Friday, May 31, 2013

Charles Hays Graduation Day 2013

There probably won't be much in the way of student productivity at Charles Hays Secondary School today, the Grads of 2013 will no doubt have a few things on their mind as the morning moves into afternoon.

Graduation ceremonies for Charles Hays take place tonight at the Lester Centre, a salute to the students, teachers, support staff and administrators, as another group of young adults prepares to head off into the world.

Gowns, diplomas, speeches, awards and photos will be the order of the night.

Proud family and friends will celebrate with the Grads tonight, as they are recognized for their achievements and make their plans for the future.

The CHSS graduation marks the end of their SD52 schooling (though they still have a month to go with exams and such through June) with many set to embark for University or college studies at locations in all directions.

Some will stay closer to home, with NWCC and UNBC destined to provide the next stage of their education, while others will spread out across the country, having long ago submitted their applications and confirmed their spots at university and college campus locations from coast to coast.

The Lester Centre ceremony tonight, heralds the start of the awards season for the school District as the school year comes to a close.

Still to come will be ceremonies for the Pacific Coast School and Prince Rupert Middle School, while each elementary school also will have its own recognition day.

But tonight, is for the High School Graduates, as the transition from high school to whatever may be ahead begins.

The Class of 2013 is ready for their next adventures, Best Wishes to all on their night of celebration tonight.

Update: The Northern View had the first of the local media reviews of The Commencement/Graduation events of the weekend (here)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

High Stream Flow warnings for some areas of the Northwest this weekend

With warmer temperatures inland and precipitation arriving from the Pacific, the Rivers Forecast Centre has begun to issue some high stream flow advisories for portions of the Northwest.

Thursday morning an Advisory was declared for the Stikine and Dease Rivers and the surrounding areas around them.

The High flow conditions are expected to continue to occur through northern British Columbia, while it's anticipated that temperatures will ease up over the weekend, there is precipitation on the way with the potential of 20 to 30 mm of rain , which could result in rising rivers.

Yesterday, Highway 37 North was closed in both directions 12 km north of Dease River Bridge because of flooding, Drive BC had no time frame as to when the highway north would be reopened to traffic.

BC Transportation provided the following photo of the Flood zone posted to their #BCHwy37 twitter feed.

You can review Thursday's full advisory here.

You can gain the latest updates from the Rivers Forecast Centre website.

Drive BC road updates can be found here.

Ridley Terminals under the spotlight after Northern View exclusive

For newspaper reporters, we imagine there are a few signals that the story you are working on is going to be one that makes for much discussion in the community, your work destined to be examined from start to finish.

For the Northern View's Martina Perry, that moment probably came when George Dorsey, RTI President and CFO, abruptly ended the discussion and the nature of her questions.

"When questioned by The Northern View about the concerns raised by multiple sources regarding RTI's containment systems and dust-mitigation measures, Dorsey declined further comment and ended the interview. 

 "When they come out of the shadows, I'll be glad to talk to them," Dorsey said."

Ms. Perry's article, grabbing a total of five pages of the Wednesday, May 29th edition and featuring a number of photos provided by insiders at the Terminal, certainly has provided for some discussion points on aspects of the Terminal operations.  In particular, the impact that those operations are having on the environment off the shores of Ridley Island.

It's a particularly timely contribution to the discussion on local industry, owing to the nature of the expansion taking pace at Ridley Terminals and with the Terminal itself up for sale at the moment.

And while Mr. Dorsey, perhaps isn't thrilled that someone working on site is sending news tips and photos off to the weekly paper, the issue of the environment and Ridley's impact on it, is certainly a topic that is going to be of concern to the community.

Declining to have further comment on the situation, isn't something that is going to make the issue go away, nor does it make one of the City's top employers look particularly good in the public eye in this instance.

From the article, it would seem that at the least, perhaps a review of the containment procedures currently in place is required. With corrections to the current system in use, if required, made with the utmost of urgency.

That should be a starting point for Ridley Terminals, with the Terminal looking to the future with its current expansion project, it would seem to make sense that the environmental concerns that have been raised by the paper need to be addressed.

In fact, with the prospect of increased shipments out of the Terminal in the years to come, making sure that the shipment process is state of the art and keeping to environmental standards should be the main focus of the company.

Ms. Perry's work, is well worth a read, an impressive (if lengthy)  review of the situation from the Weekly paper and it is an article that may surprise many in the community.

At times, over the last few months, many readers have taken the Northern View to task over it's pro business themes. Based in part from recent editorials on the provincial election, LNG development and other industrial issues, the impression at times has been that theirs is a journal that is of the opinion of development at all costs.

The Ridley article, shows that the weekly paper can cover issues of concern to all in the community.

Ridley Terminals is a key employer in the community and obviously an important part of the local economy, however, with that comes a responsibility to its neighbours.

The Northern View's article shows that the media has a place to not only celebrate progress in the region, but to ensure that local industry keeps that part of the compact of being in good standing with the community they work in.

You can review Ms. Perry's work from their Internet portal in two locations, posted to the web here and through their E Edition (Pages 15-19) .

And of course you can thumb through the print edition delivered to your door last night (or available around town), we suspect the publisher would think that to be the best option of the bunch.


Ridley Terminals issued a statement on Thursday, outlining that it is currently conducting an investigation into the situation to determine if there is any facutal basis for the issues that the Northern View raised. You can read the full statement, as posted to the Northern View website on Thursday here.

