As coronavirus restrictions begin to ease throughout the province, Harrison Hot Springs officials have their work cut out for them when it comes to helping support a troubled tourism-based economy.
The village council met for their only scheduled meeting in May on Monday (May 4). Chief among the topics discussed was modifications to the pay parking program within the village.
Council was presented with three options:
1. To cancel the agreement between the village and Precise ParkLink and suspending pay parking until 2021
2. To keep the agreement as status quo
3. To modify the agreement to charge $2 for the first hour of parking, $3 for the second hour and $5 for the first.
Coun. Ray Hooper was the first to move, opting to keep the status quo; the motion died without a second. Coun. Samantha Piper moved for the third option, which sparked continued conversation.
“Something is better than nothing,” Coun. Michie Vidal said. Vidal suggested a flat hourly rate with a three-hour limit.
Coun. Gerry Palmer criticized the need for council to vote on one of the three initial options without an option to customize a fourth or more.
“I don’t support anything that’s been said so far,” Piper said. She said after speaking with business owners and the Harrison-Agassiz Chamber of Commerce that the consensus was to suspend paid parking for the year as a way to express support for their community and encourage visitors to come by having that additional convenience of free parking.
“I believe it would be greedy for us to reach into the pockets of our visitors and locals after everyone has been dealing with the fallout of the pandemic,” she added. “Our businesses desperately need our help. I do not support option two or three; I can only stand behind option one.”
Piper was ultimately the only opposing vote when the council voted 4-1 on a modified version of option three: to modify the parking agreement to $2 for the first hour, $3 for the second and $4 for the third for a maximum of three hours. The affected area for the new parking fee changes would be west of Hot Spring Road at Esplanade. Parking east of Hot Springs Road – including St. Alice – would remain at the status quo.
The May 4 meeting marked a successful upload of the village’s first council meeting posted on YouTube. A few village officials are seen present at the meeting while the mayor and council tuned in via conference call along with The Observer.
The village officially started their channel since February of this year.
In other council business, the council voted 3-2 in favour of allotting $30,000 of surplus to modify Memorial Hall as a meeting space while COVID-19 restrictions are in effect. Couns. Hooper and Piper were opposed. The money would go to improving audio/visual equipment at Memorial Hall, which would be a more viable space for in-person council meetings given the limited size and subsequent physical distancing capabilities of the current meeting chambers.
The council voted 4-1 to change the resort development strategy with Coun. Piper opposing. The improvements shifted focus from public art and lagoon improvements to physical distancing signs bearing the traditional Harrison Sasquatch theme.
The council unanimously approved a bylaw pushing the property tax late payment date to October 1. This applies to all classes of property, including residential, and will only be in effect for the 2020 tax year.
Stay tuned to the Village of Harrison Hot Spring’s website for the next meeting dates as the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic remains fluid.