Wednesday, April 24, 2013

City Council Timeline, April 22, 2013

Another full day for Prince Rupert City Council, with close to two hours of review and discussion on a wide number of items, many of which involved the City's Budget planning for this year.

Key to the night's discussion a surprise announcement for Council, as CityWest advised Council that there would be no dividend provided to the council for this year, a development that left council to ponder how to account for that shortfall in its ongoing budget deliberations.

Proclamations and Reports made up for the remainder of the Council efforts on the night.

The timeline of all of the council the proceedings can be found in red below, tied in with the City Council video and audio feeds archived below.

Further information such as minutes and permanent placement in the  audio and video archives can be found as they are posted to the city Website.

Minutes from April 22, 2013 (when posted)

In Attendance April 22, 2013

Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Absent
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Present (sitting as Chair)
Councillor Judy Carlick-Pearson-- Present
Councillor Gina Garon-- Present 
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present 
Councillor Jennifer Rice-- Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present

Video Archive for April 22, 2013 
Audio Archive for April 22, 2013 

The first task of business for Council on the 22nd was the usual adoption of the agenda for Monday night (0:00-2:00)

Presentations to Council

(2:00-11:00) Salmonberry Trading Company-- A presentation outlining the developments with the Farmer's market group in the City and seeking to change the day of the market to Sundays.

(11:00-23:30) Presentation from CityWest-- The City West Board and Managers provided a review of the year and developments with CityWest, outlining a number of items. They provided a recent history lesson, advising as to what they provide at the moment and the challenges that they face.  As part of the presentation they stressed the number of employees, currently at 78 employed by the company, 47 of them in Prince Rupert.

They also  sought to clear up some misunderstandings that they believe are out there regarding the company, including the item that there is no funding directed to CityWest from the City of Prince Rupert. The presentation also outlined how CityWest has provided dividends of 5.5 million dollars to the City since 2007.

During the nature of the presentation the topic of a dividend for this year did not come up from CityWest officials, however in the question period that followed, Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to how CityWest was doing financially.

At that time CityWest explained that it was a challenging year for the Communication company and advised Council that at this time, it did not appear to have the ability to provide a dividend to the City this year.

From that advisory, Councillor Ashley asked for a look at some of the positive things that CityWest could share with the public.

Councillor Kinney asked about cel service between Prince Rupert and Terrace, he was advised that Telus was looking into that topic.

Councillor Thorkelson returned to the topic of finances and asked as to the nature of future dividends to the City. The capital expenditures in recent years are now in place, so the prospect of a improved profitability is there with opportunities to come, so it looks positive towards the future.

Councillor Carlick-Pearson asked for a timeline on potential dividends for the City of Prince Rupert, it was explained that it was hard to predict the future in the telecommunications industry, outlining some of the challenges that might impact on any dividends. Though no actual timeline for future dividend delivery was provided.

The presentation complete, Council moved on to public comments on the upcoming Financial plan.

Public Comment on the City Financial Plan

(23:30--25:00) One citizen followed up on the CityWest presentation, asking if the City was now not going to receive the previously anticipated 500,000 dollars from CityWest and how it may impact on the City's Financial plan.  It will be a topic that council will address later on in this session.

Reports and Recommendations

(25:00--45:00) Acting City Manager and Chief Financial Officer Report of Financial Options-- Dan Rodin provided an overview on what options the City may have for this years budget planning. Part of a request from a past council session to come up with some topics for discussion on the Financial Plan.

He provided some background on the planning process and highlighted the nature of the declines in the community and how that has impacted on the City's financial base. He outlined the prospect of a 2 % tax increase, draw down on the operating surplus and clawing money from the paving budget as a possible path for this year.

He then explained the nature of the costs to the city, department needs and staffing items that impact on the financials for the city. He also outlined the nature of the contracts the City has with the RCMP, BC Transit and the Airport Ferry bus contracts and the Tax Sharing agreement with Port Edward that can't be changed unilaterally.

Among the breakdown of his numbers was a note as to how many potential layoffs may be required dependant on the nature of any tax increase that council approved. He also cautioned as to the problems that deferring any maintenance and other required items on infrastructure may require.

He offered up some potential savings to the City from a review of various departments, including a saving from the RCMP with one less FTE at the detachment.

Among the other items for consideration

Reductions in Grants to community organizations including Prince Rupert and Port Edward Economic Development, reductions from the City's Engineering department as well as at the Recreation Centre.

He then addressed the CityWest announcement of no dividend/loan payment and how that will require some financial reconfiguration of the Financial plan for this year.

With that financial change, the recommended options were for a 2 percent tax increase, reduce the paving budget by 175,000 dollars and that the City make a one time draw down on the accumulated operating surplus for the remaining shortfall so as to balance the budget this year.