The Northern View further advised on Friday that Environment Canada and the Prince Rupert Port Authority have begun their own investigation into the coal dumping issues at Ridley Terminals (see article here)

CFTK-- RTI Coal Dump (video)
The Northern View-- Ridley Terminals whistleblowers say work is underway at the site

Much to discuss for the Federation in Vancouver

Prince Rupert, like many other British Columbia cities will have a spot reserved in Vancouver these next few days, as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities gathers in conference.

The Agenda for the Municipal gathering from May 30 to June 3 is a rather ambitious thing, with much for communities across the land to discuss and exchange ideas over, when it comes to their relationships with Provincial and Federal governments.

Keynote Speakers for the four day conference include the Denis Lebel, the Federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities,  James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, Rick Hansen, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau.

And while there are the policy sessions, information reviews, panel discussions and all of that, there's Trade Show, a chance to learn of any new inventions, or products and procedures that may make the delivery of civic services easier, both in practice and on the budget.
also time set aside for the

One thing we're pretty sure that won't be on the agenda (at least officially) is the recent report on Municipal Spending from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, one that suggests that Canada's Big Cities (and we imagine a few of their smaller ones as well) aren't handling the public finances with the best possible overview.

That report, "Big City Spenders" has highlighted a number of issues that the CFIB suggests may make life very difficult for Municipalities in the not so far off future. A suggestion that at least on large city Mayor, Gregor Robertson of Vancouver says the CFIB report features "hysterical claims... and have no basis in reality."

We imagine the prospect of Canada's cities facing financial troubles won't be quite the surprise for the Prince Rupert delegation should that topic come up, with the City having just completed it's own lengthy review of budget issues.  (Though we suspect that the Prince Rupert solution, wouldn't find much approval over at the CFIB).

And we're sure that the City's representatives will be more than willing to share some of their thoughts on relations between Federal, Provincial and Municipal levels of government, the topic of grants in lieu of taxes would probably be at the top of their list for discussion..

In Prince Rupert, at the end of each Council session, the Mayor when he's in attendance, shares a listing of his various activities on behalf of the City in the week previous, all part of his Mayor's report at the end of each Council meeting.

We imagine he'll have some thoughts to share with Council and the public at the next Council meeting.

Rupertites will be looking forward to learning more about what he and the Prince Rupert delegation have gleaned from their time at the Vancouver conference and how what they discovered over the four days of the gathering, may assist the City in facing it's many challenges ahead.

Below, we'll update items of note from the Conference.

CFNR-- Mayors Across Canada call for plan on Housing Crisis

CFIB report provides a rebuke to Canadian cities for spendthrift ways

It's a report timed as to release as the nation's municipalities gather in Vancouver at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention in that city.

And when they start clicking on their laptops and such, the Mayors and City Managers not only of the Big Cities, but of the smaller ones as well, won't be overly thrilled at the perceptions that the CFIB are presenting about their spending patterns and the constant request of more revenue from the tax paying public.

The preamble to the report outlines how municipal spending has increased by 55 per cent in Canada, while the population has only grown by 12 percent. With the main increase in that spending coming by way of public sector wages and benefits, which take up between 52 and 67 per cent of operating spending the three big cities reviewed.

It's a situation that the CFIB believes has Canada's big cities heading for a financial crisis if they don't reign in their spending.

National Post-- Canadian cities headed for financial crisis if they continue to overspend: report
Vancouver Province-- Spending report slams local governments
CBC-- Cities need to reign in spending, says report

There are of course counter arguments to the CFIB findings, as seen below. Local government wages and the CFIB's municipal manipulations

However, the CFIB which has made the Municipal Spending report an annual thing (the report released yesterday is their fourth review), no doubt will stick to their figures and opinions, over what they see as unsustainable finances at the municipal level.

And while those numbers may not reflect the situation in the smaller communities, the theme that spending continues to increase, while population stagnates or declines is one that is constant in many rural Canadian communities.

The prospect of financial trouble is also not limited to Canada's major population centres.

During the recent City of Prince Rupert budget debate, there was much talk of the city's financial picture at the moment.

Among the many concerns outlined during that process, were the loss of dividends from CityWest, the continuing drain by Watson Island on the City's finances and all the other issues associated with running a city with a small population base and declining assessment base.

At one point even, the Mayor made mention of the Bankruptcy word in the context of the City's concerns over Watson Island, a declaration that even those major cities examined by the CFIB have not had to whisper yet.

To get a better understanding of what the smaller cities are up against, the recent property tax notices mailed out to the community provides a helpful guide to where your money goes.

As we outlined on the blog earlier this week, the majority of the tax revenue collected by the City of Prince Rupert is destined for basic city services such as police, fire, recreation and infrastructure concerns.

And while Prince Rupert would seem to have a few extra financial twists to keep in mind (ownership of a Communications company and the running of a transportation ferry for instance) the City is probably not alone in the growing gap between the cost of providing services and the revenues they have to put towards them.

Maybe the CFIB may wish to expand their review process and examine the municipal scene in the smaller communities as well, it seems that there's no shortage of items and concerns to examine beyond those bright Big City lights.

We have a feeling that they might find some of the solutions from Prince Rupert worth a review.

However, judging by their opinions over the ways of Big City spending, we suspect that the CFIB probably would take issue to a few of the City of Prince Rupert's thoughts on financial planning.

The CFIB report can be reviewed here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

City Council Timeline, Monday, May 27, 2013

The first City Council meeting of the Robert Long era took place Monday, the New City Manager taking his place to steer the city's day to day operations and provide guidance at Council sessions.

