Before the night would come to an end, Council would learn more about a proposed housing development on the west side of the city and hear of the need for a new emergency fire rescue vehicle for the city's Fire Department.
As well, Council received a report on the budget process from the City's Financial Officer, then tabling it until they learn more about the contributions from the Port, CityWest or the ongoing expense of the Airport Ferry.
Prior to the Monday night public session, Council continued on with the common theme of the last year that of the "closed session" of Council.
With Council once again sitting in a closed session earlier in the evening.
That was followed by a Public Hearing on the Graham Avenue housing project proposal as well as a short session of the Community of the Whole, complete with a Question period for the public to contribute to.
The background of the evening can found on the Regular Council Agenda of the night.
The timeline of the Regular public council the proceedings can be found in red below, tied in with the City Council video feed archived below.
Further information such as minutes and permanent placement in the video archive can be found below as they are posted to the city Website.
In Attendance March 24 , 2014
Mayor Jack Mussallem-- Present
Councillor Anna Ashley-- Present
Councillor Judy Carlick-Pearson-- Absent
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present
Councillor Gina Garon-- Present
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present
Video Archive for March 24, 2014
(0:00--38:00 ) The Mayor opened up the night with the Public Hearing on a proposed housing development for the Graham Avenue Area. -- City Planner Zeno Krekic provided a short overview of the project and the timeline of its introduction to City Council.
As part of his review he identified a number of concerns of the public, one on the prospect of increased traffic, one on the height of the proposed development, while a third intervenor had concerns on water and sewer issues and the required change of zoning that the project requires.
For the most part Mr. Krekic explained that most of them should not pose a problem for the proposed development. Advising that staff recommended that the project be approved.
Mr. Cunningham inquired as to the infrastructure for water in the area, as he had heard concerns over the water supply in the area. He also advised that he had heard concerns over internet access to that side of town and the impact that the housing development may have on that. The Mayor outlined that the Internet question was one for the Internet provider.
Councillor Ashley asked as to what level of new taxation could be generated to the city by the development. The Mayor tasked Ms. Bomben to come up with a number based on a valuation of 4 million dollars, to which she advised that the taxation return to the city would be approximately 36,000 dollars.
Councillor Garon offered up an observation on the water pressure for the area.
Councillor Thorkelson offered up some concerns over the perceptions of the public over infrastructure issues and recalled similar issues at the last conversation on the Westview park proposal. She stressed that the city needs to be sure of the situation and to do some testing in the area, before they make any decisions on the proposed development.
The Mayor asked the City Manager to task the city's engineering department to make the appropriate tests.
Following those points, the Mayor explained the process and called for public comment at the hearing.
One member of the public, representing a number of residents along Graham Avenue, offered up some views on the proposed development; those included response time for the Public Hearing, water and sewer concerns, traffic issues, zoning concerns and parking issues related to the development.
Councillor Ashley inquired of staff as to who would be responsible for such things as speed bumps and other road concerns.
Councillor Cunningham asked for clarification on the traffic issues that had neighbourhood residents concerned.
Councillor Thorkelson asked if the residents were concerned about the diversification of the project, she was advised that the larger concerns were how it was going to be managed and if this was the right area for such projects.
Mr. Kevin Newton one of the proponents of the project offered up some answers to some of the questions raised regarding the project.
On the theme of Parking, Councillors Kinney, Cunningham and Garon asked if there would be enough parking for the project requirements and the nature of them.
Councillor Garon observed that in her opinion the nature of the development as primarily a senior's facility would not lead to issues of speeding concerns. Councillor Ashley asked for an overview as to who the project was designed for.
Following his presentation, The Mayor then closed the Public Hearing.
( 38:00--59:00) The Mayor asked for the Committee of the Whole to be convened and the adoption of the agenda for the Committee of the Whole session. The next item of note was the Question Period aspect of the Committee of the Whole.
One participant asked Council about traffic issues in the Kootenay and McKay areas of the city, as well as in the downtown area. She urged council to ask the RCMP to step up enforcement in those areas.
She had one other topic of note, expressing a wish to see the NDP MLA in Council chambers to offer support to stop the proposed BC Ferry cuts. The Mayor took the opportunity to relay the steps that the City has taken so far to make its thoughts known on the issue.