He expressed confidence in the prospects for the City in the future, but that over the short term it was going to take some time for the City to feel the benefits of those improving prospects.

He did however, caution that the property tax situation in the city would remain much the same for quite some time to come. Offering up the recommendation that Council would need to review all of their options this fall to determine their full operations, deciding what they may wish to save, which ones need can be let go or cut back on.

(45:00-- 1:09:00) Follow up to Mr. Rodin's Report-- Council Ashley expressed her surprise at the CityWest announcement of no dividend, before opening up the floor for discussion.

Councillor Thorkelson asked if the City had attempted to meet with the Port to seek a meeting between Council and the Prince Rupert Port Authority, seeking to make the Port part of the solution to the current situation. The City had not had time yet to arrange for any meeting with the Port. She again expressed her desire to see the City have a meeting with Port Officials on their taxation situation and how it works.

She expressed her belief that the Port would not want to see the City having to close the Recreation Centre, the Pool, close the Library or shut down Economic Development, stating that it wouldn't be in their interest.  Council Thorkelson also suggested that Council consider Councillor Garon's hit list for potential cuts, Mr. Rodin advised that many of those were not addressed in the report currently under consideration, but would remove those items from the assorted budgets if requested.

Councillor Thorkelson then inquired as to how that would impact on the operating surplus. She then inquired further as to the options available to the City and the nature of where the money was coming from for those options. She also asked further as to Mr. Rodin's gloomy financial forecasts for the short term.

Councillor Thorkelson then expressed her anger towards CityWest and how she was furious over the timeline of their financial announcement of no dividend while the City was dealing with its financial situation at this time.

Moving on from her anger, she inquired as to where the City can go from this point. Mr. Rodin advised passing the recommendation, leading to the By Law process and a property tax bylaw, with another meeting to take place April 29th, where Council can go through the entire budget and remove any items  that they may wish.

The Final approval of the process set to come in May.

Councillor Thorkelson then returned to her theme of seeking financial assistance from the Port and offered up her thoughts as to whether the Port would like to donate towards some of the items at the Recreation Centre as a for instance, such as the sauna or diving board at the pool.

Councillor Garon also expressed her concerns over the shortfall from CityWest and wasn't inclined to go forward on the process at this time and suggested that Council meet in a workshop to go over the options ahead.

Councillor Ashley reminded Council that they had a limited time ahead to pass the budget and sought for Council to offer up some suggestions to staff to try and put together items for consideration.

Councillor Thorkelson wondered if they should pass the first reading today, or what Council should do. Mr. Rodin suggested that council provide a resolution to staff as he outlined previous. Staff would then put together the paper work, prepare the By Law for review on April 29th and then accept changes at that time.

Councillor Garon advised that the Mayor did not at the moment know about the shift in the financial situation stemming from the CityWest news and that he should be updated on it before council went further on the topic.

Councillor Ashley wondered when the Mayor might be returning in time for those discussions and if he would be available for the upcoming meeting on the 29th of April. Mr. Rodin believed he was going to be here, but arrangements could be made to have him take part in the session should he not be back in town.

Councillor Thorkelson then sought clarification on the resolution, Councillor Rice asked if Council might wish to delay the special meeting of the 29th to the 30th. Councillor Ashley advised that was not possible as some members of Council would be away, attending meetings at the (NCLGA).

Councillor Ashley then called the motion to have a meeting on April 29th to discuss budget, which was passed.

They then moved to the more difficult issue of the two that of direction to staff

Councillor Thorkelson then introduced a motion for Council to consider, which included Mr. Rodin's review previous of the 2 percent tax increase, reduction of the paving budget and draw down of the operating surplus. Including the prospect of staff to consider further reductions. Proposing the motion as a tentative budget for the purpose of reflection, with consideration to take place on April 29th

The motion was adopted, with Councillor Garon opposed.

Councillor Ashley then introduced the topic of reductions to community grants and said at this point those grant reductions were not being looked at this point.

(1:09:00--1:12:00) Report from Acting City Manager on the Recruitment of Rural Physicians-- Mr.  Rodin outlined the nature of the report which came from a request by Council. The main thrust of the report an update on the Health Ministry plan to attract physicians to rural regions. The Report was received for consideration.

(1:12:00--1:23:00) Report from Acting City Administrator and the City Planner on the Topic of Municipal Boundary expansion-- Mr. Krekic outlined his report, which updated Council on the progress of their proposal. He advised that an Open House would take place on May 29th at the Highliner Hotel, with a follow up drop in Open House at Council chambers on May 31st.

Council adopted the recommendation.

