Even though it was a fairly short list of items to address, the discussion did take Council to close to the ninety minute mark, before they brought their Public Session to a close and went into an in camera session to follow up on the theme of preparing an annual report to bring the evening to a wrap.
It was the first night for full attendance of all members of the newly elected Council, with Councillor Thorkelson participating through a particularly troublesome audio feed, making some of her contributions hard to decipher on the night.
Below, our review of the night's topics, the timeline tied into the video archive, with the times of discussion per segment found in red.
For some background on the evening's items of note see the Council Agenda for December 15th here.
The City's official minutes will be below as they are provided to the city Website.
In Attendance December 15, 2014
Mayor Lee Brain -- Present
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present
Councillor Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh-- Present
Councillor Nelson Kinney--Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhwawa-- Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present (participated by phone)
Video Archive for December 15, 2014
( 0:00- 1:03 ) The Mayor called the meeting to order reviewing Agenda items and past minutes, With that accomplished, the past minutes and Agenda items were adopted.
Reports and Recommendations
( 1:03 -- 33:00 ) Report from the Chief Financial Officer on the Recommendation that the 2010 Five Year Financial plan Fee Setting Bylaws be Amended -- The City's CFO Corinne Bomben outlined the nature of her report and the recommended Changes to the fees related to the Airport Ferry and Recreation Facilities.
Her first review provided some background on the Ground Transportation System to the Digby Island Ferry, as well as the City's desire to bring costs back to at least 2012 levels, through an additional 50 cents per crossing for bus passengers and an increase of 3 Per cent for other users.
She also reviewed the recommendation to increase user fees at the Recreation Centre by 10 per cent, a request that has been accepted and recommended by the Recreation Commission.
Following her report, Council discussed some of the items of her review.
On the topic of the Airport Ferry increases, both Councillor Cunningham and Councillor Thorkelson had concerns over the recommendation.
Councillor Cunningham had some thoughts on why the City is required to supply buses for a contracted service, he was advised that owing to the nature of the Airport Ferry limitations, they require specialized buses that are able to use the ramps for loading the ferry.
Councillor Randhawa outlined his concern that by raising the transportation fees, the City could end up driving traffic towards the Terrace Airport.
Councillor Thorkelson had questions about the report and Request for Proposals, looking for details as to why it had not been brought forward to Council. Like Councillor Cunninghanm, Councillor Thorkelson also had hesitations about purchasing buses for a private company that could use them for other purposes beyond the Ferry Service to Digby Island.
Councillor Cunningham suggested that Council table the motion outlining his concerns over a potential further leakage of residents who might shift to the Terrace Airport, asking for further details regarding the proposal. With Councillor Thorkelson also asking that staff seek out further comment from the Airport Society and the airlines that used the airport.
With that the motion on the Airport fees was defeated.
As for the Recreation Fees increase that also provided for a fairly vigorous discussion.
The Mayor opened up the review by reminding Council that the City of Prince Rupert's recreation fees were comparatively lower than other communities of the Northwest, though he did want to make sure that Seniors and Lower income residents were offered an opportunity to pay less, though he did not know what that would look like.
He offered that the proposed ten percent increased was something that would help the City significantly when it comes to the state of the Recreation facilities.
Councillor Mirau reviewed how the rates had not been adjusted in the last four years, and that the current recommendation was an overdue adjustment. He also outlined how this was a recommendation from the Recreation Commission and that he trusted their guidance on the topic. He also called attention to the notation of the need for further study on the need to simplify the pricing structure at the Civic Centre, outlining how he would like to see that study pushed forward quickly.
Councillor Cunningham observed as to some of the programs, such as Right to Play that are in place and available through the Recreation Centre to access funding options for users of the Civic Centre facility.
Councillor Kinney offered up an amendment to hold back any increases on the fees required for Seniors, though it was eventually withdrawn as the discussion moved forward.
Councillor Cunningham then again returned to the funding options available and for reassurance for Councillor Kinney, outlined how Seniors could access those as well.
Councillor Thorkelson reviewed her concerns over the proposed fee increases, asking Councillor Cunningham to explain for Council some of the background as to why the Commission had recommended the ten per cent increase.
He offered up a list of some of the concerns regarding the infrastructure of the Civic Centre and how the increased fees would help to address some of the issues, but warning that the larger items will have to be addressed by Council through the budget process.
