Wednesday, January 14, 2015

City Council Timeline, Monday, January 12, 2015

Prince Rupert City Council held its first meeting of the new year on Monday evening, the first regularly scheduled public gathering for the newly elected Mayor and his council since December 1st.

While the agenda itself wasn't particularly long, the evening did wander past the two hour mark, with council addressing a number of items, with a few extra notes for dissuasion added on as the night continued.

Council made a presentation to Prince Rupert's Adrian Liu, celebrating his success representing Canada in badminton at a number of tournaments and major sporting events through the last year.

They also received a presentation from Ms. Gina Curran from BC Transit, who discussed potential route changes and increases to fares for Prince Rupert.

Councillor Thorkelson who was out of town, participated in the proceedings by way of Internet telephone link. For some background on the evening's scheduled items of note see the Council Agenda for December 1st here.

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 January 12, 2014

Mayor Lee Brain -- Present  
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present
Councillor Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh-- Present 
Councillor Nelson Kinney-- Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa-- Present
Councillor Joy Thorkelson-- Present (participated by telephone)

Video Archive for January 12, 2014

( 0:00- 18:00 ) Things got off to a fairly rough start following the adoption of the agenda for the evening. as Councillor Joy Thorkelson called attention to a number of inaccuracies with the minutes of previous meetings through December.

Expressing first, her concerns over the process of adopting all of the minutes at once and then highlighting her concern over the account of  issues related to discussions on the Legacy Corporation, the Report from Mr. Long regarding proposed LNG development on Tuck inlet, as well as Zoning issues related to Lot 444, to name a few of the items that she raised as part of her review.

Through the eighteen minutes of review, she at times referred to the published accounts of past sessions as "a mess" and commented as to what expectations Council should have regarding more comprehensive record keeping of Council sessions.

Council determined that those minutes in question were to be returned to staff to be addressed, while Council went forward to move to adopt those minutes that weren't in question.

Councillor Thorkelson then again returned to her theme of Council requiring more detailed reviews from Council sessions, particularly those as part of any Public engagement sessions.

Making mention that the minutes of the most recent Public Session on Lot 444 were very sparse.

Mayor Brain outlined his thoughts on the topic, suggesting that it was his understanding that the minutes did provide the legal obligation required, though he understood her concern regarding the desire for more information to be provided.

Councillor Thorkelson advised Council that she would continue to raise issues of concern related to the minutes as they occur in the future.

( 18:30--21:30 ) Civic Presentation to Adrian Liu -- Mr. Liu received the Civic Merit Award in recognition of his achievements in badminton in Canada and on the world stage.

( 21:30 -- 1:08:00   )  Presentation from Ms. Gina Curran, Senior Regional Transit Manager from BC Transit -- Ms. Curran outlined the nature of some proposed changes to routing and scheduling for BC Transit service on the North Coast.

Recommending a slight adjustment to the Westview route, which in some instances would be routed to better serve the Transition House on Park Avenue.  A change to the Crestview area run, known as the Crestview Loop was also recommended as well as adjustments to the School Special service in the City to reduce the load congestion that currently exists.

Council members had a number of questions regarding some of those changes, with Councillor Kinney raising concerns related to Senior Citizens in the Haysvale area, a topic which Ms. Curran said could be examined for the future.

Councillor Niesh offered up his observations regarding the Crestview Loop issue, calling on his past experiences as a former bus driver.  He was told that elimination of the need to transit up the hill would provide more relief for the city's transit buses. Ms. Curran advised she would take that issue back to the Transit planners for review.

Councillor Thorkelson had questions about whether there would be any changes in the number of runs on the schedule. With a particular focus on what the status of service to Fairview would be.

Councillors Randhawa and Cunningham also had comments related to  the service to the Transition House and Fairview area.

Beyond the Route adjustments, the prospect of a fee adjustment was reviewed as well, with the proposed increase to bring the cost of riding the bus to two dollars per trip in Prince Rupert and Port Edward, with the Port Edward run to the Cannery Museum increasing to $2.75.

Advance ticket purchases and bus passes would also be adjusted should Council accept the BC Transit recommendations. One key discussion point was the recommendation  of an increase from 12 to 45 dollars that Seniors currently pay, the current cost one that BC Transit suggests is unique to Prince Rupert.

Ms. Curran did outlined a program which seniors could access, designed for those Seniors on low income or for residents with disabilities, who could apply for something called the BC Bus pass, which is means tested by the province, but would allow Seniors to use transit anywhere in British Columbia.

Councillor Thorkelson had questions regarding why residents of Prince Rupert should have to pay the same fare as those travelling to and from Port Edward. She also explored further the funding partnership between the City and BC Transit.

As part of that discussion, Councillor Thorkelson expressed her concern that with any increase of fares there is the prospect of losing ridership, she was advised that with any potential ridership drop, the current proposal the city would still see a financial gain in revenues of about 16,000 dollars over the course of the year.

