Monday, December 17, 2012

City council kicks the emergency services building debate down the road until March

The lengthy city council meeting of December 10th didn't leave much appetite for debate it seems when the topic of the replacement for the fire hall and RCMP detachment came up.  Council chose to address the issue for but four minutes, of the nearly three hour council session.

As we recount in our timeline of the council session, City council chose to defer any decisions and/or discussion it seems on the issue until at least March of 2013. (see our timeline review here, City Council video archive from the 2 hour 10 minute to 2 hour 14 minute mark when posted to the City Website.

City Financial Officer Dan Rodin offered up five recommendations for Council, seeking adoption of the following resolutions.

1) That the City of Prince Rupert recognizes that the existing Fire Hall and Police station have exceeded their useful life 

2) That the City of Prince Rupert recognizes that it will be more economical and operationally more effective and efficient, to construct new buildings, rather than to begin major renovations to the existing buildings 

3) That the City of Prince Rupert recognizes that the City will need to commit a significant portion of any new tax revenue receivable, as a result of new heavy industry development to financing a fire hall and police station 

4) That the City of Prince Rupert recognizes that there are construction and operational savings achievable through the construction of a joint use building, that these savings must be weighed against the incremental cost of acquiring and developing a suitably large parcel of property, the loss of future municipal tax revenues and the ability for the city to pay the annual financing cost of a joint use building. It therefore appears unlikely that the City will generate any significant savings by building a joint use facility. 

5) That the City approve the use of the properties located at the intersection of McBride and Sixth East as the two sites for a new police detachment and fire hall and that the children's park be relocated to the tennis court site at Sixth and McBride prior to construction of either building.

And while that may have made for interesting reading, Council decided to back a motion from Councillor Garon to defer the topic until March or April, suggesting that the city had more pressing issues to deal with at the moment, including the attempted sale of Watson Island and the ongoing concerns over the city's financial picture.

The Mayor eventually settled on a date of March 1st to review the issue once again, only Councillor Thorkelson voted against the motion to table the issue until March.

The topic of replacement structures for both the RCMP and the Prince Rupert Fire/Rescue Department has been ongoing issue for the last few years or so, with a number of community meetings held to discuss the  proposals with the public held over the recent spring and summer.

Despite all that consultation and with recommendations in hand from city staff,  Council still it seems would rather wait just a little bit longer, before tackling one of the toughest issues that they'll have to face it seems.

This latest turn of events on the project could make the emergency services buildings issue yet another long winding kind of soap opera, something that seems to be getting more and more common of late from this particular Council.

While there are clearly financial issues to be addressed by Council, the need has been made time and time again for replacement structures for both services. Simply moving it further down the agenda road doesn't do much to address the issue and suggests that Council is taking a head in the sand approach on it all, showing residents that little has been accomplished in the last few years that the issue has been of note to the community.

Council however, may yet have the issue forced upon them for deliberation, the RCMP having laid the groundwork in the past three years, as the Northern View recounted for us back in September of 2011, with the delivery of an annual letter to the province advising that the city has failed to meet its obligations.

The City by its deferral, may have now forced the RCMP and the Province to take charge of the issue, moving forward on their own timeline and having a building constructed of their own design, sending the bill to the city.

Update: Shaun Thomas of the Northern View weighed in on the debate with an editorial posted to the Northern View of December 19th, outlining how the residents of Prince Rupert deserve more from their Council

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