Councillor Thorkelson had questions on whether the change in fees would impact on budget concerns related to the Recreation Department. Expressing her preferece that the issue be discussed through the Budget process.
Councillor Cunningham offered up the perspective that the fee increase would be used to provide a bit of help that was required at the moment at the Recreation Complex, suggesting that it was now the time for council to look to the future at this time.
Councillor Mirau returned to his theme that increases have not been addressed since 2010.
Councillor Thorkelson countered that observation with a reminder for everyone that the poor in Prince Rupert were poorer than they were in 2010.
The Mayor commented as to the nature of the increase and how the fees in question were barely covering inflation.
Councillor Niesh echoed the same thoughts on the need to increase the fees to keep the Centres operating properly, suggesting that the ten percent increase was a reasonable fee.
To put the numbers in context for Council, Ms. Bomben advised that the increases would bring in roughly 75,000 dollars for the Recreation complex.
At the end of the discussion Council voted in favour of the increase to fees, with Councillor Thorkelson voting against the motion. The motion received first, second and third readings and would be moved to the Wednesday agenda for final approval.
( 33:00 -- 52:00 ) Report from the Chief Financial Officer to repeal the Solid Waste Bylaw and replace it with a new Bylaw --- Ms. Bomben provided her overview of the current situation, with her observations as to how the previous bylaw was viewed as being somewhat scattered, with a new bylaw to replace it to make it easier to read and provide for more thorough review of landfill issues related to it.
She highlighted the need to expand the usable area for the landfill site, owing to the increased use of the site with development and renovations picking up in the community.
On that theme of usage, she proposed an increase of fees by 40 percent for those who are non-residents of the community, while residents of Prince Rupert will not have any changes to their user fees other than those previously approved of five per cent.
Following that explanation, Council discussed the issue with some concerns from Councillor Cunningham as to how the City might be able to track the non-residents from the residents.
Going further he also observed that those who may be registered as Prince Rupert residents, but working outside of the city on projects, could be bringing material from other areas into the landfill site but still claiming their Prince Rupert status to avoid any extra charges.
On the issue of tracking residents from non-residents, the plan is to identify people as they arrive at the Landfill Site.
Councillor Cunningham also called attention to the ongoing problems of people not separating their recyclable material when taking them to the Landfill site, he was advised that those maintaining the landfill site are doing as much as they can on that issue.
With the new bylaw in place, the City would have a better opportunity to ensure that those fines in place could be assessed properly.
Councillor Thorkelson asked for clarification as to the status of non-resident and resident in regard to this proposed bylaw change.
The CFO provided a review of the breakdown when it comes to who would have access to resident rates and who would have to pay the higher rate of fees.
The main focus of the discussion tended to gravitate towards larger scale projects related to the large scale industrial projects that could take place in the future, with the City looking to make sure that those projects outside of the City limits would be charged a higher rate, than projects that take place within the city limits.
Councillors Kinney and Mirau offered up a few more thoughts on the nature of the landfill site, with Councillor Mirau also suggesting that it was an issue that could be addressed with the Regional District. He also observed that the need to address recycling issues in the community is a conversation that Council needs to have.
With the background delivered on the topic, Council then voted to move forward the motion to change the bylaw, providing it with first, second and third reading. It will receive a final review and potential adoption at the Wednesday special session.
( 52:00-- 56:30 ) Discussion to set a timetable for Strategic Planning -- Councillor Mirau outlined some of his observations from a recent meeting on governance that he and the Mayor had attended in Terrace, tying in some of those observations towards the planning for the City's goals and plans for the year ahead.
Towards that theme, Councillor Cunningham called on the City Manager to outline the process that the City has in place towards that form of planning.
Mr. Long outlined the usual process, and advised Council that the City Administrator had tentatively booked in someone to facilitate those discussions, with a potential day in February set aside for the process.
Council then discussed if the February date would work for those around the table.
Councillor Thorkelson also suggested that Council members put aside a bit of time in January to work towards the discussion topics for when they meet with the facilitator in February.
Council then voted on a motion to set a tentative timetable, with a planning session to take place on February 2nd.
( 56:30 -- 1:13:00 ) Discussion to set up a Budget Process for the year ahead -- Councillor Mirau outlined the nature of a recent discussion with the CFO on the topic and suggested that Council should review and discuss how much and in what ways they may want to engage the public in the process.
Ms. Bomben outlined that things were pretty well on track compared to previous years, she then outlined the process ahead, with the first benchmark to come at the end of January, when BC Assessment numbers are provided to the Finance Department.
