Wednesday, March 8, 2017

City Council Timeline: Monday, March 6, 2017

Budget planning provided for the main focus of Monday's Prince Rupert City Council session, as the city's Chief Financial Officer provided her year update for Council, providing a glimpse of the financial path ahead.

Corinne Bomben offered up the 20 minute review of the elements involved in the Budget process, taking some questions from Council members and setting the stage for two public consultation sessions to take place later this month.

Council also approved a contract for work on phase one of the Shawatlan Raw Water project, as well as addressing a strata property request and providing a letter of support for a study for work on the Hays Creek rock walls near the old Kin Hut location.

For some background on the items of note on the evening, the Agenda for the Regular Council session for March 6th can be reviewed here.

Prior to the 7 PM meeting, Council also had a Closed Session Scheduled for earlier in the day, the notice to close it to the public can be examined from the agenda link above.

Further information from our overview and placement in the video archive can be found below, with the permanent record of the minutes added as they are posted to the city website.

In attendance March 6, 2017

Mayor Lee Brain-- Present 
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present  
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present
Councillor Nelson Kinney --  Present 
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa--  Present 
Councillor Joy Thorkelson -- Present 

Video Archive for March 6, 2017

( 0:00 -- 1:30 ) Regular Council Session -- The Mayor reviewed the list of minutes and agenda items to be noted by Council members, with Council then approving the Agenda while the past minutes of previous council meetings were adopted.

(1:30 -- 26:00) Report from the Chief Financial Officer -- Corinne Bomben provided the annual overview of the city's Budget preparations, providing her financial plan for Council's review, with the advisory that no action should be taken on the Budget until after public consultation sessions set for later in the month.

The overview offered up some of the challenges to services and revenues, included in her notes was a look at the subsidiy required for the Digby Island Ferry, which will require 1 million dollars for the year ahead, Ms. Bomben also noted that neighbouring communities only contribute to the Ferry service by way of user fees.

The issue of Provincial cap taxes once again made for the narrative to the Budget presentation with Ms. Bomben noting that the only way to counter the declines is through new investment.

The topic of the Taxation Burden Transfer on the community made for a portion of the overview, as Ms. Bomben outlined the limited options that the city has when it comes to seeking taxation options. With council unable to set levels for all of the industrial categories, leaving the burden mainly on commercial, light industrial and residential tax payers.

Councillors Thorkelson and Cunningham asked for some clarification on the impacts that the tax burden was placing on the city and how it could address them.

Next up for Council was a look at some of the capital projects in motion for the year ahead, as well as planning for Major Projects initiatives, which is being made possible through the use of the Legacy Fund.

As for Budget requirements, wage increases, library increases and reductions in airport revenues owing to the end of Hawkair flights at YPR, have resulted in a deficit of 160,000 dollars, which the city plans to address by adjusting the mill rate by 1.5 per cent.

Ms. Bomben then offered some background on the Mill rate and how it is defined as well as the impact that it has on the taxpayer. With assessment levels on real estate in the community having gone up the city has recalculated the mill rate to ensure that the city does not take in more money than it requires.

Councillors Thorkelson and Cunningham again sought out some clarification on how the differences were determined for the various categories and what the conditions might be to impact on those decisions.

Returning to the impact on the July tax period, it was noted that the average homeowner would see an increase of 38 dollars for an average property assessed at 260,000 dollars in the community, though Ms. Bomben noted that the impact on the taxpayer would depend on how their assessment value was fixed and that not everyone's taxes would be going up.

She explained the process as to how city residents could determine if they would be seeing an increase in their taxes and also outlined a number of programs that are available to offer home owners assistance on property tax requirements.

To bring her presentation to an end the CFO, noted that the next phase of the Budget Process will take place with two Public consultations the first on March 15th, with the second one planned for March 20th.

Councillor Randhawa asked for some clarification on the relation between assessments and property taxes, to help in the explanation, Mayor Brain noted that even if the City does go with the 1.5% increase, it doesn't mean that everyone will pay more taxes and some residents may find that their rates go down and that it was not a blanket tax for everybody.

Ms. Bomben noted that it depends on what the assessed value is listed at from one year to the next, and reminded residents to how to calculate the impact themselves.

Councillor Randhawa asked if the City had any comparisons available as to how many taxpayers would be going up, it was noted that they did not at this point have that data available but that they could look into it.

Councillor Niesh also called attention to the availability of the Home Owners Grant and how it works for residents and the impact it can have on property taxes.

Councillor Mirau inquired as to the dollar impact after assessment appeals from last year, he was advised that those appeals did not have a significant impact on the financial plan. He also inquired as to the nature of the Ridley Island Tax Agreement and when the negotiations towards the process of a new agreement in place.

He was advised that the province had been in contact with the District of Port Edward and that it's anticipated that hose discussions will take place this year.

Councillor Thorkelson recommended that Ms. Bomben make the slide presentation available to the public on the city website.

Council then received the report for information purposes and will await further comment from the public at the consultation session.

