Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Re:Build Rupert planning to be another focus for Council, though details still somewhat unknown

Heading to fall, City Council is
turning its attention towards
infrastructure concerns

(photo from City's annual report
Both Mayor Lee Brain and Councillor Blair Mirau made use of their Facebook pages yesterday to direct their followers to a Monday article in the weekly paper, which provided a fairly optimistic look at the city's plans for addressing infrastructure issues.

While the Mayor noted that the program to be known as Re:Build Rupert isn't quite ready to be delivered to the city's residents, he did find time to share with the Northern View some of his talking points for what may be ahead.

Much of what he did outline seems to be a bit of a re-introduction of many of the key points noted at council sessions over the last seven months, with the focus on the recent news being that of the start of the long delayed Fraser Street Project, marking that work as the first step back from the city's long list of well documented infrastructure issues.

The Fraser Street rehabilitation project is the first of
a long list of infrastructure projects ahead for the City of Prince Rupert

Of particular note for the newspaper article was the need to address a 150 million dollar project related to the a water treatment plant that the city will have to build. A project that would require the creation of separate water lines for both storm water and waste water.

One bit of new information from the article is that the proposed infrastructure program will feature the branding of Re:Build Rupert and be heralded with signs at local development sites that identify the program as part of the city's new image focus on message delivery.

The Re:Build Rupert infrastructure work is to be identified in much the same way as the Federal Conservative Government's Canada Economic Action Plan has been advertised on the national scene.

And while there may be a snappy slogan to go with that work, there to this point, still isn't really all that much substance yet, as to what we can expect in the years ahead.

Not outlined in the article for instance, was an explanation as to when Council will provide their promised listing of what kind of cost that residents might find attached with the infrastructure program, what measures (beyond grants) that the city plans to use to finance the daunting task of rebuilding the infrastructure, or what factors are being considered as the city approaches prioritizing the many projects that need to be tackled.

As well, some other large ticket projects weren't even mentioned as part of the Mayor's notes for the paper, including the need for replacement of the City's RCMP detachment, a priority issue that will have to be addressed soon considering the steps taken by the police force to ensure that a new home is still on the mind of City Council.

Likewise, the Prince Rupert Fire Department has been seeking a new facility for a number of years and of late has found its request knocked down the priority list as the city faced some of its financial challenges over the last decade. No update on where that project stands has been provided by the current council since taking office last December.

And while the need for bridge replacement projects for the city is mentioned in the article, no background on how quickly the city plans to address those important connections to the east and west sides of the city were outlined in the course of the article.

You can review the Mayor's focus for the program from the article here.

And if the theme of Re: sounds somewhat familiar, you would be correct in your memory work, back during the 2014 election campaign, much of the Mayor's branding  of his quest for the Mayoralty called for voters to Re-Think Prince Rupert, a process that received an endorsement of those voters that selected Mr. Brain on November 15th.

The nature of this weeks infrastructure article with the paper, calls to mind the launch of the city's LNG GO Plan, which also received some column space in the weekly as the first draft of the Mayor's ambitious plan was first delivered, with Mayor Brain providing the newspaper with the key points he wished to deliver regarding the program.

That was followed up with a review for CBC Vancouver's Rick Cluff in April, however, even Mr. Cluff could not gain any insight into the details of the LNG Go Plan, such as what it may cost, whether the uncertainty over any LNG investment in the community will impact on the Go Plan proposals, or what Plan B might look like should the required investment funding for it all not find its way to the city.

While the Mayor has taken his Go Plan ambitions to both Ottawa,Victoria and province wide radio, in Prince Rupert no public overview has taken place to deliver a comprehensive review of what that program is all about, what costs to residents may be associated with it, or how long it will be in effect and what benefit residents may realize from it.

Mayor Brain spoke of infrastructure
during a visit to Victoria in July
The same questions could probably be asked of the new initiative of Re:Build Rupert, a program that the Mayor spoke towards while on the steps of the Legislature last month as the Pacific NorthWest LNG vote was taking place in Victoria.

During the run up to the 2014 municipal election there was much talk of more engagement with the public, providing for town hall meetings and other concepts of public sessions to deliver news of civic plans and seek feedback from the public.

That concept of more transparency that was key to his opening address to Council in December.

So far, other than public hearings required for zoning issues and a rather poorly attended public forum on the budget process, there have not been any of those promised public information meetings held since Council first sat in session in December.

The main method of delivery of information to the public these days seems to be with an occassional presentation in the Northern View, which for the most part seems to stick to the message that the Mayor wishes to get out.

Though, it appears that even the local paper isn't the first place that the local political types turn to when it comes time to spread their version of the good word, making their Facebook portals as the more common approach of late.

A location where their observations for the most part, receive the votes of approval by those that follow the social media offerings of the Mayor and Council members.

Perhaps with two high profile projects now to be launched, the City might want to book some time at the Lester Centre in September and provide a helpful overview for both the LNG GO Plan and the new focus of Council of Re:Build Rupert, taking advantage of the setting to expand on both projects and answer any questions that residents might have in mind about the initiatives.

Short of the prospect of a public forum, the Mayor and City may wish to make use of the official Civic website, (a bit of an orphan these days with the focus on Facebook posts) or make better use of their You Tube channel

Two options where Council could provide some documentation and a more detailed review on the two programs for those that are interested in  a bit more background into the Mayor and Council's plans moving forward.

A review of some of the past issues related to infrastructure can be found from our archive page here.

For a larger overview of Council items to note see our Council archive here.

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