She then reviewed the public consultation process of previous years, with the deadline of May 15th as a key date for Council to keep in mind for completion of all aspects of the process, as Council decides how it wants to proceed.
The Mayor then asked for a motion that would set up a schedule of dates from Staff, in order to provide for a framework for their process ahead.
Councillor Cunningham had concerns over fixing a hard schedule for that review, offering up some observations as to how Council approached the issue last year, expanding on his thoughts when it comes to setting a schedule without not knowing how many meetings that they may require.
Councillor Mirau, outlined how he was thinking more towards how much time Council wanted to dedicate to Workshops with the public and other items of that nature.
Councillor Niesh echoed much the same concern as Councillor Cunningham as to not knowing a timeline until they get further into the process ahead.
The Mayor asked for some clarification from Ms. Bomben as to what the process could look like.
Councillor Thorkelson followed up that review, by providing some thoughts on the nature of public comment on the Budget concerns, asking what kind of ideas that the Mayor and Councillor Mirau might be thinking of on that theme.
She reviewed events of one past meeting held at the Civic Centre of last year, which was more of a case of the public being mad at council, rather than offering thoughts on the budget process.
The Mayor observed that those kind of details on engagement could be worked out as Council moves along, calling on his experience as a Facilitator as a way to move those conversations forward at that time.
Councillor Mirau echoed some of the thoughts on the Civic Centre meeting that Councillor Thorkelson referenced.
He offered up the idea that Council needs to find a way to communicate the complexities of the Budget process to the public better, suggesting Council follow the example of Squamish which uses such things as E Town Halls, workshops and information delivery to explain the process better.
Going back to the topic of a motion on the subject. Council decided not to put forward a set schedule at this time.
City Manager Long then offered up some thoughts on the process that could be in place moving forward, making note of Council's desire to find innovative ways to consult and advise the public on issues related to the Budget.
Advising that City staff would try to find ways to put that desire into motion for Council.
Additional Item for the Agenda
( 1:13:30 -- 1:22:30 ) The Mayor brought forward a motion to have City Staff create a report for Council on what it would look like to hire a Communication Director and what kind of budget would be required for that position for the City -- Mayor Brain outlined his thinking on the reason for his motion, calling on the recent discussion on the need for better communication and a streamlined communication process.
He observed that Council knows and what they heard during the election campaign, was that City Council needs help in communicating to the community, streamlining its communications, using social media and writing press releases.
Outlining how the City could do a better job of communicating its information to the public, and how he believes that it is important that the City have someone around who can help the Council communicate those issues to the community.
He put forward the suggestion, with an idea to have Council members think about the concept for consideration in the New Year.
Councillor Thorkelson suggested that it would be a good thing to review, but perhaps might be timed better with the Budget process, highlighting how Council needs to consider how they would be funding such kinds of projects. Making mention of the discussion of earlier in the evening about the Recreation Centre and how the City was tending to finance things in a piecemeal fashion, where her preference is to put everything on the table as part of the discussion.
Councillor Cunningham suggested that the City needs to be cautious about counting its chickens before they have hatched. Outlining how he was hesitant to count on user fee revenue before they have them in hand.
The Mayor noted that at the moment he was just looking for a report on the topic. With the Communication Officer, as well as a potential Environmental Position to be considered as to whether they are initiatives that the City could afford at this time.
Councillor Mirau observed that while he was a strong supporter of the Mayor's suggestion and how Communication should be a priority, but recognizing that Council should have all the information available to know what it may cost.
The Mayor also added that the report would provide Council with an idea as to what the cost of a Communication Officer and budget would look like.
Councillor Cunningham picked up on the Environmental Position mentioned by the Mayor, asking if Staff had come back with a cost on what that position would require, he was advised that staff was preparing a report on that item of interest to Council.
The Mayor then called for a vote on the motion, with Council voting to move forward with a report on the cost for a Communication officer and budget requirements for the position and office.
Councillor Thorkelson asked the Mayor if the 5 PM start time of Monday was going to be a regular schedule or if Council would be returning to the more normal 7 PM start.
She was advised that Council would be going back to the 7 PM start at the next Regular Council session.
With that Council adjourned from the public session, taking the Councillors to their closed session of Council.
You can access the City Council Review page for December 1st 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 of the Regular Council Session from December 15, 2014
Council next meets in Special session on December 17, 2015