Councillor Ashley observed that at Regional District there were a number of questions put forward regarding the proposal, letters of concern were passed on to staff following that meeting. Concerns over mapping and a lack of consultation on the process were also provided at that time. Some Directors of Regional Council inquired as to how the City be better able to do some of things proposed as opposed to what Regional District could do. All points that the Councillor has passed on to staff for their consultation process.

Mr. Rodin outlined the nature of the consultation process and how it will proceed moving forward.

Councillor Kinney made a recommendation that staff keep Regional District aware of what is happening. Councillor Thorkelson recommended a friendly amendment, that Staff meet with Regional District and any community that asks for information.

(1:23:00--1:34:00) Report from Engineering Coordinator regarding McBride Street Mural -- Recommendation of approval for Paint Prince Rupert's plans to paint over the mural on McBride Street.
Council moved the motion contingent on approval of the Arts Council and City Council as to the nature of the proposed mural. A lengthy discussion on the topic of the need for approval took place on the issue.

The motion was passed.

Councillor Garon then recommended that Council provide guidance to staff on how to handle future requests on this theme.

(1:34:00--1:37:00 ) Report from the Approving Officer to Stratify the building at the Inn of the Harbour -- Report from the Acting City Manager outlining the plans of the building owner to stratify his building with part a residential building the other a business. Council was recommended to approve it subject to what they hear from the public.

Councillor Ashley inquired as to the nature of taxation that stratification would provide for. Councillor Rice expressed some confusion over the nature of the report and what constituted a residence. After an explanation as to the nature of the request, the motion was carried.

Correspondence for Action

(1:37:00--1:41:00) Request for a Proclamation for a Day of Mourning Proclamation in Prince Rupert -- Councillor Thorkelson spoke in favour of the Proclamation. Council then approved the motion. Councillor Kinney inquired if banners could be provided for public display on the Proclamation

(1:41:00 -- 1:44:00) Request for a Proclamation for a Cemetery Day of May 1st in Prince Rupert- The recommendation was approved. Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to whether it was a province wide event, observing that the recommended day was May 1st May Day and recommending that the day be moved to May 2nd next year. Council asked staff to investigate the nature of the timing of the day.

(1:44:00 -- 1:48:30  ) Letter from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency-- Mr. Rodin outlined the nature of their correspondence which provided details on an upcoming workshop in the community for May 6th, with a deadline for attendance confirmation of April 26th. Mr. Rodin observed  that if any Councillors intend to attend, that they provide their names to staff so they can contact and confirm with the Agency.

Councillors Carlick-Pearson, Thorkelson, Rice and Garon advised that they would be interested in attending, Councillor Rice suggesting that a senior member of staff should attend as well. Mr. Rodin advised that Mr. Grodecki's schedule would be rather busy at that time.

Councillor Thorkelson recounted some of her thoughts on the nature of Environmental legislation and such and suggested that council find out how the process works.

 City Manager Report on Outstanding Initiatives

(1:48:30--1:50:00) Mr. Rodin outlined the details on the upcoming Open House on Antenna policies.

(1:50:30--1:52:30) Mr. Rodin provided an updated City Managers Report, advising that all items of the Strategic Priorities that Council had set for the year had been completed, with the exception of curb side recycling, boundary rationalization, the Tsimshian Access Project and the Marina Funding was still to be completed. He also provided a list of items that staff was still working on

Follow up comments on his Report:

(1:52:30--1:54:30) Councillor Garon inquired as to what the designing and creating specifications for a new Fire-Rescue truck was all about. The nature of that is to begin the process for replacement of an aging vehicle with the Fire Department. It is for the most part preparation work and no commitment is required at this time.

(1:54:30--1:55:30 ) Councillor Garon inquired as to the protocol for the Civic Centre sign, which groups can have their information placed on the sign or if it is purely for Civic purposes. Councillor Ashley suggested that Community Groups be allowed access to the sign and cautioned as to setting a price on that access.

(1:56:00-1:58:00 ) Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to whether the Social Services stakeholders was part of the Priorities plan, it wasn't clear if it was considered part of the Priorities plan and a desire that Mr. Grodecki organize another session with the stakeholders.

(1:58:00 --2:01:00 ) Councillor Ashley offered up her observations on the Waterfront Plan and its place in the Strategic Priorities Plan, she wondered if Council should offer up what the next steps on the Waterfront Plan should be. Councillor Garon advised that any discussion should wait until a new CAO is hired on by the city.

Reports, Questions and Inquiries for Council

Councillor Ashley outlined the results of her and Councillor Kinney's recent visit to Oona River.

Councillor Rice outlined the results of a recent request to the Conservation Department for a Prince Rupert based Conservation Officer, advising council that the city's request was refused.

That brought an end to the Regular Council meeting, with Council adjourning to closed session following a five minute break.

You can access the City Council Review page for April 22nd here.

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