It’s not often a bylaw adoption is greeted with a round of applause, but that’s what happened at Tuesday’s inaugural meeting of the 2015-2016 term when Comox Valley Regional District directors unanimously approved a bylaw to enable the establishment of a homelessness support service.
The service will provide funds to one or more non-government organizations (NGOs) to assist homeless individuals, based on a five-year plan.
“We listened to the people,” said Cumberland director Gwyn Sproule, referring to last month’s referendum that passed by a slim majority.
A total of 1,617 Valley residents voted in favour of the service while 1,433 were opposed. Sproule notes a “reasonable turnout” in Cumberland, where 257 voters were in favour and just 76 against the tax.
Some of the directors were puzzled by the low turnout at the Nov. 28 referendum. Just 3,050 of an estimated 36,803 eligible voters (eight per cent) turned out to polling stations throughout the Valley.
“Why people didn’t get out and vote I don’t know,” said Area B director Rod Nichol, noting the event was well publicized.
“I’m troubled by the low turnout, but I think we have to move forward,” Courtenay director Larry Jangula said. “It will be a challenge. The public will be watching closely.”
Comox director Barbara Price suggests the uncertainty as to how tax dollars will be spent explains the No votes. But she said the Comox Valley Coalition to End Homelessness — which has compiled a plan to develop a support service, in conjunction with non-profits — will be restricted in its actions without the funding.
Courtenay director Erik Eriksson noted the “significant support at (civic) election time” when a non-binding question showed that 71 per cent of voters support at least a $5 annual property tax.
“We can take heart that it’s meeting with the support of the people in the Valley,” Eriksson said.
• Directors re-elected Area A representative Bruce Jolliffe to a second term as board chair. There were no other nominees.
Comox director Ken Grant was elected vice-chair, a position previously held by Courtenay director Manno Theos. Like last year, the vice-chair position was decided by way of a tiebreaker vote.
Jolliffe and Grant will serve in these positions for the next year.
“I think we’ve built a great team,” Jolliffe said. “I will continue to ensure we do our best.”