Monday, December 22, 2014

City Council Timeline, Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Prince Rupert City Council held it's second Special Council Session of the week on Wednesday, a two part evening, the first featuring presentations from the "Big Five" of Community Grant Recipients.

With The Prince Rupert-Port Edward Economic Development Corporation, Prince Rupert Library, Lester Centre for the Arts, Museum of Northern British Columbia and Tourism Prince Rupert all providing an update on developments and short overview of their financial needs for the year ahead.

It was unfortunate that Councillor Joy Thorkelson was unavailable for the session, in the past she has been an active participant in that process, providing observations and asking questions of the Grant Recipients during the Overview period.

Still Council moved forward without her contributions this year, listening with interest to the reviews from those organizations which receive the largest amounts when it comes to Enhancement Grants.

The second portion of the evening provided for a discussion by Council members on the theme of the Community Enhancement Grant process.

Council also reviewed and moved forward the process ahead for Capital Works Projects and Purchases for 2015, with some lengthy discussions on the role of the Legacy Corporation when it comes to infrastructure funding.

Council the provided for a fast paced final reading and set in motion the process of Fee increases at the Recreation Centre and for increased fees for Non Prince Rupert residents who make use of the City's Landfill site.

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 17th here.

The City's official minutes will be below as they are provided to the city Website.

In Attendance December 17, 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-- Absent

Video Archive for December 17, 2014

( 0:00- 1:00 ) The Mayor called the meeting to order reviewing Agenda items and past minutes,  With that accomplished, the past minutes and Agenda items were adopted.

Presentations to Council

Five groups made their presentations to Council on Wednesday evening, providing and overview of their work in the community, what the year looks like ahead and how they approach the process of the Community Enhancement Grants.

( 1:00 -- 6:30 ) Paul Vendittelli -- Prince Rupert and Port Edward Economic Development Corporation

( 6:30 -- 29:00 ) Ms. Crystal Lorette and a delegation from the Lester Centre of the Arts (the Mayor excused himself from this presentation citing a conflict of interest, owing to the fact that at this time he is technically still a member of the Board. Mayor returned to his seat as Mayor following the presentation)

( 29:00-- 46:00) Joe Zelwietro and a group from the Prince Rupert Library

( 46:00 -- 1:28:00 ) Scott Farwell and a delegation representing Tourism Prince Rupert

( 1:28:00 -- 1:50:00 ) Susan Marsden and a representatives from the Museum of Northern British Columbia

Report from the Chief Financial Officer --- Seeking Direction from Council on the amounts to be awarded through the 2015 Community Enhancement Grants 

( 1:50:00 -- 2:17:00 ) The City's Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Corinne Bomben outlined the various financial options available to the City, providing an update in regard to Operating Fund capabilities, current financial considerations, including potential wage increases and the ability to fund the Grant process.

From that review, the Finance Department outlined a change in the normal process  from years past. With a split in the Grant award suggested, with the Finance Department proposing that 65 per cent of the Grant total be awarded initially in January, with the remainder to be considered as part of the completion of the Budget process in the Spring.

To bring her presentation to an end, Ms. Bomben provided Council with three options.

1) Approve grants at the amounts requested.

2) Approve Grants at percentages recommended by Finance Department

3) Advise some or all of Grant recipients that Grant Funding for 2015 will be reduced by a percentage deemed by Council

She also made note of some of the changes in the Grant requests as reduced by some of the applicants  through their presentations on the night.

Council then discussed those options presented to them, providing observations on the importance of the work that the groups provide and the need for certainty for their operations.

Councillor Mirau led off the conversation on the topic, highlighting how the City has more or less delegated  some core municipal functions to the big five organizations, which rely heavily on volunteer workers. With that in mind, he proposed that the full grants at 100 per cent be awarded in January, so those groups could go forward with certainty for their plans for the year ahead.

Mayor Brain, offered up his agreement with Councillor Mirau regarding some of his observations when it involved the main five organizations that appear in front of Council each year. He then offered up the suggestion that perhaps the City needs to review how they approach the topic of Grant requests.

