Clean air? At what cost?

By David F. Rooney

Clean air. It’s something most people here take for granted, but some argue that the City should be doing more to ensure that our local atmosphere is even cleaner. That may well be true, but Council is asking: “At what cost?”

That’s why Council plans to send recommendations emanating from the Final Report of the Air Quality Committee to the Public Works Committee for deliberation.

Meeting as a Committee of the Whole, a procedure that allows Council to discuss issues and recommendations without making a formal decision, Councillors decided that the recommendations contained in the two-part report (one part deals with dust and the second with vehicle idling) require a cost-benefit analysis before it can decide whether to adopt them.

They also want to know whether dust in the atmosphere truly is an issue that resonates with most of the city’s population.

“What importance does most of the population put on this?” asked Councillor Chris Johnston.

Councillor Antoinette Halberstadt, who has been involved with the Air Quality Committee since its creation in 2006, said it has received “a lot of input from the public,” but she could not quantify public support for the committee’s work.

Johnston also noted that he didn’t see “any reference to cost” in the 37 recommendations contained in the Dust Sub-committee’s report. The recommendations call for — among other things — businesses to do more to lessen the amount of dust raised in unpaved parking lots and the for the City to plant more trees , weekend operation of street sweepers, more frequent road washing, the installation of more mud grates and wheel washes on access roads outside of town, more bylaws to mandate spraying of unpaved areas and the prevention of dust tracking from industrial areas and construction zones. No where in the report is there any consideration of cost or suggestion as to who would pay for their implementation.

“It would be nice to have beautifully clean air but what’s the cost for planting more trees and more street sweeping?” Johnston asked.

That was a question that Halberstadt couldn’t answer and Councillors voted to send the report and its recommendations to Public Works for further examination.

With regard to anti-idling, Councillors did vote for the installation of signs at the three main entrances to town on the Trans-Canada Highway East and West and Highway 23S saying, “Welcome to Our Idle Free Community.” They also voted to permit the production of wallet-sized cards local residents can give to people they see idling their vehicles. On one side, the cards ask “Why Are You Idling?” They then list “4 really good reasons to turn off your vehicle.” The other side says, “Brought to you by the City of Revelstoke. Our No Idling Bylaw says 3 mins. max… and that includes diesels!”

Council meets formally next Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.