The Mayor then thanked City Staff for their work on the budget and their efforts to get the numbers as low as possible for the city's taxpayers

(26:00 -- 31:30Report from the City's Approving Officer related to a strata request for a property on Seal Cove Circle -- Richard Pucci provided the background to a strata conversion request for a property on Seal Cove Circle, with a recommendation that the City approve the application.

Councillors Thorkelson and Niesh asked for some further explanation as to the nature of duplexes and ownership and how the strata process would work for those structures.

Following the expanded background Council then voted to approve the request.

(31:30 -- 40:00Report from the Director of Operations related to the Shawatlan Raw Water Supply Line   -- Mr. Pucci provided background the upgrade project and outlined the nature of the tender process conducted by the city, recommending that the City approve the bid by Kledo Construction for the work on Phase One of the project.

Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to where Kledo was based out of and if they had been appraised of the nature of the rock and muskeg that is common to the region. Mr. Pucci noted that the Kledo which is based in Fort St. John is familiar with the type of land in question and that they had also walked the site to determine the scope of the project.

Councillor Cunnningham asked as to the bid process and how the City determined the successful applicant, he also inquired if the company had any plans to hire local workers as part of the project.

Mr. Pucci noted that there would be some offsetting of local hires once Kledo has commenced with the project.

Councillor Mirau asked as to the potential savings related to gravel and how they would be included as part of the overall coast of the project.

Councillor Randhawa inquired as to the timeline for completion of the project, he was advised that it should be completed by November of this year.

Councillor Thorkelson asked if there was budgeting in place for both Phase One and Phase Two and what whether the two phases could be taken on at the same time.

Mr. Pucci noted that they could not start the the second phase until after the completion of the First phase. And that the city was still seeking grant funding for the second phase, the Mayor noted that the City had submitted their applications in November and are expecting to learn later this year as to the status of those grant applications.

Mayor Brain also asked for some background on the need to shift the water supply to the city's second source during the replacement process, Mr. Pucci noted that would take place for several months on a temporary basis.

Council then voted to approve the contract.

(40:00 -- 44:00Report from the Director of Operations on the Hays Creek Riparian Rehabilitation Proposal  -- Mr. Pucci provided some background to a proposed plan to rehabilitate the area along the the Hays Creek waterway and the request of Council for a letter of support to seek out grant funding for a study and design on the proposal in conjunction with the North Coast - Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society initiative

Councillor Thorkelson inquired as to what area of Hays Creek that the proposed work would take place at, and what would be involved with it.

Mr. Pucci explained that the area in question is in the area of the Kin Hut and stressed that this was only a request for a letter of support in seeking out a grant to hire a consultant to determine what was best for the community and the water system and to have a shelf ready plan to go ahead should they find a partner or access further grant funding.

Council then voted to approve the letter of support.

 ( 29:30  -- 50:00  ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Randhawa asked as to the status of the traffic light at Third and McBride, he was advised by the City manager that the city is still waiting on highways to move forward with the project, noting that the recent snowfall may be complicating the issue. He noted that the Highways department had some significant challenges related to the installation of that light.

Councillor Thorkelson made note of the condition of the sidewalk areas along the streets, noting that the city crews were already heavily engaged in the snow removal process, she then suggested that the city's business owners and merchants could help out by clearing those crosswalk areas to allow residents to cross streets umimpeded.

Councillor Cunningham also had thoughts on snow removal, returning to a common theme he has brought to council about owners of vacant buildings and vacant lots who are not following the city's guidelines for snow removal, suggesting that the city take care of the issue and send the bill to those property owners. Adding that if it takes the city to hire a contractor to take care of the issue it is something they should look into.

Councillor Mirau closed the night of comments off, with a salute to the weekend's Business Excellence Awards hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. Noting that he and the Mayor had attended the evening's events, he offered up his congratulations to the nominees and winners.

Noting that some people were calling it the Prince Rupert Oscars and reviewing some of the inspirational comments of those that won, who shared the stories of support in the community and resiliency in the region.

Councillor Mirau offered up his message to the public that the time has come to stop saying we'll believe it when we see it. Adding that there is so much going on in Prince Rupert and people are sleeping on some of the fantastic things that are  happening on behind the scenes.

He further added that  we need to move past beyond the point of I'll believe when I see it, as times have started to change, things are looking up, people are optimistic and it's a very good time to be in business in Prince Rupert.

Nelson Kinney also had some words of thanks, offering his praise to the city's Communication Director Veronika Stewart for her work on the recent Pulp Mill Video, with Mr. Kinney noting that people all over town were impressed and everyone is talking about it.

And with that testimony to community, the evening's session came to a close.

You can access the City Council Review March 6th here, where a number of items regarding the council session, including links to local media coverage, if any, can be found.

As always, our Council Timeline is only a reflection of our observations from the Council session of the night. Be sure to consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to their website for further review.

In addition to the city's official minutes, the City's Video archive provides a helpful record of the events from each public council session.

Official Minutes of the Regular Council Session from March 6, 2017 (not available yet)

The next regularly scheduled Council session, takes place on March 20th .

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