The Mayor then called on the City Manager to outline further how the motion of the night might impact on the five main organizations under discussion. Mr. Long offered up his observations on the prospect of a five year contract approach, but highlighted some of the concerns that the City needs to keep in mind with that form of approach.

He also offered up some thoughts on the benefits of using the 65/35 split for grant allocations and how it could benefit the City.

Councillor Cunningham also offered up his thoughts and support towards Councillor Mirau's suggestion of full funding for the five main organizations, considering them to be core components of the city. Suggesting that the City should help to provide stability to those groups and if the City is inclined to the 65 / 35 split, that the 35 per cent be guaranteed to the organizations.

The Mayor then offered up the impact that a decision to fully fund the five large organizations, may pose problems for others such as the Special Events Society, with the City ending up playing favourites, with the others getting scraps.

Towards that theme, he outlined how he was inclined to go along with the recommendation from the Finance Department for this year, while they review how they wish to move forward on the Grant process in the future.

Councillor Niesh made a number of observations on the nature of the big five grants, suggesting a change in the percentages that are being considered on the evening. Looking towards an 80/20 split.

Councillor Cunningham then returned to the presentations of the evening, highlighting how some had reduced their request amounts. He also didn't like the term scraps as related to the other groups that apply for funding.

His main thrust was that the five, six or seven groups that provide core service to the community need better certainty by way of Council's decisions on funding. He also worried that without proper funding, those groups  may begin to lose their base of volunteers.

Councillor Randhawa was more inclined to go along with recommendation from the Finance Department for the 65/35 split, which he believes offers the city the best approach to the funding issue.

Councillor Kinney said he was in agreement with the proposal of 65/35 to a point, however he had concerns over the impact on the operations of some of the groups involved, highlighting his concerns for the Lester Centre in particular.

The City Manager, outlined how the City staff is looking for the best approach that allows for money to be delivered to the groups, as the City has access to it coming in. Reminding Council that the City doesn't receive money until the middle of the year, with the City looking to minimize the amount of money going out until they get money in through taxes.

The Mayor also observed that he would consider the 80/20 option as a possible course. Returning to his desire to approach more long term funding concepts for the Grant process, with the 65/35 option of the moment offering the best flexibility.

Councillor Cunningham asked for clarity on how the City distributes the money that the City gives out in grants and if the 100 percent funding at the start of the year poses a hardship to the City.

She outlined that the 100 percent at the start poses challenges for City staff as they seek to bring the budget in at mid year, as they look to make up for shortfalls that may rise as the year moves forward.

Councillor Cunningham then said that he would be in favour of the 65/35 split, but if any organization was in a true hardship situation, they could approach the City and outline their concerns.

Councillor Mirau, then asked for some clarification on the revised funding request totals.

From that review, he outlined how in his mind, there wasn't that large a difference between the City providing 100 percent and the 65/35 split. Then taking the discussion further in seeking to find out how they could change the process, broader than a year to year approach and to make it a three or four year process.

Ms. Bomben then outlined for information purposes, that the nature of what a one per cent mill rate increase would translate into 115,000 dollars.

Mr. Long offered up the overview that once Council had dispensed with the motion on the floor, that Council may want to ask staff to provide a report on the theme.

With staff then moving forward to gain more information from the groups regarding what would be best for them, as well as to provide accountability to the taxpayers and a process which could provide certainty for both groups.

Staff  could then look further into the issue for Council, regarding how things might be done differently when it comes to the core group of those making grant requests.

The Mayor then suggested that council vote on the motion on the floor and move on the City Managers recommendation to compile a report before the Budget Process is considered, so Council can sort things all out and could have some foundation in place for the grant funding process in the years to come.

Councillor Cunningham then asked if an amendment could be in place that if any of the groups require any further funding before May they can approach Council to address the issue.

Council then voted on the recommendation of the 65/35 split including Councillor Cunningham's amendment, with the motion being carried.

Report from the Chief Financial Officer recommending approval of Service Provider Agreements with the Special Events Society and Lester Centre of the Arts.

