one day from animal rights activists.

New garbage truck

The District of Elkford Council recently voted in favour of the purchase of a new garbage truck for the cost of $312,522.39 not including GST. The one in current use will be relegated to a backup machine.

McKerracher says the new truck will benefit Elkford by being more cost-efficient to operate. He estimates it will save on fuel costs and wages as it can do the same job in one and a half days instead of five.

“It’s a tandem truck instead of single axel. But it’s lower, the truck body itself is lower, so it’s not so high to lift the bin, so it will be safer on the wires and overhead. And it’s also self-ejecting. You don’t dump it like a dump truck. It has a sill and it pushes the garbage out the end of it, so it’s better for our transfer station and inside the building,” he said. “The new one, I’m not sure how long it will take to pay for it, but we will keep the old one. We will keep all of that and use that as a back up. And who knows, maybe one day we will get into recycling  too.”

Funding the surgeon search

Elkford, along with Fernie, Sparwood and the Regional District of East Kootenay, has committed funds to the search of a new surgeon for the Elk Valley Regional Hospital.

“The money that we are supporting is not to pay the surgeon to come here. It’s to pay the recruiter. We are giving it to the recruiters,” said McKerracher, identifying the specific use of the funds.

The District of Elkford has committed $5,000 to the search, which will be spearheaded by the City of Fernie.

McKerracher does recognize the difficulties with searching for a surgeon because the surgeon’s contract will ultimately be with Interior Health (IH), not with the municipalities.

“The search is to hire a contractor to locate a physician. But once the surgeon is located, then IH has to get involved, because it’s their contract. If they want to sign an agreement with the surgeon, then that’s theirs.”

Ongoing projects

The District of Elkford has several ongoing projects, including planning for the budget and strategic planning, which is planned to begin on Apr. 6.

“We do a five-year plan, but the five year plans are always modified every year. There are some big projects that we have to discuss, so we are probably going to have to go a couple of more days,” said McKerracher in relation to the upcoming meetings.

The mayor and councillors are hosting an appreciation breakfast for district staff and their families on Apr. 20. They are also hosting a volunteer appreciation celebration on Apr. 16.

As for other projects, McKerracher had quite a few to report.

“The heli pad, we have about $70,000 to finish it this year. And that is to fence it and light it and paint the marks on the pad itself. That will be finished this year and it started in 2015, and it was $203,000 roughly,” he said.

Along with finishing the heli pad, the District also purchased a new all-terrain vehicle to help fight bush fires in the summer months, and are working to finish the mechanical upgrades at the aquatic centre.

“We are going to be finished with the aquatic centre mechanical upgrade. We replaced four old furnaces, hot water tanks, heat exchangers, the whole system. It was about $550,000. We finished that now and that seems to be working great,” he said. “We also changed all of the lighting to LED lighting – tremendous savings on hydro. We don’t know exactly what it is going to be, we won’t know for a year, but we know it is going to be great savings.”

Elkford is also working on trails in the area, and has partnered with the Trans Canada Trail. The District aims for completion of the Elk River dike, near the Elk River Bridge, with a final cost of $2.4 million.

McKerracher also reported the District has a new generator at the sewer lagoon, and if there were to be an emergency situation with power in Elkford, they are prepared for that.

“All of our systems now in Elkford, will have backup power with generators.”

More projects will be determined after the budget is completed.

“After our discussions and once we pass out the budget we can have a really good discussion on what our projects are going to be for this year, in 2016, other than the completion of the ones we are working on right now.”

Green city reputation

McKerracher has been in office for 13 years, 10 of them spent in the Mayor’s chair. Over his time, he has worked to earn Elkford a reputation as being a green city.

“We have been recognized worldwide for our OCP, official community plan, and what we put in the plan for environmental reasons, we were recognized by the UN in a two page article, by the UN environmental committee. They put a booklet out every year on what communities do to save the environment and we got a two page article a couple of years ago,” he said.

District of Elkford was recognized by the UN in 2011.