Friday, March 15, 2013

City Council clicks their heels and hopes for the best

Monday night's City Council session would seem to have put to an end any short term thoughts of a replacement for the city's aging Fire Hall and RCMP detachment.

Acting City Manager Dan Rodin delivered his extensive report into the situation and following his presentation city council began it's discussions on the topic, with all councillors seemingly in agreement that at the moment the City can't afford to build new facilities for either service.

The full review of the Monday night session on the Fire Hall and RCMP detachment can be found on our City Council Timeline (1:13:00 to 1:53:00), where we attempt to provide a line by line review of the debating points from the lengthy council session.

By the time all the talking was complete, the words of Councillor Thorkelson seemed to be the one's that resonated the loudest, and with the introduction of new motion; that while accepting that replacement structures are needed the time at the moment is not right for such consideration.

Her motion to council outlined the nature of the dilemma that Council finds itself on the topic at the moment.

Asking that Council recognizes that we need a new fire hall and police station, but that we cannot build them at this time. We commit to looking for a variety of monies to earmark for these buildings, including new tax revenue, corporate donations and land sales.

The Councillor making the summation declaration, that if we don't have the money, we don't have the money.

The discussion over any potential referendum on the topic didn't last very long either. Introduced by Councillor Ashley, who called to mind some of the events of a past Council and the concerns by some in the community over the then Council's approach to the Incorporation of CityWest.

The Councillor stressing that with that history in mind, any consideration to any potential construction of Emergency facilities should be taken to the people in the form of a referendum. However, there did not appear to be much support or appetite for that path from her fellow Council members.

The main takeaway from it all being, that until the economic conditions in the city improve and some of the larger industrial projects arrive, then it's best to just push the projects down the road, though with the understanding that the RCMP may in the end force the City's hand on the subject of a new RCMP detachment.

The RCMP is in the position of delivering a third letter of request for a new detachment, a process that could result in the province taking charge of the situation and constructing a building and sending the bill to the City.

An unlikely scenario according to Acting City Manager Dan Rodin, who said that his research into other communities with a similar situation, did not find that the build and bill scenario ever came to pass.

Though the Mayor didn't seem quite convinced and by discussion's end still seemed to think that it was a possibility.

Considering that the detachment issue has long been a topic of concern for council, and one without much movement, it must be getting frustrating for the RCMP and its members in town.

As a recap of some of Council's efforts on the file, here's a short list of some of our items over the last year or so.

March 10, 2103-- Emergency Services Building Review set for Monday night
December 17, 2012-- City Council kicks the emergency services building debate down the road...
March 16, 2012 -- The Residents are rumbling...
March 6, 2012-- Discussion begins on emergency services replacement building

As for the Fire Department and their situation, with no recourse for a letter of request to deliver, it would seem that the Fire Department will just have to wait for those anticipated better days.

On that topic, council later in the Monday session then veered off into a slightly confusing debate over the prospect of the LNG proposals in the community. Mainly on the theme of the need for an Environmental Assessment for the projects.

Councillor Thorkelson dropped a last minute request in the lap of Council as the last item from Councillors on the night.

Requesting that Council approve a motion to send a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, asking for an Environmental Assessment on the proposed Northwest LNG project (Petronas).

She apologized for the late notice, having apparently just learned of the deadline of that night for submissions, making her request rather urgent.

However, it is puzzling how both she and Councillor Rice, who are both strong on the environmental side of the debate in the community, managed to miss a notice that was delivered back in February, as we highlighted here on the blog back on February 19th.

It would seem that had Council had opportunity to review information in a more relaxed time frame and had a more reasoned discussion on the topic, that the mad rush of Monday could have been avoided.

But instead, the request for a letter to the CEAA seemed to set off no shortage of confusion in council chambers, as Councillor Garon weighed in on the nature of the letter and the short notice that was provided for it.

The discussion even gave Councillor Rice the opportunity to speak to the topic, bringing up the Idle No More movement of recent months and its concerns over environmental matters, as one of the reasons that these Environmental Assessment requests need to be made.

The debate also provided for the bizarre scene of both Councillor's Garon and Thorkelson seeking out different websites, duelling to a fashion, as to who could provide further background on the entire situation.

It made for a rather extensive use of Council's time on the topic of the LNG proposals and what the nature of any intervention (if any) that the city might want to make on the issue.

In the end, only Councillor Kinney voted against the idea of the requested letter, so we imagine that City Staff worked into the night to meet the deadline for delivery of Council's missive.

You can review that entire twenty minute segment of the Council debate from the Council Timeline at the (1:53:00 to  2 hour 13 minute mark of the night).

The prospect of an increasingly engaged City council on issues of Industrial development in the community, is an interesting study in the dual themes of the night.

With the Fire Hall/RCMP detachment debate as an indication, Council seems to be banking the future of the community's infrastructure on the promise of industrial development.

Yet, in almost in the same breath, Council seems conflicted as to what kind of development they wish to see in the community.

In the past Council has expressed its concerns over the Port Expansion plans, the Pinnacle Pellet Plant construction, concerns over CN Rail in the community  and now we can add on the growing discussion on LNG.

At the end of the day, and still in the financial bind that we find ourselves in, one wonders exactly what kind of industrial footprint the City is seeking to bring to the community, in order to pay for all it's future infrastructure plans.

No comments:

Post a Comment