Wednesday, March 23, 2016

City Council Timeline: Monday, March 21, 2016

Despite the opportunity for comment from the public on budget issues and other items of concern, Monday's City Council meeting didn't run too much past the one hour mark, with Council members making quick work of the Regular Agenda in the back half of the evening session.

The meeting opened with a Committee of the Whole Session, which first offered up the opportunity for final comments from the public on the budget, a call for comments which went unanswered, leaving the Mayor to move on to General Concerns from the public, a topic which did as things turned out, generate a significant volume of public comment.

Following the forty four minutes or so of presentations, Council would move on to its short agenda for the night, reviewing the Moresby Park Fuel tank issue, providing a final vote on the Cow Bay Marina pricing and appointing local residents to a number of Boards and Societies.

The evening came to an end with an update on the Housing committee work from the Mayor and a number of items from Council members.

For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note, see the Committee of the Whole Agenda for the night here, the Agenda for the Regular Council session for March 21, 2016 can be reviewed here.

Council also had a Closed Session scheduled for the night.

Further information from our overview and placement in the video archive can be found below, with the permanent record of the minutes added as they are posted to the city website.

In attendance March 21, 2016

Mayor Lee Brain-- Present 
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present 
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present
Councillor Nelson Kinney--  Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa--  Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson -- Present

Video Archive for March 21, 2016

(0:00-44:00Committee of the Whole -- Mayor Brain, outlined the process ahead for the Committee of the Whole session and then called on the City's Financial Officer to provide a brief review of last weeks Public Forum on the Budget and short presentation related to the Budget process.

From there he opened the floor to comments on the Budget from the public, but no one in attendance in the public gallery came forward to speak to that topic.

Moving forward on the Committee of the Whole Agenda the Mayor then asked if any members of the public had comments or concerns for Council, a request which did provide for a number of residents to come forward to outline some concerns on a range of issues.

The first participant was a representative of the local sports fishing charter business, speaking for other members about their concerns over the influx of Alberta based charter operations that were providing competition for local groups without taking out City business licenses and other items that local operators must have.  He called for Council to seek better enforcement of the local issues at the local docks.

The Mayor noted that it was the first he had heard of the issue and would be looking into the concerns, he then turned the discussion over to Councillor Thorkelson who noted that she has been trying to address the issue over the last ten years.  Reviewing further some of her thoughts on how the City could address the issue. Councillor Cunningham also offered up some potential solutions, which would see the City seeking more enforcement from the province and federal governments for the area.

The Mayor wrapped up that theme by noting that it was time for Council to address the issue and solve some of these issues, adding that he would get back to the resident on this one

The second participant of the General Comments, opened up her comments expressing her concerns over the struggles that many in the region are finding these days in the community. Adding that she has some struggles with the City's Hays 2.0 Vision document, calling attention back to the original Charles Hays vision and its impact on First Nations, while taking a particular focus on the prospect of LNG development in the region that makes up a portion of the Mayor's new vision.

Noting that she has noticed significant change in the community with just the announcement of proposed developments for the region.  Calling attention to such issues as violence in the community, suicides and suicide attempts, families that are being broken up, increased drug trafficking and family violence.  She provided some anecdotal testimony to a number of local incidents that have been of concern to her reviewing them for Council members. Noting that many residents are starting to leave the community over such issues as affordable housing, renovictions and other issues.

Those themes of crime, housing issues, drug trafficking and downtown violence as well as traffic concerns dominated the majority of the other contributors on the evening, with significant attention focused on the McKay Street area.

On the theme of the plans to remake the park in the McKay Street area, one presentation outlined how there was a need for change to the park that would reflect some of the concerns of those that live in the McKay street area.

Erratic driving and speeding through both the residential areas and throughout the downtown area also made for a few observations as part of the open commentary process. With some concern expressed about the driving habits of local cab drivers.

Concerns over LNG development in the community also made for some of the background to the Open Comment period, with fears over safety issues with the industry and concerns that long time residents may soon need  leave over financial pressures related to the speculation in the community.

One final presentation outlined an interest in seeing the City approach alternative energy options as a path to follow, noting that there has been significant attention directed towards LNG and suggesting that the City investigate opportunities with Wind Energy opportunities to accommodate our energy needs.

The Mayor noted that some of his background in University was in Sustainable Community Development and how he was quite familiar with the themes that were raised, he further called attention to the City's recently launched policy group of 2030 Sustainable City, that will explore the vast opportunities available such as wind, tidal, geo-thermal, solar and such.

He outlined how municipalities are financially limited and have to try to find partners, that are interested into getting into those things, and that from all of it's financial concerns it's hard to find a few million extra into say wind. Adding that if they did have that kind of money available, he was sure that council would be willing to do things like that, noting that it was also part of the City's Hays 2.0 plan.

Councillor Cunningham noted that the person appearing in front of Council is the kind of person the City should be seeking to sit on the City's Sustainable group and wondered how he might be able to do that. The Mayor noted that later this year, once the initial policy work is complete the City would be conducting a call out for volunteers to lend assistance to the program.

Following the Presentation the Mayor then directed Council's attention to the Regular Agenda for the evening.

(44:00-45:00) Regular Council Session for Monday, March 21, 2016  -- The Mayor reviewed past minutes and the current agenda for the evening. Councillor Cunningham pointed out an error in one of the accounts under review.

( 46:00 -- 53:00 ) Presentation to Council -- Mr. Robert Grodecki and the City's Operations Manager Richard Pucci on the topic of the Moresby Fuel Tanks -- Council were provided with an overview of issues related to the Fuel Tanks that located in the Moresby Park area, Mr. Pucci outlined the nature of the partnership that the City could form with the Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society which is seeking a letter of support from Council to apply for a grant towards the project. 

