Northern Rockies Regional Municipality

March 27 COVID-19 Update

The health and safety of NRRM staff and the Northern Rockies community, as well as continued delivery of essential municipal services are top priorities during these uncertain times. Local authorities have been instructed to implement emergency plans; the NRRM's internal Emergency Operations Centre has been activated since March 20 to effectively manage municipal response efforts to the rapidly changing COVID-19 pandemic. To coordinate efforts:

  • –  Daily calls with Emergency Management BC (EMBC)
  • –  Weekly updates with Municipal Affairs & Housing Minister Robinson and other government services. This week Minister of Public Safety & Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth attended the call.
  • –  Weekly meeting with local emergency services to ensure each is prepared and equipped: Northern Rockies Fire Rescue, BC Ambulance Service & RCMP

On March 26, the Province of British Columbia announced new steps to support the ongoing response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19). One measure will enable municipal bylaw officers to provide additional assistance as may be required to support the enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act. NRRM Bylaw Enforcement staff is compiling a list of businesses that are essential services. Staff is being reallocated to be able to provide a central hub for referral to community and other resources, once they have determined which agencies are still operating through the pandemic. More information on this will be shared soon.

A focus this week as been on outreach across the community to build awareness, educate and encourage social distancing and Public Works Canada has included COVID-19 messaging on the traffic signs located north and south of Fort Nelson to promote the message.

In terms of Council meetings, the organization is working on utilizing virtual meetings going forward. A regularly-scheduled council meeting was held this past Monday, March 23 and most council meetings will be recorded and/or streamed using YouTube to ensure that council’s commitment to transparency is being upheld. Biweekly council COVID-19 meetings will continue to be held at noon on Tuesdays and Fridays as things continue to evolve, with efforts toward providing continuity of services in the current situation being a primary focus. Council resolved to delay the Budget meeting scheduled for March 28, and will reschedule budget deliberations over several meetings in the coming weeks to allow for the constraints involved with remote attendance. Legislation requires a budget and financial plan to be adopted prior to May 14. The province has issued an order that allows councils to waive some of their normal procedures in order to allow for remote meeting attendance and other emergency measures.

Work is underway to make additional municipal services available gradually, as the NRRM adjusts to provide these through our workforce working remotely. The organization is looking at all expenditures, including projects, carefully and making informed and thoughtful decisions.

It is an unprecedented time resulting in unprecedented changes to our organization. A new organization chart will be issued next week identifying amendments in relation to emergency planning, as the municipality transitions to 24/7 operations to support response efforts for COVID-19. The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality has closed all non-essential facilities and suspended all programs and events until further notice. Approximately 40 staff are currently displaced, with the majority being casual Recreation staff.  Remaining Recreation Staff are completing the annual pool maintenance work, conducting needed maintenance activities and are engaged in heightened sanitizing at other Municipal facilities to ensure a safe working environment to maintain essential services. While ammonia is present in the arena ice plant, legislation requires staff to be onsite. The municipality has requested Cimco Refrigeration to come and remove the ammonia, but this is travel-dependent.

Parks and playgrounds will be closed due to an inability to maintain adequate sanitization and distancing and staff will install appropriate signage and caution tape in the coming days.

In light of questions regarding fly-in fly-out employees, staff has been endeavouring to contact companies that use this employment model to ensure that precautions are being taken. The BC provincial government has also committed to working on addressing the issues specific to work camps and worker travel. At present there is no restriction against travel within and between provinces, and municipal authority does not include the ability to regulate such travel, and must defer to the province of BC. The municipality was recently advised that a local transportation company was allowed to deliver essential supplies to Fort Liard although Highway 77 has been closed due to the territorial government’s closure of the Northwest Territories.

Continued delivery of essential services including RCMP, Northern Rockies Fire Rescue Service, Bylaw, water, sewer, roads, communications, waste management and internal facilities maintenance is ongoing.

Take social distancing recommendations from public health officials very seriously. This means leaving your home only for essential trips, avoiding gatherings and staying at least two metres (six feet) away from others when you do go out. Please stay home and take care of yourself and your family. Visit NorthernRockies.ca/covid19 for the latest municipal information and updates.

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