Wednesday, February 28, 2018

City Council Timeline: Monday, February 26, 2018

It was another quick evening for City Council members as Mayor Brain, back from his travels of earlier this month, was at the head of the Council table, the Mayor steering the five Council members in attendance through the light agenda  for the night in less than fifty minutes.

Included as part of Monday's session was a public comment period through the Committee of the Whole process, as well as a pair of presentations from the City's Planning department related to zoning issues

The key element of the evening was the 2018 Budget presentation by the City's Financial Officer Corinne Bomben, who put forward the blue print for this years financial discussion by Council.

The evening wrapped up with a short discussion on a motion from Councillor Cunningham to provide for more public commentary opportunities for those groups that the city provides funding for.

With Mr. Cunningham recommending that the Committee of the Whole process be used for those public information sessions.

Some background on the items of note on the evening and the various Agenda elements for the February 26th Council session can be reviewed here.

Council also met in a closed session earlier in the day, the notice closing that meeting 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 February 26, 2018

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

Video Archive for February 26, 2018

(0:00 -- 1:00)  City Council Committee of the Whole Session --  Mayor Brain 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.

1:00 -- 3:30 )  Only one participant took advantage of the opportunity to speak at the public speaking opportunity of the COW session. With resident Larry Golden asking a question about the current status of the position of a full time Mayor and if Council had plans to return to the previous arrangement prior to 2014, of a part time mayor with a part time salary.

Mayor Brain outlined that the position, which has a sunset provision, would remain as full time until the end of 2018, with the full time salary that goes with it. The Mayor added that it would be up to the next council, which will be elected in October, to determine whether the position will remain as a full time one, or if Council would wish to return it to the part time position it once was.

( 3:30 -- 4:30  ) City Council Regular Council session -- Mayor Brain 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.

( 4:30 -- 7:30 ) Report from the City Planner related to a variance permit for a property on 9th Avenue East -- Council received a short overview of the nature of the variance request and followed that up with a vote in favour of the motion.  Councillor Niesh added that for future reference on such projects, if people have any opposition to a proposed variance they should provide more details as to why they are opposed.  

( 7:30:00 -- 31:00 Budget Presentation Report from the Chief Financial Officer   -- Ms. Corinne Bomben took City Council through the process for Budget development, making use of a short slide show presentation that touched on a number of themes.

The first was a look at some of the service challenges that the City faces with the Digby Island Ferry flagged as one of the largest of issues faced by the City, with Prince Rupert residents subsidizing the airport Ferry to a cost of one million dollars.

As well she made note of some of the financial elements that provide for additional challenges, including the Provincial Incentive Program, the concerns of the city over the Provincial offsets program that is in place and the nature of the Taxation Burden Transfer that the city faces from them.

Ms. Bomben added that the tax cap that the Provincial has legislated has been an ongoing issue for the city for a number of years now. Noting that they had hoped that with a change of government there would be some relief, but observed that "it has only been a case of  a change of actors and not the story"

She relayed the wish of Council that residents should contact MLA Jennifer Rice and insist that the provincial  incentive program be compensated in total by the province.

When it comes to Budget requirements, the CFO outlined a few of the requirements, including such items on the list as the replacement of the public works building on Wantage Road, the upgrade of the RCMP cell block, completion of phase one and the start of phase two of the water supply projects.

As well there is a requirement for an upgrade to the aquatic centre, the west berm expansion of the landfill and the replacement of solid waste trucks.

The City will need to pay contractual wage increases for the city workforce as well as for the RCMP, another expense item is an increase by 300,000 dollars in the payment that the city makes to Port Edward as part of the Ridley Island Tax Sharing agreement, that will make for a total payment by the City of Prince Rupert to the District of Port Edward of 900,000 dollars for this year.

All of those expenses have been offset by taxes from expansions and new builds and experience savings, that has resulted in a balanced budget, with no planned increase to the residential mill rate. Ms. Bomben then provided an explanation of what the mill rate is and how it is applied towards property taxes for residents of the community.

She also outlined the range of other taxes the City collects as an agent on behalf of other taxing authorities, noting that the City of Prince Rupert only has control over two elements of the levies that are put in place.

The revised BC Assessment roll will be announced on March 31st, that revision could result in changes to the tax rate and may impact on the proposed mill rate.

The City will host two public consultation sessions on the Budget in March during the March 12th and 26th Regular Council sessions, those sessions will also be streamed through the city's website and by CityWest Community television.

Ms, Bomben also advised that a print copy of the Budget document will be made available at City Hall, the Library and the Recreation Centre, with a copy of the Budget presentation to also be posted to the City's website.

As for questions from Council, Councillor Randhawa asked about how the property tax process was evaluated and what factors the Finance Department takes note of as they prepare the Budget from year to year.

The CFO observed that the City can only tax on property and does not have the authority to tax based on income.

Councillor Cunningham, asked for some clarification  and offered up some observations when it comes to the major industrial category of taxation and the nature of the cap system that is in place related to that element of the budget process.

He observed how the cap system that is in place from the province has an impact on how the city can distribute the level of taxation to the three main taxing areas of residential, commercial and industrial.

