The District of Kent is applying for two grants to help prepare the community for emergencies.
During council on Monday (Feb. 8), Kent voted to apply for a $25,00 grant to purchase an emergency generator for municipal hall and a $7,000 grant to move Kent’s Emergency Support Services team online.
Kent and Harrison’s Emergency Support Services are organized by volunteers, who work to provide short-term support to locals impacted by disasters. Most recently, they provided support during the Rockwell Drive flooding and landslide last February, and prepared for possible evacuees during the summer freshet.
Currently, the ESS team uses paper forms to organize and deliver their services. The province released its online Evacuee Registration & Assistance tool in April 2020 to help streamline the process. People can pre-register online if they are on an evacuation alert, which can speed up the delivery of support in the event of an actual evacuation order.
In order to effectively use the online tool, the team would need a $7,000 “tablet registration kit,” which would include several tablets, a printer, a high capacity battery, a mobile hot spot and other equipment to support the program. Without the equipment, the ESS team would continue to use paper forms.
The district will be applying for a $7,000 grant from the Union of B.C. Municipalities Community Emergency Preparedness Fund to fully fund the tablet kit.
In addition to the tablet kit, the district is also applying for funding to help purchase an emergency generator to make municipal hall fully functioning as a secondary emergency operations centre.
In March 2020, Kent applied for a $25,000 grant to install wiring at municipal hall for a generator. At the time, the district had a generator from a civil forfeiture it was planning to use, but it turned out that generator would have been unable to supply power to the entire hall.
The lowest bid for the wiring installation was $27,400 from Platinum Electric. A staff report noted that the total cost of the project could be lower if the district committed to purchasing a generator, as some parts of the project, such as a plug, wouldn’t be needed if the generator was available to install directly.
Platinum Electric estimated that a generator would cost around $40,000 and on-site services such as offloading, filling the fuel tank and labour would cost around $5,000.
There is another grant through UBCM that can help purchase a generator. If the wiring project begins soon, it would be near completion by the time the grant intake closes, which could help Kent’s grant application.
Coun. Stan Watchorn had some concerns about moving forward with the full wiring and generator project without assurance that the grant application would be successful.
Staff noted that they would not actually purchase the generator until the results of the grant were in. They would select one, so that they knew what to prepare the wiring for, but keep it held in abeyance until the grant results were known. If the grant was not successful, the district will use the COVID-19 restart grant to purchase the generator.
Coun. Duane Post also questioned the total price tag of the generator project, adding that with “today’s work-from-home, I think there’s a little bit less of a demand for it.” He said the power had once gone out for weeks in 1972, but that hasn’t happened in a long time.
Deputy fire chief Mike Van Laerhoven noted that with the Mount Hicks fire in 2018, there was concern that it could impact the power lines. The fire department did a lot of mapping work at municipal hall during that emergency to determine whether the fire was the responsibility of the Agassiz Fire Department or BC Wildfire Service.
“It’s very important that we have this building up and running,” he said. “If the power had gone out, the GIS staff would not have been able to do that work.”
CAO Wallace Mah also noted that in a big enough emergency where the generator would need to be used, staff members may not have power in their own homes, and would not have access to the district’s mapping or other systems.
Ultimately, council voted unanimously to approve the grant application for the generator, and will be moving ahead with wiring for the generator at the east end of the hall’s parking lot.