His workload was light however on the evening, with the majority of the night's session taken up with presentations from proponents of LNG development in the city. Both from the perspective of natural gas pipeline development and from the developers of the proposed LNG terminal on Lelu Island.

Once the presentations were complete, council tackled the regular aspects of civic governance, in the form of development variances, grant applications and a review of the Mayor's activities since the last council session.

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 May 27, 2013 (when posted)

In Attendance May 27, 2013

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

Video Archive for May 27, 2013 
Audio Archive for May 27, 2013 

The First order of Business was the Committee of the Whole Meeting.

(0:00 - 1:00) After the required housekeeping of the opening moments, City Council heard a pair of presentations from proponents of LNG development in the region.

(1:00- 33:30) Presentation from TransCanada Pipelines on the proposed natural gas pipeline for an LNG plant on Lelu Island. Officials from the company provided an overview of the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project.  Outlining some background their plan to bring Natural Gas from North East British Columbia to Prince Rupert, what route they planned to use and the economic impact that the project would have on the Prince Rupert area.

Council then was invited to ask questions of Trans Canada.

Councillor Ashley was the first to speak out on the topic, inquiring about the number of pipelines planned for the region and whether each company could work together to provide for just one pipeline to meet the needs of the LNG industry. The answer to her question was that each project should be looked at on its own, with each company drilling for gas in their own areas with demand the key aspect of any company's plans.

Councillor Thorkelson then took to the microphone to ask a few questions of TransCanada, first off seeking some clarification on the affiliations between TransCanada, Progress Energy and Petronas.

She then looked to gain more information as to the placement of pipeline routes, she then reinforced Councillor Ashley's thoughts on the nature of why so many pipelines are required. She was wondering if there is not some kind of linkage between the competing firms possible.

She followed up that question with an inquiry as to what the cumulative effects of the projects being proposed might be.

Her final question was on the theme of employment and how many jobs would be created in Prince Rupert after the construction phase of the development. Much of the work would be through contractors, providing short term employment prospects during that construction phase.

Upon completion there would be close to 20 to 30 long term, well paying jobs in the community, but again through the contractors.

Councillor Ashley inquired as to the nature of the property tax benefits and how they would be divided up along the route.

Councillor Carlick-Pearson outlined how Councillor Thorkelson asked the bulk of the questions that she had, thought she did inquire as to the nature of a timeline for those looking to find those trade jobs that they may have to offer. She wondered if they would be inclined to return to Council to outline the nature of the jobs to be offered and the trades training that would be required for them.

As they wrapped up their presentation, the TransCanada representatives reminded council of their website where more information can be found.

( 33:30--59:30) Presentation from the Pacific Northwest Liquefied Natural Gas Project-- Representatives from Pacific Northwest outlined their plans for development of an LNG plant on Lelu Island.

They provided an overview of the changing nature of their company, providing the breakdown on the relationship between Progress Energy and Petronas.  With Petronas as the owner, Japanex has recently purchased a 10 per cent share into the project, providing another customer for the facility.

Details on the plans for the marine facility, LNG liquefaction plant and a power plant. With the prospect of expansion should market demand call for it.

They outlined the nature of the direct employment for the plant and the spin off effects for secondary industry in the region.

They provided details on the work camp that would be required for the planned construction phase of the development.

The nature of the timeline of development was outlined, with the construction phase anticipated to be complete by 2018 with shipments to follow at that time.

They currently are awaiting further guidelines from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency as to the next stage of the development planning.

A review of their Field studies into the site selected was provided, looking at Archaeological, Vegetation and Wildlife aspects of the site.

In closing they reminded the Council of their open house for June 5th at the North Coast Convention Centre.

The Mayor having asked running questions during the presentation, then turned the question phase of the night over to Council.

Councillor Thorkelson opened up the question period, inquiring as to the process  of environmental  review between the pipeline aspect of the project and the LNG plant process.

She then followed up with an inquiry on the nature of the CEAA process and the nature of tanker traffic on the coast, wondering if there is a process that reviews the safety measures in place for shippers and traffic into their terminal.

The Pacific Northwest reps outlined their plans to work with the Prince Rupert Port Authority and Federal Government in examining the impact that marine traffic may have on the region.

Councillor Ashley then asked if Petronas has their own carriers or if the shipment is contracted out, she was advised that it would be a mix, while Petronas has a large fleet of their own, some customers may have their own vessels calling on Prince Rupert.

She then inquired as to the responsibility for spills from third party carriers arriving at the terminal.

With that the presentation was concluded and City Council then moved on to the remainder of the Committee of the Whole  session for the night.

The Mayor then opened up the floor to the public to ask questions on the operations of the City.

(59:30- 1:04:00) One resident then attempted to ask a question on the previous presentation, but the Mayor interrupted him to advise that this was an opportunity to ask about Civic operations.

The resident then asked as to the status of reports, such as RCMP, Fire and other departments, reports that he believes no longer seem to be available to the public. He wondered if perhaps they could be put on a public website. He asked who the public would approach for any Freedom of Information requests with the departure of Mr. Rodin.

Questions on the nature of those reports and confidentiality were discussed between the mayor and the resident.

That was the only public participation of the Committee of the Whole and Council moved on to the Regular Council agenda.

(1:04:00-1:05:00) Adoption of Minutes and Agenda from past and present meetings.

Reports and Recommendations

(1:05:00 -1:06:00 ) Recommendation from the City Manager to name Corinne Bomben as Acting City Financial Officer.  Mr. Long, the City Manager had nothing to add to the recommendation. Council then voted to approve the Ms. Bomben as the Acting Financial Officer. With Councillor Ashley reinforcing her approval that the City was promoting from within.