One final question from the first participant was on cruise ships provided an overview from the Mayor as to what the 2014 season was going to look like.
The next question from a new participant at the Question period session was on the theme of recreation passes for civic employees. The Mayor outlined that the subject has been discussed by previous councils and was created as an inducement for civic employees to exercise and reduce the amount of sick time was claimed.
Councillor Ashley outlined some background on the exercise and pass program and why it was put in place. Councillor Garon agreed with the participant that perhaps an increase in the rate should be considered and if the program is not being utilized it should be examined.
Councillor Cunningham asked for some clarification on the process involved.
The Mayor asked that Staff prepare a report on usage of the passes and the cost to the city of them.
And with that the Question Period came to an end and the Mayor Moved on the Regular Agenda for the night.
( 59:00--1:02:30 ) The Mayor asked for the Regular Session to be convened and the adoption of the agenda for the session and past minutes of previous council sessions.
Petitions and Delegations from the Regular Council session
( 1:02:30--1:28:00 ) A Presentation from Ms. Stephanie Allen of BC Housing with an overview of what BC Housing is doing to create new housing and the process that is involved between the provincial agency and local communities.
As part of her slideshow presentation Ms. Allen reviewed some of the Workforce Housing Solutions that may be required with increased economic development in the region.
Following her presentation, Councillor Garon began questions, asking about proposed projects for Prince Rupert, she advised that there was nothing on the table at the moment, but that BC Housing was identifying potential prospects for the future.
Councillor Thorkelson asked about the nature of the Grants for land use planning and need in demand research, she then outlined some of the concerns of Council regarding targeted housing and supportive housing. Adding that she was looking to increase the Housing Stock in Prince Rupert, with BC Housing having recently torn down a number of structures in the community.
Ms. Allen advised that the costs of redevelopment requires partnerships and that BC Housing is looking at some opportunities to address that issue.
Councillor Ashley asked how BC Housing could work with the city to identify housing needs with the prospect of increased development in the community.
Councillor Kinney had concerns over the need for increased Seniors Housing in the community, she advised that at the moment there is nothing in the development stage.
The City Manager outlined the nature of some conversations with Ms. Allen earlier in the day and what indications the city had presented to her regarding the requirements of further research between the City and BC Housing.
(1:28:00--1:53:00) Opportunity for Public Comment on the Five Year Financial Plan.
A participant from the public asked a number of questions regarding the City's budget deliberations and the increases planned for civic taxation, which he believed was an excessive option. He followed up his observations with a request for clarification on why the ten percent increase was required.
The City's CFO Ms. Bomben then provided a brief overview of the increased costs to the city for the year ahead, explaining where the extra 1.5 million is required.
Mr. Long the City Manager then provided some background on the factors and different categories that the city collects revenues from that could impact on residential taxpayers. Ms.Bomben then followed up with a request that the participant from the public stay for the full presentation later on in the evening, which may help to clarify some of the concerns raised.
Councillor Thorkelson then suggested that Council change the Agenda to provide for the presentation from the City's Financial Officer to better explain the process to the public.
Councillor Ashley then suggested that before they move on with that presentation, that members of the public in attendance that may have questions be allowed to make their contribution at this time.
Former Mayor Don Scott was the next participant and he asked about the Digby Island Ferry and the cost to the city of its operation, he asked Council if the City or staff had pursued the prospect of the province to take over the financing of the ferry.
The Mayor advised that the province has disputed that concept, he then outlined the nature of an engineering study that the province participated in on a shorter ferry link to the Airport.
Mr. Scott then asked if the City was seeking legal advice on the issue and any provincial government obligations towards access to the airport.
Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to why he believed that that the province is responsible for access to the airport, Mr. Scott outlined that there had been some negotiation surrounding the issue while he was Mayor and that it is important to take another look at the existing policies and why the provincial government ignores our requirements.
The Mayor asked the City Manager to make contact with the Airport Authority to gain a report from them on the topic and compare notes on the issue.
