Thursday, August 24, 2017

City Council Timeline: Monday, August 21, 2017

With two members of council still wringing out the last few days of summer, Prince Rupert City council hosted their only scheduled session for August on Monday evening.

The fairly light agenda tackled a couple of variance reports, as well as a report from June from the City's Finance officer Corrine Bomben.

The main focus for the night was given over to Blake Ward, the Detachment Commander for the local RCMP who provided a snap shot on policing for Council members over the course of his twenty six minute presentation.

Council members brought the night to a close raising a number of issues for consideration, ranging from a request for a correspondence to the Federal Fisheries Department to seek inclusion of adjacency to any revision of the Fishery Act, while Councillor Cunningham once again brought council's attention to his concerns over the distressing state of many buildings through the downtown core.

Monday was also Committee of the Whole evening, with one resident of the city offering up some commentary for consideration of Council members.

For some background on the items of note on the evening, the Agendas for the Regular Council session, Committee of the Whole and  can be reviewed here.

Prior to the 7 PM meeting, Council also had a Closed Session Scheduled for 5 PM, the notice to the public can be reviewed here.

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 August 21, 2017

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

Video Archive for August 21, 2017

( 0:00 -- 6:30 )  Committee of the Whole Session -- One resident participated in the Open Mike portion of the monthly community engagement portion of the night

Larry Golden, a frequent contributor to the open forum at Council, offered up a number of themes for Council members to consider.

The first took note of the topic of invasive species in the community and offered up some thoughts on how the City may wish to approach the topic, suggesting that the city task its staff currently working on LNG projects to give the topic a review.

He also took note of the approaching storm season and noted that the City should dispatch crews to take care of any tress in the community that could be a potential hazard during the storm season.

He also offered up some comments related to the recent LNG cancellations in the region and the reduction in LNG related growth in Prince Rupert and from that suggested to Council that perhaps it was time to return the Mayor's position back to its original part time salary status and suggested that the job and its status should be the topic of a community discussion.

He also asked for more transparency on such civic instruments as CityWest and Legacy Incorporated calling for AGM notes and financial issues to be provided for the public.

Mr. Golden also offered up some thoughts related to policing in the community, noting that with the population drop in the city over the last decade that staffing levels for the local detachment may need to be reduced and suggested that should also be a topic for discussion.

Councillor Thorkelson provided some background on the topic of the invasive species, pointing out some of her thoughts on the concerns in the community and noting those areas where she thinks the public should not be overly concerned about.

With no other members of the public coming forward, Council then moved on to the Regular Council session.

( 6:30 -- 9:00 ) 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.

( 9:00 00 -- 37:00 ) Presentation to Council -- Report from Prince Ruper RCMP Detachment Commander Blake Ward -- Prince Rupert's top cop provided the first update to council in recent times, providing the RCMP's interim policing report for 2017.

Among the themes that were addressed during the course of the presentation was how things were constantly changing for RCMP members, whether it be in the way of case law or technology issues.

Overall he noted that the last year has seen some great strides in how the local detachment approaches policing and the course of modernizing their methods, he made note of the ongoing change of personnel in the community with the local detachment seeing a 50 per cent turnover in the last twelve months.

He also outlined how a majority of those that had departed the community were replaced by cadets out of the RCMP depot division in Regina, which means the need for additional training for local members to bring the new recruits up to speed on policing in Prince Rupert.

He added that the benefit is that they get to create the Mountie that they want, but acknowledged that it does make for additional work in the way of training for the existing members of the detachment. He is also looking to address the transfer cycle faced by the local detachment to make it a little more manageable moving forward.

Towards the theme of ongoing training in the detachment, he noted that the last quarter saw over 1,000 hours in training provide for local members.

The new performance plan began in April, with a number of priorities identified for the local detachment, including roadside impairment operations, traffic enforcement procedures and targeted enforcement activities in partnership with other agencies such as DFO and CVSE as well as in town efforts.

One key area of concern for the detachment is the issue of domestic violence and an area where the members are hoping to find ways to address in the community, though the Commander noted that the issue is quite a challenge for the local police.  They have taken advantage of a local member currently on light duties who has been working towards those domestic violence files he also noted the detachment members participation in the walk a mile campaign in the community.

Crime Reduction is also a focus for detachment with members becoming more visible in the community to become a deterrent, through patrols, foot patrols and bike patrols. He outlined the work of the prolific offender program in the community which has paid off with some results.

Among the successful initiatives is the theft from vehicles program which has seen a signficant decrease in that area, with members putting a lot of pressure on one particular prolific offender of recent years.

Part of that program involves curfew checks and other initiatives.

One other area for the RCMP to work on is a more focused engagement with First Nations residents to try and break down barriers and build up trust.

As for a numbers review, Ward noted that there has been a Significant drop in calls for service, with administration changes providing for a bulk review, as opposed to individual files.

When it comes to actual statistical offences, he noted that there have been some significant changes with auto theft decreases, and the previously mentioned thefts from automobiles, However Break and enters at local businesses  are of some focus for the local detachment.