(1:06:0-1:07:30) Application for or a Development Variance Permit for a property on Atlin Avenue.   Council approved the application.

(1:07:30 - 1:08:00 ) Report from the City Planner for a Development Variance Permit for a property on Prince Rupert Boulevard. Council then approved the application, moving it to the public notification phase.

(1:08:00--1:14:30)  Report and Recommendation from the Economic Development Officer on the topic of a Public Facade Improvement Program. Councillor Thorkelson had a question on the topic for Derek Baker, asking about the budget and cost implications of the proposal. Wondering if there was a way to top up that fund moving forward.

Councillor Thorkelson expressed her concern that only four or five companies might be able to make use of the proposal, using up the available funds quickly and if perhaps they could make the grants less, to spread out the available funding. Councillor Ashley asked about the selection process and how the successful projects would be selected. Council approved the recommendation, moving it forward.  Councillor Ashley then spoke in favour of the project and the benefits that it offers to the community.

Councillor Thorkelson then asked that Council make a request that Mr. Baker look into the possibility of increasing the available money by seeking out other grant monies. That was also approved by the Council.

(1:14:30--1:15:30) Report from the Corporate Administrator on The New Signing Authority Resolution. Council was asked to approve a new listing of names with signing authority of various accounts on behalf of the City of Prince Rupert. Council approved the recommendation.

(1:15:30-- 1:16:30) Report from Corporate Administrator on the Appointment of a New City Manager as the Deputy Corporate Administrator.  Mr. Robert Long, the City Manager was appointed as the Deputy Corporate Administrator for the City of Prince Rupert. Council  approved the recommendation.

Correspondences for Action

(1:16:30--1:18:30) Request for a proclamation for Access Awareness Day for June 1st . Mr. Grodecki outlined the nature of the request and provided background on it. Council approved the request.  Councillor Ashley then asked a question as to whether they could have a longer term resolution put in place so they aren't handling the requests on a year to year basis. A short discussion on that theme took place, with the request in this case approved.

(1:18:30--1:19:30 ) Reports - Outstanding City Initiatives.  Mr. Long, provided a review of the outstanding item, by suggesting a calendar to make the workings of Council easier for the Mayor and Council.

(1:19:30--1:19:45) Reports - Questions and Inquiries from Council.  No Council Members had items for review at this session.

(1:19:45--1:27:45 The Mayors Report

The Mayor reviewed his attendance at the Spectra Energy Open House recently held in the city.

He participated in a Community Economic Initiative adjustment meeting to consider the  approval of funding from coastal communities seeking assistance.

He met with the new chair and the President and CEO of the Pacific Pilotage Authority, currently there are three marine pilots based in Prince Rupert, with the anticipation of more to come as the traffic demands increase.

He participated in a gathering of gill net fisherman over concerns of costs to fisherman over a new monitoring program from DFO. Councillors Thorkelson and Rice were also in attendance at the meeting.

He attended an Open House from TransCanada pipelines for their planned routing of a pipeline to Lelu Island, many other members

He attend the recent Salmon Festival at the Civic Centre providing a greeting to the participants,  Councillor Rice was in attendance as our MLA elect.

The Mayor attended the recent meeting of Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District, answering questions of the Board members on the City's expansion plans.

He attended the opening of an Exhibition of the Prints Rupert Camera Club, the exhibition continues on at the Museum of Northern British Columbia until the end of June.

The Mayor attended the Prince Rupert Library's 100th Anniversary celebrations, many residents took in those festivities.

The Mayor then reviewed his past discussion with the companies that are currently working and hiring  employees on the various projects in the region, the then reminded council of his request to those companies to be conscious of community and support the community. He mentioned the need for the contractors to provide a living out allowance, so they could live in the community and purchase goods in our community.  He highlighted one company in particular, JJM Construction, which has advised the Mayor as to their procedures and plans in place. The Mayor acknowledged that company for their support to the community.

The Mayor reminded Council and the home audience of the Open Houses this week on the topic of the City's proposed Boundary Expansion plan.

His last item of the night was a reminder that the Prince Rupert Special Events Society was looking for help for the upcoming Seafest events in the city in June. They can be reached at 250-624-9118.

With that, the council session came to an end.

You can access the City Council Review page for May 27th here, where a number of items regarding the council session, including media coverage of it can be found.

As always, consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to the website for further review.

First Open House on City's Expansion plans set for tonight

The first chance to learn more about the City's ambitious plans to secure land in all directions comes up tonight, as the City hosts an Open House to show their maps and outline the ambitious plans to the public.

Taking place at the Highliner Inn, from 6:30 to 9 PM, the Open House will feature a short presentation, a chance to ask questions of city staff and an opportunity to look over the maps we guess.

The proposal for a larger Prince Rupert first came up back in March, as we outlined on the blog at that time, the main thrust of the planned expansion appears to be a process to gain a tax base from any anticipated development in the region.

However, the prospect of an expanding Prince Rupert hasn't gone by un-noticed among the neighbours of late, many of whom have questions we imagine on how the City draws its lines, though we imagine they will be taking those concerns to the City directly and not as part of an Open House presentation.

If you can't make the Wednesday night session, a second opportunity to learn more about the City's plans comes up on Friday, when the presentation moves to City Hall from 11 am to 3 PM.

Educators may wish to make note that the City has expressed a willingness to make presentations to students if requested, the same arrangement is available to community groups if they wish to learn more.

You can also learn more about the City's proposal from their website, where the process moving towards any proposed Expansion is outlined. (see here).

