Recognizing the great people in Lake Cowichan in 2015

Our community has always been a special place to those of us who have made it home

Resa Clark-Attrell and Amanda Sawatzky are two of the 40-plus volunteers who boxed up donated food and items to make Christmas hampers for people in need this year.

Resa Clark-Attrell and Amanda Sawatzky are two of the 40-plus volunteers who boxed up donated food and items to make Christmas hampers for people in need this year.

Our community has always been a special place to those of us who have made it home and particularly so because of the thoughtful, compassionate people who currently reside here and those who have resided here in the past.

It should come as no surprise to anyone when you hear about our local citizens being recognized for their generosity or kindness. Recently we became aware of those who have been long overdue for such recognition and who deserve that extra acknowledgement. I say long overdue because these people have been overlooked in the past, probably because we have simply come to expect good deeds out of them and hence have overlooked their need for recognition.

The Pimlotts (Pete and Joanne), owners of Country Grocer were recently recognized for good corporate citizenship at the National Philanthropy Day awards ceremony. Any of our many local organizations who rely on fundraising to support their activities are acutely aware of Country Grocer’s generosity towards their endeavors. Also Country Grocer is always front and centre for all community parades, markets, fairs or for taking the lead for the annual Tour de Rock fundraising event. Congratulations Pete and Joanne, this award is well deserved because of your contributions and generosity towards your community. This is certainly a great endorsement of a business seeing the great value in giving back and participating in the good of the community.

Stacy Middlemiss who grew up in Lake Cowichan, started the Caring with Cookies campaign in 2007. Her initiative to bake and donate cookies for the less fortunate has grown and grown to the point where she was recognized on the American TV talk show Live with Kelly and Michael on Nov. 24. The Caring with Cookies project hit the U.S. television spotlight with Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan discussing the campaign and how it was started by Stacy. Indeed it was a wonderful story about a good person who is not only caring about those in need but actually doing a really positive thing to make life more enjoyable for those in need. Thank you Stacy, your community is proud of you.

People like the Pimlotts and Stacy Middlemiss are who define our community. These are good people who care for others and who have been doing good deeds for years, not for the accolades, but because they feel a need to do the right thing. Our community is a much richer place because of the likes of the Pimlotts and Stacy and others like them.

The large contingent of volunteers who year after year participate in the Community Services Christmas Hamper Program certainly demonstrates a very compassionate, caring and generous community. The wonderful hampers provided to our less fortunate neighbours are available only because of the many donations and the many volunteer hours provided by so many. A large percentage of our community is responsible for the success of this hamper program beginning with the Community Services organization; Val Sangster for the coordination and collection of items for the free store table; our fire departments for the breakfast and boot donations; private individuals as well as other organizations who make contributions through other donations; and all the special volunteers who have made this year’s Christmas Hamper Program a success through their heartfelt efforts. I am proud of our community!

We are fortunate to have our different committees comprised of members from the public who are committed to enhancing our community in positive ways. Some of these committees work under the radar and don’t receive the recognition they deserve. Our Advisory Planning Commission (APC) is certainly one of those committees which is relatively unknown to the public but hugely appreciated by council and staff. Chairman Ross Fitzgerald along with members Les Bowd, Tara Bushby, Darlene Ector and Dianne Goode do tremendous work ensuring that improvements to our town adhere to our bylaws and legal requirements. They also have a great vision of our town’s future and of how we should proceed to accomplish that vision. They donate a lot of their precious time for no remuneration because they truly care about the town and want to see continued improvements and progress in that regard. We are so fortunate to have such a diverse group volunteering for our community. Thank you members of the APC; I applaud your dedication to our town.

Another corporate contributor we are thrilled about is Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) because of its willingness to fund cost sharing projects and, through the Road Improvement Program, assist the town with many of our road safety improvements. Our South-North Shore Road roundabout, two speed reader boards, road street sign improvements, and four pedestrian activated crosswalks were all made possible through the generous financial assistance of ICBC. As a friendly reminder it is important that pedestrians remember to push the appropriate button to activate the crosswalk lighting signal. ICBC, recognizing the need to be proactive has been very beneficial to our ability to make the necessary improvements for the safety of our citizens. We really appreciate ICBC as a partner and for its generous contributions in making Lake Cowichan that a much safer community.

A big thank you must also go to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for its financial contributions towards the pedestrian activated crosswalks, the roundabout and the main street paving project. These are improvements that add to the quality of life for our residents.

While 2015 has been overall a positive year for our community, the recent torrential downpours have caused minor flooding in parts of the town and have also caused an increase in the turbidity levels in our water source. Island Health requires that the town post a Boil Water Notice when turbidity level exceeds 1 NTU (nephelometric turbidity unit) at the point of disinfection. The town would very much like to construct a new water treatment plant at a cost exceeding $6 million so that the mandated requirements imposed by Island Health, which are now more stringent than previously, may be met or exceeded. The Town of Lake Cowichan has been required to implement the appropriate water system improvements by 2017. In the meantime, a positive response to the grant application made under the Gas Tax Strategic Priorities funding program would certainly help expedite improvements to our drinking water supply and make the boil advisory notices a thing of the past.

Now that the study on our Age-Friendly Plan has been completed (step 1), it is time to begin the process of locating an extended care facility in Lake Cowichan. We know there has been the WANT in our community for some time and the Age-Friendly Plan contains a great amount of information and facts identifying the NEED. We now have the information to help us persuade the necessary partners required to assist in us in those efforts. We will be holding a meeting on Monday, Jan. 4, to discuss the next steps that are required. Forming an active committee will be a necessary requirement. However, it is crucial that our entire community involve itself in some capacity to take on this challenge. Strong community support will achieve success. Remember Jan. 4, 7 p.m. would be your opportunity to begin work on this initiative so we may bring it to fruition so please show up at the town hall on the day and time I have just indicated. Please make your presence felt so we can identify the best possible people to assist in accomplishing our goal of a first class care facility.

As we prepare to proceed with our town hall addition and renovation, here is a brief description of the design plans from HDR/CEI Architecture Associates, Inc. The proposed work to the existing Lake Cowichan town hall comprises a single story, 272 square metre addition on the north and west sides of the existing structure to house a new council chamber and a new entry hall and reception area. The existing fire hall component will be removed to facilitate the new addition. The remainder of the exciting 210 square metre town hall will be renovated and the exciting building envelope upgraded to current performance standards and to better blend with the new addition.

The proposed addition revitalizes the public face and access to the town hall while taking advantage of views to the rivers from both the new council chambers and from the new entry hall. The building showcases wood construction featuring exposed wood structure and wood finishing and incorporates prominent glazing walls that connect interior and exterior space. This new transparency will animate the building by allowing views and activities inside, particularly views into and from the entry hall. The project also includes new exterior landscaping, reorganized parking and universal access to and from the building.

As 2015 comes to an end I am encouraged by the steady growth of our community, both through infrastructure improvements and more importantly growth through public interest and participation at local public events.

Merry Christmas to all and may 2016 bring you happiness and prosperity.