Councillor Cunningham then asked what kind of reaction the province provided to Mr. Scott when he was Mayor, he advised that the city received no funds for the airport road, but at the time it was decided that the province would take care of the Ridley Island Access road.
Councillor Garon offered up some background on the Airport Authority's attempts to deal with the issue, she then suggested that the City should take a more proactive role in seeking to push the issue forward.
Towards that the Mayor asked for a motion that staff work with the provincial government to take responsibility for the road from the Ferry dock to the airport as well as the Ferry Serivce.
With the public commentary at an end, Council shifted its agenda to allow for Ms. Bomben to make her Financial Presentation at this time.
(1:53:00-- 2:27:00) Report from the City's Financial Officer on the Proposed Budget -- Ms. Bomben provided an overview of the factors involved in creating the City's Financial plan for 2014, providing the options can challenges for the Five Year plan.
Her review offered up some background on the unique situations that face Prince Rupert when it comes to tax base and services required by the community. In her presentation she challenged some of the perceptions provided by the weekly newspaper the Northern View on March 19th and outlined how the city's financial situation does not match that overview in the paper.
She touched on the Service Challenges that the city faces, most of it funded through taxes.
She highlighted the challenges of the financing of the Digby Island Ferry.
The nature of the payment in lieu of Taxes process was next in her presentation and the discrepancy in values that the City expects and the Port provides.
Major industry cap rates and exemptions also provide a challenge for the city's financial revenues, with a number of the major industrial sites in the city capped at different levels.
Using 2014 BC Assessment values she highlighted the gap between what the city will receive and what it would anticipate without those caps in place.
She highlighted how the residential tax base was required to take up the tax burden with the decrease in industrial tax revenues over the years, particularly from when Skeena Cellulose was in operation.
She explained why Kitimat which does not have a Port Authority can collect higher tax revenues from their industrial users.
In her Services review, Ms. Bomben highlighted the service requirements faced with the revenue challenges in place.
She reviewed the accumulated surplus aspect of budget planning and how future plans for city requirements will impact on it.
The next phase of her presentation was the Options for Council's consideration, each which highlighted the tax burden to the residential tax payer.
She offered up four options for Council to consider, each one with a different definition of revenues for the city and projected deficit and potential service cuts.
In the end Ms. Bomben recommended that the City consider Option Three, which calls for 3 per cent tax increases in each of the five years, but still calls for sizeable deficits in each year from 2014-2018 with an impact on two Full Time positions with the RCMP. Recognizing the tax class imbalance, while retaining surplus.
Following her report, the Mayor asked for questions from Council.
Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to the difference between mill rates between Kitimat and Prince Rupert, and that the Prince Rupert mill rate is considered lower than that in Kitimat.
The Mayor then turned the floor back over to the public for comment.
One participant asked for clarification on the ability to collect revenue from industrial options with the PILT process. He followed up that question as to whether the City can lobby the different levels of government to reduce the burden of the cap.
Councillor Cunningham outlined some comments on the nature of the caps and how he believes they place undue hardship on Prince Rupert as opposed to larger communities. He also took issue with the recent Northern View article on taxation, calling it sensationalism.
Councillor Ashley also had a comment on the nature of the need to approach the upper level of government to improve the cap situation that the city faces on industrial use.
Councillor Cunningham then outlined that with the current negotiations in place, the City should hold off until those discussions provide further results.
Councillor Thorkelson also suggested that the province is responsible for the cap problems and recounted some of her past research on the PILT issue.
Another member of the public asked a question on the four options and his concerns over the reduction in police staffing and other municipal requirements such as a fire rescue truck. The Mayor advised that it was still wide open as to what the city will decide to do as far as it's financial plan.
He followed up with a question on the Airport Loan requirements between the city and the airport authority and the nature of user fee increases required from the Loan.
Councillor Ashley explained the nature of the arrangement between the Airport and the City on the repayment process.
In a follow up to a question on the Airport Ferry, Councillor Thorkelson advised that the Airport Ferry costs have nothing to do with the loan situation. She further explained that the Loan would be a net sum of zero for the city.
Councillor Cunningham advised that the city was considering many options, including raising the cost of transit on the airport ferry to help raise more revenue.