The CFO provided some further background on how the city approaches those taxation elements in order to provide for a balanced budget.

Councillor Mirau offered his thanks to City Staff for their hard work on delivering the budget recommendations and then inquired as to the timeline ahead for the Budget.

Ms. Bomben outlined that the two public consultations would be taking place in March and that the Finance Department would need to have the Tax Bylaw and Five Year Financial plan in place by April 24th.

She also added that the BC Assessment results of late March will provide the final glimpse for the City as to what level the mill rate will be set at.

Councillor Niesh added his thanks to Ms. Bomben and City staff for their work on the budget process and then reminded the public that if they have any issues that they want to have addressed in the budget they need to bring them to the attention of Council, suggesting that they make use of the two public consultation sessions set for March.

With no other comments from Council members, Council voted to accept the report, the Mayor added his thanks to staff for their work on the city's financial matters.

31:00 -- 36:30 Report from the City Planner related to a zoning amendment for the property at 333 11th Avenue East -- Council received a short overview from City Planner Zeno Krekic who outlined the nature of the proposed supportive housing facility at the address indicated. He highlighted some of the elements towards the definition of the proposed facility and how it will be governed by a housing agreement between the proponent and the City of Prince Rupert.

He provided some background on the public consultation meeting that had been set up for the proposed zoning request.

Council then moved forward with the zoning request, scheduling a Public Hearing for the process to be held on March 26th prior to the Regular Council session that night.

Councillor Thorkelson asked for some clarification on the wording related to the Public Hearing session before Council moved on to the Housing agreement that has been put in place related to the proposed facility.

36:30-- 37:00 Report from the City Planner related to the Housing Agreement between the City of Prince Rupert and the proponent of the Support Housing facility -- Council received a short overview from City Planner Zeno Krekic who provided some background to the Housing agreement that has been signed between the City of Prince Rupert and the facility proponent.

Council then gave fourth reading to the Housing Agreement.

( 37:00 -- 42:00 ) Report from Councillor Cunningham related to Committee of the Whole and plans to invite community funded groups to make presentations to Council -- Mr. Cunningham outlined the nature of the motion that he and Councillor Mirau created to make use of the Committee of the Whole process to bring provide a forum for Community organizations and societies that are funded by the City.

The resolution for council makes for a project that is designed to provide opportunity for those groups to expand on some background on their work.

Councillor Thorkelson offered up the suggestion that the proposal not be limited to just those groups that are funded by the City, but that it include any group in the community which wishes to make a presentation to Council be allowed to do so.

Councillor Mirau outlined the nature of some of his hesitation towards using the COW process to include reports from City staff and departments, observing how he  fears that the city may be overstepping its bounds on governance.

The Mayor noted that when it comes to any reports from the RCMP or Fire Department that the main presentation would be limited to stats and notes of their work in the community and not operational aspects.

Council Thorkelson then suggested that the City should try to encourage organizations that are involved with community recreation to come and explain how they are working together to provide for recreation options in the community.

Councillor Cunningham echoed that theme, noting that those groups could make use of the COW forum to better promote their programs.

42:00 to 47:00 Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Councillor Niesh offered his condolences at the passing of Peter Witherly, a sentiment that was added to by Mr. Cunningham who noted that there is a fund raising effort for the music studio in the name of Mr. Witherly, he also observed that there are plans in motion for a music concert to commemorate his work through the years in Prince Rupert.

Councillor Mirau joined in on the condolences, noting the loss to the community adding that in lieu of flowers the family had been asking for donations to the Music Society.

Councillor Randhawa asked if the City had any procedure to forward a letter to the family from the community, the Mayor noted that he had spoken to the family who advised they would let the City know if there was anything that Council could do.

Mr. Randhawa brought two other topics to the Council on Monday, offering up his congratulations to the organizers of the All Native Basketball Tournament for another successful event in the city.

He then inquired about when a paving plan for the pothole problem in the city would be released, advising that he had heard many comments from residents in the community about the situation, the Mayor noted that the paving schedule would come out following the winter season.

Councillor Cunningham offered up a reminder about the Community Clean Up planned for March 11th and noted this is an opportunity for the residents of the city to participate in helping to clean up the City.  The Mayor noted that it's called the Rupert Rubbish Round Up with a Facebook page available for those looking for more information.

Councillor Thorkelson added her voice to the condolences at the passing of Mr. Witherly, and also noted that Larry McKay, a long time former member of the School Board had passed away and offered her condolences to his family.

The Mayor provided for the last item of note on the night, advising that the planned Community Build Day for the McKay Street Park Project had been postponed from its March 4th date, noting that because of the weather of late, organizers had decided to reschedule that event for sometime in April.

He directed those with an interest in that project to a Facebook page that has been created for the event.

With no other comments offered up for the final portion of the evening, Council then voted to adjourn the meeting.

You can access the City Council Review for February 26th herewhere 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.

Official Minutes of the Regular Council Session from February 26, 2018 (not available yet)

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.

Council members next meet on Monday, March 12th.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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