( 2:17:30-- 2:19:00  ) Ms. Bomben outlined the nature of the Agreements which involve Liability Insurance Coverage requirements for both organizations.

Council voted to adopt the Service Provider Agreement.

Report from the  Building Inspector regarding a property on 7th Avenue West be declared a nuisance and demolished.

( 2:19:00-- 2:21:00  )  The Mayor outlined some background upon his own personal inspection of the property and then called on the City Manager to provide further guidance on the topic.  Councillor Cunningham then offered up some observations regarding  the material that will be taken away to the landfill site.

Council carried the motion

Report from the Corporate Administrator Transfer of Alternative Director for the NorthWest Regional Hospital District Board from Councillor Niesh, to Mayor Brain, as well as to name Councillor Mirau as a second alternate NorthWest Regional Hospital District Board.

( 2:21:00 -- 2:24:00) The Mayor outlined the nature of the required changes, to fit into the guidelines of that Board. After some discussion regarding ongoing responsibilities of Council members, with a bit of clarification on the theme from Councillor Cunningham, the motion was carried.

Business Report from the City's Financial Officer,  regarding a recommendation to approve by resolution the proposed scheduled of Capital Works and Capital Purchase requirements for 2015 Fiscal period.

 ( 2:24:00 -- 2:34:00 ) Ms. Bomben provided the overview on the recommendation in front of council, providing the background to the process and the requirements for Capital Works and Purchases. Highlighting some of the projects for 2015 including, the Landfill expansion requirement. As well as plans for a large water works project, the first stage being construction of an access road to the Woodworth dam and lowering of supply lines, that project is to be funded through dividends from Legacy Inc and through grants.

Following her report, Council discussed the nature of the approvals, with Councillor Mirau recounting some of the discussion at a  recent workshop that Council members attended, asking a question regarding the Legacy Inc. aspect of that funding, discussing the need to allocate a percentage of dividend income from Legacy Inc and to develop a reserve policy for future issues.

Ms. Bomben outlined that as part of the Budget Process, she was planning to provide a review of policy for Council as to how they could approach reserve fund concerns.

Councillor Cunningham recounted some of the discussion from that workshop, outlining how Council may be mandated by the province to do such a process soon. Suggesting this could be an opportunity to get ahead of those requirements.

The Mayor asked for further background on Councillor Mirau's recommendation, with the Councillor asking that council have a cohesive reserve policy in place, when it comes to building up a reserve fund. Adding that if the city is receiving a specific amount by dividend from Legacy Incorporated, that there be a portion allocated towards renewal of that infrastructure when it reaches its lifespan.

The Mayor agreed with that concept and asked Ms. Bomben, if that was something that Council could review during the Budget process.

She provided a review of how that process would move forward in preparing the Budget.

Councillor Niesh supported the concept as outlined by Councillor Mirau, but suggested that the best timing for its momentum is during the budge process itself.

Councillor Randhawa agreed with the staff proposal.

Councillor Cunningham offered up his observations on the proposal.

Councillor Mirau outlined his hesitancy on voting for a motion knowing that there is no reserve policy in place.

From there, Council voted in favour of the Capital Works and Purchases recommendation'

Following that vote, Council Mirau introduced his motion, calling for Council to direct staff to develop a reserve policy regarding Funds from Prince Rupert Legacy Inc., with no further discussion on the motion, it went to vote and was carried.

Report from Chief Financial Officer a Recommendation that Council Adopt Prince Rupert Fee Setting Amendment Bylaw

( 2:34:00 -- 2:34:30 ) Council voted to adopt the Bylaw that will increase the Fees at the Recreation Centre.

Report from the Chief Financial Officer a Recommendation that Council Adopt the Solid Waste Management Bylaw

( 2:34:30-- 2:35:54 ) Council voted to adopt the Bylaw that will increase the Fees for Non Resident use of the Landfill Site.

With that Council adjourned from the public session of the night.

You can access the City Council Review page for December 17th 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 Special Council Session from December 17, 2014 (not available as of yet)

Council next meets in Regular Session on January 12, 2015

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