The Municipal Boundary Expansion Map can be found here (click on the map to enlarge)

Items of note on the Open House.

CFTK-- PR Boundary Expansion (video)
CFTK-- Prince Rupert boundary Expansion plans in public spotlight
The Northern View-- Land grab seems appropriate for Prince Rupert expansion

CityWest makes change to Internet support process

For those Rupertites that like to drop in at CityWest's Prince Rupert offices and seek out technical support for their Internet troubles, a change is coming in how CityWest will offer you that support.

According to a notice posted to the CityWest website, as of June 3rd, customers will no longer be able to seek over the counter support at the downtown Prince Rupert offices of CityWest.

Those over the counter service items include:

Internet or modem troubleshooting

Cable Modem exchanges

email configuration 

computer desktop support

CityWest will still provide technical support for Internet issues, however any questions will have to be made by way of their technical help desk at 1-800-442-8664 or 250-624-2111.

You can learn more about that change from the CityWest website (see item here)

The change in the Internet department is just the latest of changes to service delivery for the City owned communication company.

Recently, CityWest  streamlined their office hours in Prince Rupert, on May 6th CityWest revised their operating hours for the public.

Opening the doors at 10 AM and closing down the business day at 4:30 Monday to Friday.

As we outlined in our blog post of April 15th, that moved the Prince Rupert office hours closer in line to the CityWest hours in Terrace and Kitimat.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

City of Prince Rupert Property Tax Bills are in the mail

Rupertites may wish to approach their mailboxes with trepidation over the next few days.

For sometime this week awaiting your review, will be the 2013 Property Tax Bill from the City of Prince Rupert.

The annual accounting of your cost for living in Prince Rupert, arrives after a lengthy budget process for the Mayor and his council, a process which started in January and did not wrap up until just before the May 15th deadline.

As he outlines in his Message from the Mayor, the path to this years Budget and your Property Tax Bill provided for many a struggle for Council.

In his review, the Mayor outlines the nature of requests from a variety of community groups for grants,  he touches on the the reduction on the tax rolls this year from the loss of two fish plants and the impact those closures had on Assessments from BC Assessments.

He points towards unused monies from 2012 being put towards the 2013 budget and how Council and staff reviewed city budgets to lessen the 2013 tax burden.

And while he doesn't make mention of that closed door arrangement between the City and its workers ( a deal that still seems rather steeped in mystery, but the terms of which apparently shall not be shared with the public) he does take time out in his message to salute the dedication and work of the City's employees and staff during this period of tax decline.

On the topic of CityWest and the missing dividend of this Budget review period, the Mayor reprised the CityWest talking points of their recent appearance at Council, (which we reviewed on the blog in April see item here) suggesting that while CityWest tries to grow the CityWest brand, the prospect of dividend returns may be missing from city coffers for a number of years to come.

You can review some of background on those discussions and many others, through our archive of Council items over the last year.

Our Archive on Budget Issues here and our past items on the General Discussion points for Council can be found here.

And while you sit down with your calculator to try and figure out the changes from year to year in your property tax bill, the City has provided a breakdown, to provide a thumbnail guide as to where some of that tax money we are providing is directed.

Using an average assessment of $168,700 as a guideline, the City allocates your tax dollars as follows.

Police Service $371
Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services $231
Recreation Service $205
Roads $179
General Governance $148
Grants $132
Parks $70 
Airport Ferry $68
Capital and Reserves $58
Transit $28
Development Services $23
Cemetery $13

In addition to the breakdown on municipal expenses, the City outlined the allocation of tax revenues on behalf of other taxing agencies.

The residential tax bill allocates the following percentages towards those agencies.

Municipality (City of Prince Rupert) 64.9%
School Tax 27.2%
NW Regional Hospital District 4.9%
Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional Hospital District 2.2%
Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District 0.4%
BC Assessment and Municipal Finance Authority 0.4%

The tax bill is due July 2, 2013, mark it down on a calendar and set an alarm for it, homeowners won't want to miss that deadline!

The penalty on unpaid taxes after July 2nd is 10%.

Home Owners who qualify for the Home  Owner Grant, can submit their Grant application with their payment before the due date.

The two page insert with this years tax bill can be found below, click on the image to enlarge it.

Northwest cellular service examined by Business in Vancouver magazine

It's a favourite topic of Councillor Nelson Kinney of late, concern over the long stretches of highway without cellular service between Prince Rupert and Terrace, one he raises whenever CityWest makes it's public appearances at City Council sessions.

And while the stretch of highway between Rupert and Terrace is of course a key concern for North Coast residents, the issue of cell service across all of rural Northwest British Columbia is getting a review, this one on the pages of the publication Business in Vancouver.

The lack of, or limited nature of cellular and Internet access in many communities is the focus of an article from Joel McKay, which looks at the terms of a 2011 agreement, which is in place for ten years, as well as the aspects of the service to be provided by Telus for the provincial government (see contract here ).

The agreement with Telus is a 1 billion dollar service contract to provide  extended cell coverage and increase Internet access in rural and remote communities across the province.

A wide expanse of Telus territory that at the moment seems to be creating large gaps in Northwest British Columbia service.

In particular, there is a major concern over how to better provide service to Haida Gwaii, which currently is straining the capacities of their over the water radio transmission system.

The solution to that problem would be an underwater cable across Hecate Strait, but at a cost of close to 10 million dollars, that would seem to be a project that would very much be of a far in the future prospect.

The commitment to Telus from the provincial government has also raised concerns from a number of regional service providers, including Prince Rupert based CityWest.