Mr. Grodecki offered up a thumbnail sketch for Council of the work of the Stewardship Society and its interest in the Moresby Park project and what it could contribute towards the remediation work involved.

The Mayor noted that this was wonderful news and that if the money can be accessed it would be a welcome addition to the project and how it is time for those tanks to be removed from the park.

Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to how much money that could be obtained to put towards the cost of the project, asking further of the Mayor if the project was included as part of the Capital Budget for 2016.

The City's CFO noted that it was not put into the Capital Budget for this year, but that there is a fund in place for future use for the project, based on an estimate towards the cost of the project.

Councillor Cunningham wondered if there were provincial or federal funding available towards the project, Mr. Pucci outlined some of the approaches that the City has taken on towards that theme, but noted that the City purchased the land on an as is basis which limits its opportunities to access funding, noting that can continue to seek out grant opportunities to minimize the impact on the community.


(53:00--53:30) Report from the City Operations Manger  -- Following up on the presentation,  Council then voted to approve the request to provide a letter of support to the Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society.

( 53:00 -- 55:00 )  Resolutions from Closed Council sessions -- The City's Corporate Administrator outlined the list of appointment to different Boards and Societies in the Community, the list included:

Prince Rupert Performing Arts Centre Society -- Ms. Joanne Finlay
Prince Rupert Airport Authority -- Mr. Don Scott, Ms. Gloria Rendell, Mr. Kelly Sawchuck and Mr. Knut Bjorndal 
Port Edward Historical Society -- Ms. Laurie Davie


(55:00-- 55:30 ) Report from the Chief Financial Officer on the Cow Bay Marina Fees and Regulations Bylaw -- Council held a final review of the Cow Bay Marina Fees and Regulations Bylaw and gave it final approval.

55:30--1:07:00  ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

The Mayor provided an overview of the latest developments with the Housing Committee. Noting the two streams that the Committee is reviewing adding that the next phase for Council's attention will be a workshop that will be held shortly.

He outlined some notes related to the Draft Report to be sent to the Provincial Government on what kind of services will be needed around affordable housing, noting that Council will soon review that report and then come up with a concept related to affordable housing.

He also how he has joined another committee and outlined his work with on issues related to creating an alcohol and drug rehab centre in the community.

He wrapped up his Housing report by outlining that an approach towards the Provincial and Federal government for funding would be the next level of the project, noting that the Federal government has a 60 Billion dollar fund that it as about to announce and part of it will be about Social Infrastructure. Adding that there is some debate at the Federal level as to whether that money will directed to the provinces or directly to the municipal level, with the Mayor suggesting that the city might have a better chance of accessing some f that funding if it's directed to communities.

Councillor Cunningham asked if the City had heard any more about a bypass road, noting concerns he has about traffic issues in the community. He had a particular concern about truck traffic that is going through town, especially with the work taking place at the yacht club that large trucks are transiting through east side residential areas.  He suggested that the City should be contacting the RCMP for increased traffic enforcement.

The Mayor offered up some thoughts on the prospect of a bypass road along Wantage road, advising as to some recent conversations that he had with the Transportation Ministry.  He noted that the City had been discussing the topic with the Port Authority and that the Port had noted that they are looking at an alternative plan to construct a road towards the Ridley Island direction. And whatever the solution is it, it should be the right solution for the entire area. Adding that the next step is to build some kind of case for the province, to show the feasibility of any transportation plans.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up some guidance for Council on the issue of traffic through the east side residential areas, noting that it's the designated truck route into the city and that traffic levels tend to rise with the fishing season, adding that there are also weight laod issues involved with the Bridge by Breakers.

She then turned her attention towards developments with LNG issues in the community. Noting for Council the recent decision of the CEAA to extend the environmental process by ninety days. Suggesting that many in the community had "jumped the gun" on the CEAA report on LNG and how the Agency had deferred its decision, adding that the questions weren't asked noting that when the Chamber and people in town are saying that its OK and safe for fish, they should read the latest report and learn that it's not exactly safe for fish.  Ms. Thorkelson observed how it needs to be a science debate and not a debate on how many truckers can line up  in Prince George and Fort St. John, but what the impacts are going to be on our community and the fishery.

Wrapping up her thoughts, she noted that DFO and the CEAA have not ruled that the project is safe for fish and that's something that people need to be aware of.

The Mayor followed up her points by noting for the record that the City has provided a submission to the CEAA process, with some science provided by a staff member who is in charge of dealing with EA processes and is dealing with the CEAA in a scientific capacity.  He also noted that the City has yet to sign an agreement with Pacific NorthWest LNG and is still conducting negotiations, and so are following along with the process with CEAA and respecting the process as it is going through it.

Mayor Brain also outlined that over the next three months a decision will be made and however that happens at that time the City will most likely respond from there.

Councillor Kinney offered up his concerns over the wolf problem in the city, expressing some background over a recent incident on the waterfront in the city. Councillor Cunningham noted that the proper process is to report the engagement with wolves to the Conservation Officers in Terrace who can only act on issues if they are aware of them.

With no more reports from Council, the Mayor brought the regular session to an end, with Council then reconvening their  recessed Special Closed Session of the evening.

You can access the City Council Review for March 21 here, where a number of items regarding the council session, including links to media coverage of it can be found.

As always, our Council Timeline is only a reflection of our observations from the Council session of the night. Be sure to consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to their website for further review.

Official Minutes of the Regular Council Session from March 21st (not available yet)

Council next meets in Regular session on April 11th  in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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