Councillor Kinney outlined that the Port is working with the city to try to resolve the PILT issue,
With no other members of the public coming forward, the Mayor brought an end to the public discussion phase of the Financial Plan process for the night.
(2:27:00--2:33 ) Report from the Fire Chief on the proposed purchase of a new Fire Rescue vehicle -- Fire Chief Dave McKenzie provided an overview of the requirement of a new Fire-Rescue van for his department. He outlined that the current rescue vehicle is already five years past is useful life time frame.
Councillor Garon asked as to the timeline of the current truck's usage and what federal requirements are in place regarding its use past its date.
Councillor Ashley spoke in favour of the purchase.
With that the recommendation to award the contract for replacement was adopted.
(2:33--2:35:00 ) Report from the City's Economic Development Officer regarding a letter of support for a Dry Dock proposal-- Mr. Long outlined the nature of the request for the letter of support.
Councillor Thorkelson had concerns over the nature of the request, advising that McLean's Shipyard had not been contacted regarding the request and that she believes it may be a case of supporting one business opportunity at the expense of another.
The motion was then tabled until City Staff contacted Mclean's shipyard to seek their comment on the issue.
(2:35:00-3:02:00 ) Report from the City's Financial Officer -- Council now considered the elements of the report from Ms. Bomben.
However, Councillor Ashley outlined some of her concerns over the prospect of potential tax increases and offered up the suggestion that the city increase the fares on the Airport ferry by fifteen dollars. She believes that with increased loads in the future as the economy improves that would help cover off the costs of operating the ferry. She outlined her concerns over the ongoing nature of the city subsidizing the operations of the ferry.
She also suggested that the city examine the prospect of service fees increases across the board by five percent. She suggested seeking election cost savings with the School District.
She also offered up the thought that the city not take their annual trip to Ketchikan this year.
The Councillor also introduced the theme of CityWest, suggesting that the city push for a bigger dividend, and if one cannot be delivered by the company that the city consider a cost benefit analysis on CityWest and examine the pros and cons of the civic owned telecommunication company.
She also believes that the city should count the total amount of the PILT totals and that the city is getting closer in those discussions with the Port Authority.
She believes that with all of that considered the city could provide a budget with a zero per cent increase for this year.
The Mayor observed that CityWest has had its best year in the last three years a good year and that the City may wish to seek a higher dividend from the company, of around 350,000 to 400,000 dollars.
With Council to make a request of staff to approach CityWest on the nature of a better dividend.
He also observed on Councillor Ashley's suggestion of an increase on the ferry rates, observing that it may have the effect of driving people away from the Prince Rupert airport.
Councillor Garon asked a question of Councillor Ashley on the nature of her Ferry rate increase proposal, she then called on her past experience with the Airport and suggested that Council sit down with the Airport Society to learn more about the impact that the increase may have on their operations.
Mr. Long advised the Mayor that the city was short on time in considering their Financial planning.
Councillor Garon and Thorkelson spoke to the issue and advised that a meeting with the Airport Society would be of use to Council to better understand the impacts of any ferry rate increase. With Councillor Thorkelson also reminding Council that there will be an increase to air fares by way of the Airport Loan requirements.
She then took to the theme of service fees and that the public benefits from such things as the swimming pool and theatre. Adding to her points on the topic that without the ferry we wouldn't have an airport in the community.
The Mayor also offered up some thoughts on potential discussions with neighbouring communities on regionalization, whether it be the airport or police services.
Councillor Ashley offered up some counter points on the theme of the ferry rates and the competitive nature of the two airports in Prince Rupert and Terrace and how the City can balance its budget in a sustainable way.
Councillor Garon offered up some insight on the nature of the difference in pricing between Prince Rupert and Terrace based on some of the charges that Prince Rupert has in place at the moment.
Council then adopted the motion to meet with the Airport Society to discuss the issue further. With Councillors Ashley and Kinney voting against that motion, not wishing to be tied to a timeline with the airport.
Council then continued on with their Financial Plan discussions. Councillor Thorkelson then asked what the actual surplus was last year if the city took out the unexpected payment from the Port.
She was advised that the city would have had to access 300,000 dollars from the surplus.