Business in Vancouver revealed some of the CityWest concerns by way of a Freedom of Information request, highlighting the comments of CityWest to the provincial government.

Concerns which for the most part outlined the CityWest argument that the 10 year deal with Telus would hurt rural telecommunication companies and their customers.

"By supporting rural providers who operate in underserved regions we ensure that more of the money is invested in the regions and goes to the rural residents it is intended to benefit," CityWest argued in its letter to the province, which was later released via Freedom of Information. 

 "The implication is that the government has had to dangle the metropolitan business as an incentive to force Telus to serve rural B.C.; that our dominant carrier needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into these rural markets."

CityWest had company at the complaint window over the Telus contract, Whitehorse based Northwest Telalso outlined their own mis-givings over the government contract with Telus.

CityWest an Northwest Tel have had common ground and like minds before, CityWest signed a partnership agreement with NorthwestTel in 2007 to launch wireless data services with CityWest.

That arrangement has at times provided for suprises for Prince Rupert customers, in September 2012 a disruption in Yellowknife, knocked CityWest cellular and data service out for four hours.

The Business in Vancouver review, makes for an interesting review of the ever changing nature of the telecommunications system in Northwestern British Columbia.

Examined in the prism of CityWest's recent declarations to City Council about it's operations  in the Northwest, the article provides us with a bit of a window as to the costs, challenges and competition that the city owned communications company is facing in these changing times.

You can read the full Business in Vancouver article here.

More background on the issue of communication in the Northwest can be found in our Communication archives.

Port of Prince Rupert becomes debate topic in Portland, Oregon

What does the Port of Prince Rupert have to do with the debate currently raging in Portland, Oregon over a new bridge for the Columbia River?

Well it the Columbian Newspaper is any indication, Prince Rupert's gateway to Asia will benefit greatly should Oregonians and Washingtonians continue on with their bickering over whether to build a new Columbia River Crossing.

That infrastructure project is an ambitious proposal to reduce congestion and make transit easier in the Portland area. A comprehensive website has been created, dedicated towards all aspects of that proposed and apparently controversial crossing, you can learn more about it here.

However, it has been a project that has sparked much debate of late, featured in a number of articles in recent days.

Portland Tribune-- I-5 bridge collapse focuses attention on Columbia River Crossing project
Oregon Live-- Skagit River Interstate 5 bridge collapse could cause Washington legislators to fund Columbia River Crossing
KATU-- Columbia River Crossing debate influenced by I-5 bridge collapse

The topic even has made it onto the pages of the internationally renowned Economist magazine.

While the bulk of the article in today's edition of the Columbian spends much of its content on the nature of infrastructure on the American coast (the Skagit River Bridge collapse is just one of the shopping list of concerns), for Prince Rupert residents and British Columbian's it will be the impression that the Port of Prince Rupert has made on the US that is fascinating.

The Port of Prince Rupert is in effect being used as a teaching aid for advocates in Portland and Vancouver, Washington for a bridge crossing.

You can read the full article from the Columbian here.

The Prince Rupert references can be found below:

Many Clark County residents might not know much about Prince Rupert, B.C., and for good reason. It's a city of only about 13,000 people. But the more you learn about Prince Rupert, the easier it is to understand why the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Portland avidly support the Columbia River Crossing and the commercial trade improvements the project offers. Prince Rupert boasts the fastest-growing container terminal in North America. Located on the coast in mid-British Columbia, it's the closest North American port to Asia. And it's the deepest ice-free harbor in North America. Shippers are attracted to both of those attributes. 

 Although they might never admit it, Prince Rupert Port Authority officials might take some delight at the continuing bickering here over the CRC. They know that every day the congestion continues on our Interstate 5 Bridge, cargo shippers -- who more than being conservatives or liberals are money makers -- consider using some port other than Vancouver's or Portland's. Prince Rupert leaders gladly proclaim: Come on up!

The article highlights some of the competitive advantages that the Port of Prince Rupert has over it's American competitors.

And while in the past the American ports have at times complained of any number perceived unfair advantages of their Canadian competition, in this case and in most of the other issues up and down the West coast,  it is more of infrastructure and congestion problem that the Ports such as Portland, Vancouver (WA), Oakland and Seattle are facing.

A problem, which judging by the controversial nature of this particular crossing, isn't one that is going to go away any time in the near future.

Northwest Community College seeks your opinion

The prospect of a School of Marine and Coastal Studies is a little bit closer for the North Coast, as Northwest Community College begins the discussion on the topic, by seeking your opinion on the proposal.

The college took to Twitter last week to outline the nature of the project, which is in its initial stages of development, with consultation with the various communities of the North Coast the first step towards creating the program.

NWCC is seeking feedback for the plan which would see the creation of the School, based in Prince Rupert, but serving and operating in a region that stretches from Stewart and Gingolx in the north to Hartley Bay to the South, Kitimat to the East and Haida Gwai to the West.

The School of Marine and Coastal Studies would provide a mix of programming featuring ecology, conservation and stewardship, as well as having a focus on the trades and marine certification to name a few disciplines.

To get a better understanding of what Northwest communities may wish to see in such a program the College has a short survey for residents of the Northwest to fill out and submit.

Once the survey findings are compiled, a community consultation session is planned for later on in the process. Further details on the proposed program will be shared at that time and feedback again asked for to move the proposal forward. 

Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce claims Chamber of the Year Award

The congratulations poured in quickly once word was relayed that the Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce had been named the Chamber of the year, the award handed out at this year's Annual General Meeting of the BC Chamber of Commerce.

