B.C. LNG work camps concern for northern towns, say mayors
Two northern B.C. mayors share their city's struggle with the impending influx of temporary workers
With promises of an LNG boom and Site C on the horizon, some B.C. communities are grappling with how to cope with the prospect of hundreds of workers arriving on their doorstep.
Two northern B.C. cities have already begun to deal with the issue. In Kitimat, two work camps are being built within city limits. Fort St. John will soon decide if it will allow the same thing.
"There's no doubt the people in that neighbourhood and the affected neighbourhood were not thrilled about it," said Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth.
Germuth said he voted against one of the work camp proposals because he didn't feel like there had been enough consultation with the residents of the neighbourhood where it is being built.
"I'm not saying you can't put a camp in a residential neighbourhood," said Germuth. "But if you're going to do it you really owe it to the people who are going to be affected by it, in my opinion, that they need to be consulted greatly with their concerns."
The proposal, a camp that will house 2,000 workers from any company willing to rent it, did get accepted by council. To ensure a legacy from the project, the city decided to charge a one-time tax of $500 per bed, which will go towards future affordable housing projects.
The idea of legacy is important to city of Fort St. John as well.
"Our top priority, as any community in the north," said Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman, "is the development of vital permanent sustainable communities that provide the citizens with a high quality of life."
Ackerman said the buildings could house seniors or serve as affordable housing when they're eventually vacated.
She said the city is concerned about the impact on services such as health care, police and social welfare. Residents were also worried about traffic.
As a result of those concerns, the city has commissioned research on the potential impact of the camps. The results should be in to council in about two or three months.
"We're going to have to talk about community engagement at that point," said Ackerman.