Councillor Niesh recounted some of his remembrances from when he was working for the Transit system and the popularity of bus passes over cash fares.

Councillor Cunningham expressed a concern over the proposed increase for Seniors and the impact it may have on ridership from that group.

Councillor Mirau added his thoughts to the topic, suggesting that the model proposed offers up simplicity and should be an effective change.

Councillor Thorkelson then compared her travel in Vancouver by Transit and reiterated her concerns with the fare provisions as proposed. Ms. Curran advised that Translink and BC Transit are different corporations so their model is not the one that is comparable for BC Transit systems.

She also advised that Council review the material from the report on Fare adjustments to understand better the changes.

The Mayor then suggested that Council vote on the motion to approve the route adjustments, and to address the Fare increases at the January 26th Council session.

Council voted to adopt the route adjustments.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up one final question for Ms. Curran, wondering why the City of Prince Rupert has to bring its fares in line with the rest of the province,

She was advised that each instance of fare increases is up to the decision of the City Council of each community as to what they wish to charge for fares and route offerings.  With BC Transit offering up advice from its experience across the province.

Reports and Recommendations

( 1:09:00 - 1:13:30  ) Report from the City Planner regarding a Development Variation Permit for a property on Immanuel Street. -- City Planner Zeno Krekic provided a review of the work of the City Planner's office and what Council might expect in the weeks to come. He then moved on to the Variation Permit currently under review by Council.

Council voted to carry the motion

( 1:13:301:14;)0  ) Report from the Corporate Administrator Appointments to the Regional Recycling Advisory Committee. -- Council voted to appoint Ms. Tanya Ostrom and Mr Richard Pucci to the Advisory Committee for a term of two years.

( 1:14:00 -1:14:30  ) Report from the City Manager regarding a representative to the Municipal Insurance Association -- Council voted to appoint the City Manager, Mr. Robert Long to be the City's representative

( 1:14:30 -- 1:25:00 ) Report from the Corporate Administrator regarding Council Committee Appointments -- Council appointed the following members to a number of committees.

Prince Rupert Airport Authority Board

Mayor Lee Brain
City Manager Robert Long
Councillor Wade Niesh

Councillor Cunningham also observed that Council should have further discussion in the future regarding the possibility of appointing two members to this Board.

Library Board

Councillor Joy Thorkelson

Civic Recognition Group

All members of City Council will participate in this group

Performing Arts Centre Board

Councillor Blair Mirau

Recreation Commission

Mayor Lee Brain
Councillor Randhawa
Councillor Cunningham

Healthy Communities

Councillor Cunningham - Co-chair of the committee
Councillor Thorkelson is the alternate to the committee

Correspondences for Action

( 1:25:30--1:28:00 ) Request from the Prince Rupert Unemployed Society for a letter of support from the City of Prince Rupert -- As both Councillors Cunningham and Thorkelson are involved with the Centre, they were excused from the discussion on the letter request.

Council voted to provide the letter of support

( 1:28:00--1:30:00 ) Request from the Northwest Growth Conference for a letter of support from the City of Prince Rupert  --
Council reviewed what the Conference was about and then voted to provide their letter of support.

As Council has plans to be a sponsor for the Conference, there will be seats made available for council members to attend.

( 1:30:00--1:32:00 )  Report from the Corporate Administrator regarding a Road Closure for a portion of McCutcheon Avenue --- Council discussed and the gave first, second and third reading to the bylaw.

After a false star by the Mayor in bringing the public session to an end, Council members reminded the Mayor of a few outstanding issues still on the public session agenda.

The first of which was Additional Items:

( 1:32:30--1:46:00 ) Councillor Cunningham returned to Council's ongoing discussions regarding Housing, calling on Council to get the ball rolling on the creation of a Housing Committee. Providing some background from his point of view as to what is needed, suggesting that Terrace is far ahead of Prince Rupert.

From that point, the Mayor suggested forming a Mayor's Select Standing Committee on Housing, with appointments to be made, with any recommendations to be reviewed by City Council.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up an interjection on that point, reminding Council that there is history when it comes to Committees and the only one's that work are those that have deliverables.

Suggesting City Staff work on a list of what those issues for consideration should be.

She offered up her short list of housing concerns that should be addressed and that there should be consultation among City Council members and that staff could put together a report for January 26th.

Mayor Brain outlined that he believes that Council knows who the stakeholders are and that by using the Select Committee Council could pick those that offer the best options for momentum.

Councillor Cunningham agreed with the need to move the process ahead sooner than later, dealing with the three key concerns and then branching out to address the other aspects of housing concerns.

Counncillor Thorkelson made more points regarding her wish for Terms of Reference for the Committee and the need for dedicated deliverables.

The Mayor advised that he would be including himself as a member of the committee as a facilitator and would welcome other City Councillors on it as well.

Councillor Mirau cautioned those terms of reference particularly when it comes to any potential duplication with services provided by BC Housing or the province.