The three day conference took place in Nanaimo this year, featuring a number of activities and information sessions for Chamber members.

Nanaimo Daily News-- B. C. chamber AGM staged in Nanaimo
Nanaimo Bulletin-- Nanaimo hosts 2013 BC Chamber AGM
The Wave102.3-- Nanaimo Chamber hosts B. C. AGM

The conference wrapped up with the celebrations of excellence, and among the province's Chamber of Commerce representatives in attendance at the gala finale, the Prince Rupert Chamber was celebrated for its achievements in the past year.

The Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce was recognized by the B. C. Chamber, for holding to its vision of service to the business community, in very trying economic times over recent years.

The Prince Rupert Chamber posted their own message to twitter on Monday, celebrating their success with a photo which includes a name and face quite familiar to the North Coast. As Gloria Macarenko celebrated the award with the Prince Rupert delegation of Jason Scherr and Simone Clark.

The Northern View offered up this recap of the Chamber's success in Nanaimo this weekend.

Business in Vancouver magazine also heralded the Prince Rupert Chamber's achievement with this article.

Monday, May 27, 2013

New arrivals and pending departures all part of City Hall theme tonight

Tonight's City Council session provides a variety of themes for Rupertites to watch for, as the City gets set to enter a new era of Administration.

Taking up his duties this evening will be the City Manager, Robert Long, who has been on the job since May 15th, tonight marks the first Council meeting under his watch.

One of the first items of the night would seem to be the announcement of a replacement for the recently departed City Financial Officer Dan Rodin, who left the City on the same day that Mr. Long arrived. 

From Council's agenda for this evening, we learn that Ms. Corrine Bomben will be getting the move upwards on the city's staffing roster,  set to take on the duties (if approved by Council tonight) as the Acting Financial Officer.

As Ms. Bomben moves up, the City Administrator appears set to move on, as Robert Grodecki will be leaving that post shortly, we're not sure of the timeline on that planned departure, but the search for his replacement is already on.

And while the upper ranks of civic administration continue with what now appears to be a fairly major overhaul, we still have yet to learn the intentions of the newly elected MLA for the North Coast, Councillor Jennifer Rice.

The Councillor who won her bid for provincial office on May 14th, hasn't offered up much in the way of what she plans to do regarding her current seat on City council.

She has provided some feedback to both the Northern View and the QCI Observer as to her thoughts on her success at the provincial level and what she may be taking on when in Victoria.

But her plans for her council seat, and where we go from here, is a topic that is still in development it would appear, her current thinking being that she will remain on Council for the time being.

Not that she hasn't been offered up some timely advice from the local media.

The Northern View had two editorials in last weeks opinion pages, offering the new MLA some guidance.

And if that's not helpful towards her planning, there are some interesting thoughts from other new MLA's, who like Ms. Rice also hold municipal office.

Some points to ponder that might give her some research material for the decision ahead.

As we outlined earlier this month on the blog, The Councillor has much in the way of company when it comes to making a decision on what to do about the twin positions of municipal and provincial office.

Among the more notable of thoughts from those in the same situation.

Mayor Dan Ashton of  Penticton who has reportedly offered to cover the cost of the byelection required for his departure from civic office, the newly elected Liberal MLA has said he would be willing to pay for the cost of a byelection, something which could set him back some 35,000 dollars.

It was an offer that Langley's Mayor Peter Fassbender wasn't particularly thrilled to hear about, suggesting that the Mayor of Penticton wasn't doing any favours for the remainder of the elected of the migrating municipals.

Fassbender intends to step down from Municipal office, but doesn't seem inclined to cover the cost of the by-election process. 

In Delta,  Scott Hamilton faces a similar decision as Ms. Rice, though he would seem to be leaning towards staying on as a councillor if possible, as he puts it to save the community the cost of an election.

However, he does state that he would not be taking on two salaries should he decide to stay as a member of Delta Council, providing perhaps what may be the best guiding statement for anyone in a similar quandary.

In his comments to the Delta Optimist Hamilton stressed that "he wouldn't take both salaries if he remained in both jobs, saying he'd happily give one to charity", adding "that would be the ultimated in double-dipping and I wouldn't do that"

That could provide a variation of Councillor Thorkelson's recent thoughts on how the City needs to "work smarter".

Whatever decision Ms. Rice may make, the need to declare her long term intentions has arrived. 

There's much work ahead for her on the provincial level and as we learned through the emotional budget discussions many challenges for the City moving ahead.

In her recent media interviews both in Prince Rupert and on Haida Gwaii she seems clear as to her ambitions for and the challenge ahead with her new duties with the NDP, which perhaps should suggest she may wish to concentrate on those looming tasks.

With all the introductions and farewells of the last few weeks it seems like a timely moment for an announcement. 

And while it's not on the Agenda for tonight's council meeting, tonight's session may provide the perfect venue for Councillor/MLA elect Rice to declare her intentions, providing some closure to a topic that has dogged her and City Council since she secured the NDP nomination in January

City Council Session for Monday, May 27, 2013

Regular Session of City Council for Monday, May 27, 2013

Home page and archive of sessions can be found here.