The concerns related to cells in Prince Rupert has seen the members look for other options when it comes to local incarceration, with high risk prisoners taken to Terrace  as much as possible, while any intoxicated case files find members first looking to see if there is any alternative location, whether family or friends to first make use of before taking those who are intoxicated to cells.

Ward also offered up some background on the newly introduced computer program that officers and staff members are making use of capture more data on their activities during their tours. While the project won't be reviewed in full until the year is up, they have found some interesting trends to make note of from the data review to this point, information that could give City Council members a better idea as to how they may want to best prioritize the enforcement strategy in the community.

He also noted that while other communities have some case files that they don't attend, in Prince Rupert detachment members attend to all calls that are received and are exceeding the benchmarks in place for response to differing levels of calls for service.

Council also received an explanation as to how the Detachment approaches liquor licence cases, with the Commander noting that liquor related cases are continuing to be a challenge for the members in the community.

Councillor Niesh raised his concerns related to the required hours of training that the local detachment has to make use of, observing how it makes Prince Rupert almost a training centre for the RCMP offering up concerns about the cost to the city for such additional requirements. The detachment commander offered up a bit more background for the council members on some of the elements of training and the mixed approach to payments from provincial policing resources.

Councillor Randhawa offered up his thanks for their work in the community and the progress that has been found over the last year.

Councillor Cunningham thanked Ward for his appearance, noting that the presentation is something he has been trying to have take place at Council for a while now, he followed up his thoughts with a question related to current staffing levels in the City.

When it comes to members serving in Prince Rupert, the staffing level is listed at thirty six, however at the moment is at 29, with 26 members  currently in rotation owing to pregnancies among staff members.

Councillor Cunningham noted that it must be hard to make things work with those staffing numbers, considering the city's population and any transient residents that pass through.

He also praised the community policing aspect of the current initiatives, asking if there have been any official complaints registered against members at this time. He was advised that to his knowledge there are no complaints outstanding.

Councillor Thorkelson took note of some of the social service issues in the community and asked what one area that they would consider as to the most required social service required in the community.

Commander Ward pointed towards such areas as Drugs and Alcohol issues and mental health concerns, noting that there is not one approach he would have in mind, but rather what is required is amore holistic approach, adding that the RCMP have a good relationship with local health practitioners related to those areas, something he notes is the best he's seen in recent years of his career.

Mayor Brain then thanked him for the presentation.

( 37:00 --39:00  ) Report from the Community Planner, related to a request for a variance permit for a property on Sloan Avenue -- A review of the request, for a variance to allow for a hobby workshop was presented to Council.

Council then voted to approve the variance request, with the process now to move to final consideration.

39:00 -- 48:30  ) Report from the Community Planner, related to a request for a variance permit for a property on 7th Avenue East Avenue -- A review of the request, for a variance to allow for construction of a garage to back onto the alley between 7th and 8th Avenues.

Councillor Thorkelson asked about storm water run off concerns and then inquired as to why lane access on a stretch of Sloan would receive civic services such as snow removal, while this application features a lane which is not maintained by the city.

City Manager Robert Long offered up that there is no hard or fast policy on the issue of lane maintenance, adding that it's based on the ability to budget on the lanes they do maintain at the moment, offering up that this is how its evolved over time and is left to the judgment of the Operations Department.

Councillor Niesh offered up his thoughts on the theme, noting that the lane on Sloan is a continuous route, while the 7th Avenue East is only serving a few homes and is a dead end.

Councillor Cunningham echoed some of the concerns of Councillor Thorkelson on water run off and what impact it may have on surrounding residences, adding that he would like to ensure that there is some kind of plan to deal with it.

Councillor Thorkelson returned to her concerns over the lane access issue and was advised that those concerns would be returned to the Operations Department for further action.

Council then voted to approve the variance request, with the process now to move forward to public notification.

48:30 -- 49:00  ) Report from the City's Financial Officer, providing the June variance report for Council  -- Corinne Bomben, outlined the nature of the June report advising that all departments are on track, noting the discrepancies related to the roads department stemming this winter's snow removal impact on the overall financial report.

Council voted to receive the report for information purposes.

( 49:00--1:08:00 ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Thorkelson raised the issue of the local fishery and called on Council to provide a correspondence to the Federal Fisheries Minister related to a potential review of fishery policy as part the Fishery Act for the Pacific Coast.

Of particular concern to her is the request for comments on social, economic and cultural perspectives of the fishery.

With a deadline fast approaching of August 28th she called for a Resolution adopted at the time of the closure of the canning lines at the Canadian Fish Cannery, suggesting that it be forwarded as part of the correspondence from the city supporting  a call for adjacency to be added to the Fishery Act, to ensure that fish that is caught in the North Coast  area is processed in this region.

As a form of background for council members, she outlined the current state of the local fish industry in the wake of that cannery line closure, noting that this year there are only 135 people working at the plant, averaging only 2 to 3 days a week, which is a significant decline from years past.

The Mayor noted that due to the time sensitive nature of the motion, that Council would adopt the motion and making use of their reports related to adjacency, forwarding the proposed letter to Council members by email and then following any suggested edits forward the correspondence to the Federal government.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up for council how this is the one chance that the community will have to make input to the policy review and how it offers a chance to once again promote the need for adjacency and how it would benefit the community.

