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City of Parksville aims to improve response to extreme cold weather events

Council votes to extend PCTC hours when frigid temperatures hit
Snow-filled roads in Parksville. (PQB News file photo)

The next time Parksville experiences an extreme cold weather event, the lobby of the Parksville Civic and Technology Centre be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for people looking to escape the frigid temperatures.

Council voted to extend PCTC hours when a cold weather event meets the regulations and conditions of the Assistance to Shelter Act, which defines extreme weather conditions as a low of -4 C or colder, as forecast by Environment Canada.

“During the recent event, we had times when Monday to Friday, the building was not open until 8 a.m. and so therefore people might be out in the cold,” said Coun. Mary Beil, who brought forward the motion to council’s Feb. 5 meeting.

Beil added the Parksville branch of Vancouver Island Regional Library closes early on Fridays, and on Saturdays and Sundays the PCTC does not open until 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., respectively.

“That means a full six hours when people might have been forced to be out in the cold if they were in this area,” she said.

The motion also calls for letters to be sent to the Town of Qualicum Beach and the Regional District of Nanaimo requesting they do the same.

Parksville does not have a designated person to announce when Parksville meets the -4 C threshold, triggering a response from the city, according to chief administrative officer Keeva Kehler.

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The response hinges on local governments or service providers to fill the gaps that BC Housing funding doesn’t cover. In many B.C. communities, an extreme weather response is triggered when BC Housing asks for assistance and states they are at capacity, Kehler said.

“We are in an odd situation in that we don’t have even the BC Housing plan,” she continued. “So that’s what staff are working on with our counterparts in the region to actually bring a report to our councils and to the RDN board that outlines some of these logistical issues and provides some option to our three decision makers in the region.”

Beil’s motion also requests staff be authorized to submit increased security and facility-related costs to to the applicable provincial agency for reimbursement.

Reimbursement is available through the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness for local governments who open emergency warming spaces.

“I would recommend that we support this so when the time does come we can do it right away,” said Coun. Sylvia Martin. “That’s very important because you don’t want to have to call a meeting and then try and throw things together.”

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