Live Broadcast of session can be found here

North Coast Preview of Regular Session for May 27, 2013

Agenda for Regular Session of City Council for May 27, 2013

Agenda for Committee of the Whole Session for May 27, 2013

Notice of Special Council Meeting for May, 27, 2013
(Resolution to Exclude the Public)

Info to Council

May 22, 2013

Note: Official Attendance and Minutes not posted to City Website yet

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

Minutes of Regular Session of Council May 27, 2013

Audio Recording of May 27, 2013 

Video Recording of May 27, 2013 

North Coast Review City Council Timeline May 27, 2013 

North Coast Reviews Items on May 27th Session of Council

Much to discuss for the Federation in Vancouver
City of Prince Rupert Property Tax Bills are in the mail
New arrivals and pending departures all part of City Hall theme tonight

News items from the May 27th Council session

CFTK-- PR Facade Funds (video)
The Northern View-- Prince Rupert's new city manager settling into his position
The Northern View-- Prince Rupert Council questions energy companies on spills, jobs and pipeline routing

City Council Preview, May 27, 2013

The First Council meeting for the new City Administrator Robert Long arrives tonight, his debut at the municipal table to provide counsel and keep the wheels of civic governance flowing in public session.

The night ahead provides for much for the Mayor and Council to consider in their post budget debate mode, the drama of the last month now behind them with the budget deliberations concluded and the financial blue print now revealed (to a fashion).

Some of the points of consideration and discussion for Council's session tonight can be found below.

Council starts their work for the evening in a Special Session at 5 PM, One which excludes the Public, as Council examines a personnel matter and continues their discussions on events at Watson Island.

The Open to the public portion of the Evening will commence with a Committee of the Whole meeting, the Agenda for which you can access here.  For the most part, it will be an information session for Council and the public from the principals of one of the planned LNG projects for the Community.

Mr. Chris Pezoulas from TransCanada - Pacific Northwest Transmission Line will outline some of the details behind the proposed natural gas pipeline planned to feed into the proposed Pacific Northwest Liquid Natural Gas plant.

He will be followed by Mr. Spencer Sproule, a Senior Advisor in Corporate Affairs for Pacific Northwest Liquid Natural Gas (LNG), who will provide some background on that proposal for development on Lelu Island.

You can learn more about that proposed project from our Industry Archive here.

Following those presentations, Council will then offer the opportunity for those in the public gallery to ask any questions on any civic issues that they may have on their minds.

From that Council will then move on to the Regular Council Agenda, which you can read here (click on their agenda page blocks to be directed to items of your particular interest)

The usual adoption of the agenda, past minutes, petitions and delegations and review of any unfinished business will open up the Regular Session.

From there Council moves on to Reports and Recommendations

Among the items for consideration are:

A report from the City Manager - A recommendation that council appoint Ms. Corrine Bomben as the Acting Chief Financial Officer (Agenda Page 12) (We first outlined that appointment was to be made with this post to the blog last week)

A report from the City Planner - Details and a recommendation to approve a request for a variance permit for a residence on Atlin Avenue (Agenda Page 13)

A report from the City Planner-- Details and a recommendation to move to Public Notification an application for a development Variance Permit for a residence on Prince Rupert Boulevard. (Agenda Page 24)

A report from the Economic Development Officer  -- A recommendation that Council pass a resolution in support of a Grant Application to the Northern Development Initiative Trust to seek funding to create a Prince Rupert Facade Improvement Program (Agenda Page 24)

A Report from the Manager of Accounting and Corporate Administrator- A resolution to Provide for New Signing Authority (Agenda Page 39)

Requests, Correspondences for Action (Agenda Page 42), resolutions from Closed Meetings, Bylaws and any additional items then fill out the home stretch of the council meeting.

Council will then hear Mr. Long's First Report from the City Manager on any outstanding Council Initiatives.

The session then wraps up with Reports, Questions and Inquiries from Members of Council.

Council begins their work Monday night at 7 PM.

Those with a high speed Internet connection can watch Council proceedings live through the City's website.

The results of this weeks sessions an any media follow ups to the items of the day can be found from our City Council session page here.

A full Review of the Council year so far in 2013 can be found on our City Council Archive page.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Southeast Alaska receives a Sunday evening jolt

Southeast Alaska felt the shimmy of a 4.5 magnitude earthquake on Sunday evening, the temblor rattling along the Alaskan coast fault line west of Wrangell/Craig Alaska.

The first report of the quake was received at 8:50 PM British Columbia Time.

There were no accounts of damage received from the seismic event and No Tsunami Warning was generated from it.

The region of Alaska affected by Sunday's event is located 320 kilometres WNW of Prince Rupert

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mr. Long suggests an Acting CFO

With Dan Rodin having ended his time at the financial helm of the City of Prince Rupert, and all of Council's tributes now complete.

The time for moving forward seems to have arrived, one of Robert Long,  the new City Manager's first tasks was to find someone to take over the Chief Financial Officer's position.

With a week on the job, Mr. Long has reviewed some of the submissions for the position and it would appear that the City will promote from within,  from the City Council Agenda notes for Monday, May 27th comes word that Mr. Long is recommending that Ms. Corinne Bomben be named the City's Acting CFO.

(Page 12 City Council Agenda)

Council will be asked to approve her nomination to the position at Monday nights council session.

Ms. Bomben will move into her new position from her post of Manager of Accounting with the City.

And while it's never a sure thing, one imagines that the Acting title, will only be in place for a short period of time, with Ms. Bomben provided with the permanent status of CFO upon a short review period.

With the placement of Financial overview now in place, Mr. Long can turn his attention to the need for a new Corporate Administrator, required with the pending  departure of Robert Grodeccki

Towards filling that staffing opening and advertisement for that position was posted to the City's website on Wednesday.

With a large number of issues requiring the attention of Administration, it would appear that the new City Manager is going to work quickly to get his administrative team in place without too much of a delay, all ready to tackle the many, many concerns outlined over the last five months of Council sessions.