Councillor Cunningham added that he would like to see a strongly worded commentary included as to how the lack of adjacency has provided for a worrisome social and economic impact on the community and how the current situation is devastating the industry in the region.

Councillor Randhawa echoed those concerns raised and offered his own thoughts on how the current situation is impacting on those living in the community.

Council the approved the motion towards the correspondence and tasked staff to put the project in motion.

Councillor Randhawa noted the good feedback that he has heard about the work of city workers when it comes to gardening in the community.

Councillor Cunningham offered up his thanks to the Mayor for his work with the Resource Benefits Alliance and how he is hopeful of seeing a better financial return from the province for local communities across the Northwest come from their efforts of the last few months.

Mr. Cunningham then turned his attention towards the number of derelict structures in the community,  once again raising his concerns on the topic noting that while the City of Prince Rupert has such mechanisms as ReBuild Prince Rupert and ReDesign Prince Rupert and other initiatives in place, all you see through the downtown core are buildings in varying stages of disarray.

He pointed to such buildings as the Dairy Queen and Totem theatre as particularly offensive structures in the downtown region, adding that other areas of town have other issues that he has concerns about and need to be addressed.

He suggested that if letters aren't going to work, then the city needs to begin to make use of fines to get some attention to the issue.

He observed that in the past he has called for the need for a second bylaw officer for the community to try and address the issue, a solution that has not been addressed owing to cost. Adding that the city needs to be more aggressive towards the mainly out of town owners, who he called speculators and who are not paying their way, asking that the City make use of their bylaws and make some examples of those who won't do their share in the city.

He noted how the community showed some pride with the McKay Street park concept, something which the Mayor observed was through a ReDesign Prince Rupert initiative, and while Councillor Cunningham acknowledged their work on that project he added that it could be a model for a future approach to address his concerns.

Mayor Brain noted that there are a lot of people in the community who feel like he does. However, he also took advantage of the discussion to outline some of the things that are taking place related to the issue, and how progress is being made.

Included in the Mayors review were the plans for a report from City Staff on a potential Spring Clean Up plan for the city that could take place in the future.

He also pointed to some local business owners that have come forward to discuss the downtown core and issues in that area of the city, they are interacting with Councillor Mirau's Small Business Advisory Committee, with that group currently going through a process of retooling city policies and how the city interacts with the business community.

He also made note of the recent repairs taken on by the city to both the road on Third Avenue and ongoing work on sidewalk improvements in the community. Noting how the city saved half a million dollars on the road project and how the sidewalk project will be completed over a period of five years

Mayor Brain also offered up that we may not be able to take care of the issues overnight, adding that when it comes to the DQ building that he had had personally met with the owner of the building and observed that the owner wants to develop that building for the long term benefit of the community

The Mayor also stated that while things may not be happening as fast as some might like, and while there is more work to be done, the city should celebrate the success that they have achieved to this point. And how the city does need to have a strategy in place to put pressure on those business owners that don't want to cooperate and how that process is in motion.

Mr. Cunningham noted that while the roads and sidewalks are a nice improvement, the overall visual impression of the downtown core is still one that isn't very appealing, once again suggesting that enough is enough and how its time for the city to take some action.

The Mayor wrapped up the discussion by noting that these things take time and that there are plans and processes in place, as well as actions that are taking place and he was confident that further progress can be made in the next couple of years

He reviewed how the city can only control what they can control at this moment and how they need to engage with local business owners in a constructive fashion to work towards a solution on the issue.

On a couple of final items for Council, Councillor Cunningham took note of the report to Council of earlier in the evening from the RCMP commander, something which he had been advocating for over the last year, he asked the Mayor if he could expect to see other departments coming forward with similar reports in the months to come, with the Mayor advising that there would be more reports coming forward.

The final theme from Councillor Cunningham's list involved questions related to the discussion on invasive species, asking how Mayor Brain had taken care of the Japanese knot-wood situation that was found on his own property.

The Mayor advised that the issue had been addressed on his property and called attention to the city's invasive plan directions which are available on the website, with the homeowner responsible for the removal if it is on their property.

Councillor Randhawa noted that on the theme of derelict cars, there are some issues involved in getting access to junkyards, with Councillor Niesh also offering up some thoughts on the issue and outlined how he believes the city needs to connect with those that can offer some relief to the issue in the community.

On the theme of the concerns over how the downtown area looks, Councillor Niesh called attention to a pair of buildings on Second Avenue West which had suffered fire damage, wondering as to what the status of the plans for those buildings may be. As part of his review on the look of downtown, he also observed as to how those situations have been handled in Terrace, compared to the current approach in Prince Rupert.

And with those final thoughts, the evening's session came to a close.

You can access the City Council Review For August 21st 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 August 21, 2017 (not available yet)

Council's reduced summer schedule features one more month of just a single session of work.

With a busy travel month ahead in September for the Mayor and councillor, they will meet in mid September for their only regular session. 

That session takes place on September 11th  2017 .

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