Councillor Thorkelson then outlined an item she heard on CBC Radio that morning about housing options in Medicine Hat, Alberta and how it could be an approach that Prince Rupert could review.

Councillor Cunningham expressed his frustrations with other jurisdictions and how little in the way of action has taken place on the issue in recent years.

He then turned his attention to the current status of housing through BC Housing and the M'akola Society, recounting information he has heard that a fairly significant number of units are currently not in use that could be with a bit of maintenance.  He also reminded Council of a letter that Council had asked to be written to the two organizations to appear in front of Council to explain the situation in Prince Rupert.

Suggesting that the time once again is here to have those two groups attend a session with council to provide some answers.

Councillor Thorkelson added Sunset Villa to that list of buildings that have units that remain empty that could be better utilized.

( 1:46:00  -- 1:56:00 ) Councillor Cunningham then re-introduced the concept of returning the salary for the Mayoralty to reflect that of a full time position, Mayor Brain excused himself from that discussion, leaving the chambers while the discussion took place.

Councillor Cunningham then suggesting that by increasing the salary level, the Mayor could be available at City Hall on a more frequent basis during the week. He also outlined that it his belief that with things beginning to happen in the community, the Mayor should be able to concentrate on the many issues the City faces.

Councilor Mirau suggested that a Task Force/Committee be set up to address issues related to salary requirements for City Council members. He expanded on that thought by outlining how he believed it would work and the mechanics required for it, suggesting that Council setting its wages was a conflict.

Councillor Cunningham observed that as he sees it, they would not be setting salaries for themselves, but that the Mayor is more like a CEO, suggesting that Council has been elected to make those kinds of decision. and with a number of major things coming down the road, staff is handling most of the items related to that and not elected officials.

Councillor Thorkelson then offered up her advice on the topic, outlining that while she agrees that the Mayor should be full time position and paid as a full time position, it would be her preference that any discussion on the issue of compensation until Council has a better understanding of the Budget Process coming up this year.

She highlighted how decisions on salary could impact on potential tax increases, suggesting that they discuss the topic further into the budget process.

She did make the note that he did run for the Mayoralty with the understanding that at the moment it was a part time wage.  She returned to some of her previous concerns that Council was making a number of decisions outside of the budget process.

Councillor Cunningham suggested that things have changed since the election campaign, with more items coming on at a fast pace and that the Mayor's salary was an issue that Council needs to address.

He and Councillor Thorkelson had a disagreement on the nature of the transparency of Budget Sessions, with Councillor Thorkelson correcting him on his impression of a lack of transparency in that process.

Councillor Randhawa also agreed with Councillor Thorkelson that it should be considered as part of the budget process.

Council then voted to amend the motion to consider the increase to the Mayor's salary at the next Budget meeting.

( 1:56:00 -- 2:01:00 ) Councillors Randhawa, Kinney and Cunningham outlined some concerns they have about traffic issues around the city, with the lights at 3rd and Fulton, and playground areas on Frederick and  at Mariners Park, the fire hydrants at Charles Hays and an issue related to crosswalks at First Avenue and McBride also areas of concern.

( 2:01:00 -- 2:03:00  ) Councillor Mirau outlined his desire to see Small Business Task Force or Committee formed, to better understand the needs of the small business community in the City and expand on the cities tax base.

Councillor Thorkelson again stressed that any committee formed would require terms of reference and deliverables to be effective.  Councillor Cunningham wondered if that is not what the Chamber of Commerce is for. Councillor Mirau outlined he believes that they are more of a membership driven advocacy group.

The Mayor offered his support to the proposed initiative, reminding council that it was something that he had campaigned on.

The motion to investigate that option was approved.

( 2:03:00 --  2:08:00 ) Councillor Thorkelson had comments regarding the recent Chamber of Commerce Report on the Airport Ferry.  Reviewing some observations that she takes issue with from that report, particularly the concept of the city purchasing a second ferry, something that she was not willing to support.  She recommended that the City seek out some information from Kitimat on how project workers are scheduled and what issues have come up there.

She cautioned on the concept of overbuilding for the short term and then ending up with infrastructure that can't be supported.

The Mayor recommended that the Airport society attend a session with Council members, allowing for a further review on the report  and to inquire about other issues related to the airport.

Suggesting that the session take place sometime in February.  Councillor Thorkelson also recommended that the Bechtel Corporation currently working in the Kitimat area to be invited as well to review their planning on the logistics and staffing requirements that these large scale kinds of projects may require.

( 2:08:00 -- 2:09:00 )With that Council adjourned to a Special Closed session for the night.

It should be noted, that unlike previous sessions of 2014, there was no advance notice on the City's website of the Special Closed Session for Monday evening, nor any indication as to the topic under consideration at the closed session.

You can access the City Council Review page for January 12th 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 January 12, 2015 

Council next meets in Regular session on January 26, 2015

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