The Fernie City Chambers were overflowing as the public came to discuss the issues relating to noise disturbances in the downtown core. Over 60 people filled the Council Chambers with 15 more spilling out into the landing on morning of April 16.
Elk Valley RCMP Sgt. Will Thien and Liquor Inspector Graeme Anderson from the province’s Liquor Control and Licensing branch were present. Twenty-one people ranging from residents to business owners addressed Council. Comments were mixed with support for a vibrant downtown core to include a thriving nightlife to some residents feeling unsafe stating the activities downtown are completely out of control.
Most present were in agreement that whatever the cause maybe, the gathering of people in the downtown core after hours of establishments closing is the common cause leading to occurrences of public drunkenness, littering, vandalism, public urination, noise and vomit on the streets and sidewalks.
Mike Delich addressed Council stating he was part of the downtown task force committee formed in 2008. They created a list of tasks recommended to the City which included dealing with street vendors, closing some alleyways, lighting and cameras. He asked for Council to complete the outstanding tasks while they are still in their present term of office which ends in six months.
“Six years later we have the illumines and there’s a request for proposal for the cameras,” said Delich. “We need your conviction to complete the matters.”
Other speakers pointed out the lack of a public washroom available after 8 pm, a small taxi service and a street vendor with a City permit to serve food beyond 2 am.
Several bar managers and owners mentioned their efforts and willingness to make improvements and welcomed suggestions. Many bars have had an audio engineer evaluate sound system audio readings and in November ran a course for staff on safe audible levels.
It is important to note that a business’s authority to manage patrons behaviour ends at the establishment’s door. The RCMP and City bylaw officer take over from there.
Anderson did confirm that there have been fines and licence suspensions in Fernie establishments over the last 18 months. He later commented that Fernie’s pub and bar activity is busier than similar establishments elsewhere in the region. For example, Cranbrook liquor licensees are only starting to become busy again as the city is economically recovering. He said there is a penalty schedule that all licensees are well aware of and if identical contravention occurs in any 12 month period the penalties do increase.
Councillor Dan McSkimming was acting mayor in Mary Giuliano’s absence. McSkimming touched on the subject at the regular council meeting later that same evening commenting that city staff will be compiling the information gathered from the public for the council to review.