Nanaimo city hall officials are set to meet B.C. Dam Safety Section staff members today to discuss the city's "progress and plans" for the middle and lower Colliery dams.
The meeting comes as Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district board chairman Jamie Brennan says he will discuss options with fellow trustees to see further action taken on the structures, which engineering reports say could pose a serious threat to John Barsby Secondary School if they failed.
Since last fall, the dams have been the subject of months of community and council meetings and public protest. Council voted in August to cancel a tender to remove the dams this past summer, after ongoing discussions with Snuneymuxw First Nation caused the city to miss the summer work window for the project.
In September, council approved a short-term emergency plan to address the safety risk of the dams over the winter, which was sent off to the province. City manager Ted Swabey said the city has so far received "zero" feedback on the plan from the province, and said today's meeting is part of "general communication" between the two parties. Swabey said city staff aim to bring a report before council on a long-term strategy for the dams for the next general council meeting (Oct. 7).
The school district has written the province and urged the government to "require the city to take immediate action" to address the risk of loss of life and property damage.
Brennan said he will likely raise the topic of further school district action on the dams at the next school board meeting, Oct. 15. He declined to specify what sort of action the district might consider until that time.
Brennan said he is concerned about the safety of the children who attend the school and nearby day care centre. "But also, I'm extremely disappointed with the behaviour of citizens and the City of Nanaimo over this," he said, adding there was "a curtain of ignorance. .. surrounding the issue" as well as an "unwillingness to acknowledge the risk or hazard" posed by the structures.
Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan said he understands Brennan's concerns, but said the city is taking action.
"We're doing what we can, we're not dragging our feet on this," he said.
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