Councillor Ashley then suggested that the Council have a special meeting once they have determined the ferry rate issue with the Airport Society and any potential additional dividends from CityWest.
Councillor Thorkelson then asked if it would be possible to ballpark what kind of increases of 5 percent to fees and charges and what kind of revenues that would bring.
Councillor Ashley's motion for the Special Meeting after council meets with the Airport society was adpoted.
Correspondences for Action
(3:02:00--3:03:00 ) A letter from Michael McLaughlin seeking a letter of support for BC Ocean Boating Tourism for a grant from Northern Development Initiatives Trust. Mr. Long outlined the nature of the request.
Council voted to offer their support for the motion.
Following the vote Councillor Ashley asked for some clarification and then made a motion on the nature of policy for these motion of support requests. Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to the time requirements of staff and if a standardized city response was required.
After an explanation from the City Manager the motion was also withdrawn.
(3:03:00--3:04:00 ) Skeena River helicopters on a request to use McGuire field near the Civic Centre as part of a National Aboriginal Business Opportunities conference April 29th and 30th. Council discussed the request for a letter of support for that venture, subject to approval of the RCMP.
Council passed the motion.
Resolulions from Closed Meeting
(3:04:00 - 3:04:30) The Corporate Administrator outlined the list of names for those that will sit on the Prince Rupert Airport Authority Board and their term of office.
Council then moved on to By-Laws for consideration on the evening.
(3:04:30-3:05:00 ) Zoning Amendment Bylaw --- Following the Public Meeting held prior to the council session, Council voted on the proposed development on Graham Avenue. Councillor Ashley asked for guidance from council if they should table the motion until a report from City Engineering is provided to Council.
Councillor Garon said that she was satisfied with the report from staff from earlier in the night. Councillor Cunningham advised that anyone he talked with in regard to the proposal had concerns but had not expressed an opposition to the project
Council then passed the motion in favour of the Amendment to the zoning bylaw.
Report from the City Planner on the development permit application for the Graham Avenue development.
Council adopted the motion and granted the application.
City Managers Report
( 3:05:00 - 3:06:30 ) Mr. Long outlined an issue from the in camera session regarding the status of a number of publicly held property in the city's name. As requested by Council in a previous session, he advised that staff had now compiled a list of those properties, as well as some of the history of those properties and that anyone was interested in the topic they should contact staff on the issue.
Reports Questions and Inquiries from Members of Council
( 3:06:30-- 3:08:00 ) Councillor Cunningham reviewed his attendance at a community arts event recently and urged the city to continue to encourage those kinds of events in the community. His second point of concern was regarding a proposed commercial development and why it's taking so long to move the project forward.
Councillor Ashley inquired as to the fate of the Commercial Hotel and if there is a demolition schedule in place for that structure.
( 3:08:00--3:12:00 ) The Mayor's Report
The Mayor Attended a special meeting of the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce and delivered an update on economic development in Prince Rupert and area.
He attended the Southeast Conference Mid-session Summit in Juneau, Alaska. He touched on some of the products from Alaska shipped through Prince Rupert as well as the transportation links between the city and Alaska.
The Mayor announced that Prince Rupert had been selected to host the 2015 Southeast Conference Annual General Meeting, which will take place in September of that year.
The Mayor advised that the Alaska marine Highway has announced that they have secured a fifty year lease with the Federal Government for the Alaska Marine Highway terminal in Prince Rupert and will start upgrades to the facility in 2015.
The Mayor met with a representative of CBC Radio British Columbia who advised that the CBC will be increasing their content and staffing levels from Prince Rupert and that they will assist in sponsoring and broadcasting community events.
He, along with Councillors Carlick-Pearson and Garon attended a luncheon hosted by the Board of Governors of Northwest Community College.
He attended the North Coast Art Exhibit of the Prince Rupert Community Arts Project workshops.
He also attended the graduation event of the North Coast Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs program.
And with that, the lengthy Monday session of council came to an end.
You can access the City Council Review page for March 24th here, where a number of items regarding the council session, including links to 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.
Minutes Regular Council Session from March 24, 2014
Minutes of the Committee of the Whole Session for March 24, 2014