|Mayor Lee Brain hosted his Hays 2.0 Blue print update on Wednesday|
Mayor Lee Brain hosted his once delayed Hays 2.0 update on Wednesday evening (the original date of fall 2017 was cancelled a few weeks before its scheduled showtime), taking the audience at the Lester Centre and those at home on a ninety minute review of pretty well every talking point that City Council has examined since they took office on December 2nd of 2014.
Mr. Brain opened up the show with a joke as to how he looked like Steve Jobs and should be announcing a new iPhone ... and while no phones were sold during the hour and half, the focus on the night was clearly on the Mayors Hay's 2.0 blue print first introduced back in 2015 and still the cornerstone foundation for his time in office, one that seemingly will chart the future for the community.
Showcased as more than ever as our path forward, the Hays 2.0 Plan was front and centre through the night an all encompassing theme, a mantra for the community, that will deliver better days for those that wish to follow forward.
The opening moments recounted the choice of council to banish negativity, taking a positive vision to the future with a new team having emerged to reorganize internally the city staff structure and the launch of a repatriation campaign. One that the Mayor noted has been designed to target specifically Rupertites to come and work for the city, people who are motivated, passionate and have pride about the community.
The presentation was long on positioning and vision statements and a little less solid on details, particularly when it came to the Mayor's anticipation of potential revenue streams for the future.
A glimpse of those "what we hope will happens" would come following the lengthy account of the many required infrastructure concerns which rolled across the screen one after another.
The first portion of the night was indeed the tale of woe, though for those that have remained in the community during these challenging years, most of the recitation of what the community needs would be a familiar theme for those that have followed City Council through the last few years.
With many of the talking points and infrastructure needs from Wednesday night found in the successive Budget presentations from the City's Financial Officer over the last four years.
2015 Budget Presentation
2016 Budget Presentation
2017 Budget Presentation
2018 Budget Presentation
For the Wednesday evening talk, the Mayor put the focus on the range of infrastructure issues, making the observation that the current Council had inherited these when they took office.
The Mayor noted that Council had decided that the first priority was water, highlighting the completion of Phase One of the City's ambitious water project program (a process that actually was started during the previous term led by Mayor Jack Mussallem), with work now underway for the second phase and plans for what will follow.
Included in the second phase of the water infrastructure program is the dam itself at Woodworth Lake, a project which will have a design in place that allows the City to produce energy and generate revenue through hydro sales. Though the Mayor did not outline for the public if BC Hydro has expressed any interested in purchasing any of the city's power once it is up and running.
The Mayor also reviewed many of the background themes to a number of those issues that make for that lengthy list of infrastructure issues, among them: the need for a waste water treatment system, RCMP detachment, expanded landfill site, bridge replacements, roads, sidewalks, an airport Ferry and a new Fire Hall.
As the Mayor explained it, the majority of those items which come to a total of 350 million dollars of infrastructure deficit are mandated requirements most of which have to be completed by 2020 or the city could face fines.
Two major concerns did stand out from the Mayor's lengthy commentary, with much of the focus from the Mayor's viewpoint on the night suggesting that the majority of Prince Rupert's problems are mainly the result of external factors that are reducing our potential for revenue and progress.
The Two Major Revenue challenges that have been delivered to the City's situation are related to the Port Property Tax Act and the Ridley Island Tax Sharing Agreement.
These two themes would be frequently mentioned by the Mayor throughout the presentation, challenges inherited by Council and considered the key impediments towards achieving many of the infrastructure goals that the City may have.
The Port issues are related to the cap on taxation for port facilities that is in place through the provincial government and have been a long time concern of City Council going back to well before the 2014 municipal election. And despite many past attempts to start a dialogue on the issue, the Port Property Tax Cap concerns remain a topic that to this point has not found a welcome ear in Victoria.
The arrangement on tax sharing with Port Edward, known as the Ridley Island Tax Sharing Agreement however would seem to be the major irritant of the two for the Mayor and some of the members of City Council at this particular moment.
With the Mayor describing the current arrangement with Port Edward as the "insult to injury" part of the night's presentation.
The Tax Agreement document (see here) which was first delivered in 1980, has set the terms for distribution of money related to Ridley Island development ever since, what is at the heart of the City's frustrations is the formula for that distribution of money that the city would like to see the province take some action on.
The focus on the Port Edward agreement took some interesting turns on Wednesday night, as the Mayor explained how the City of Prince Rupert has been quite diplomatic towards its neighbour over the years of negotiations, though at times it didn't sound like Prince Rupert plans to be very diplomatic, very much longer.
With the mayor noting that the city's impression as to the current dynamic of the payments to the District, is that basically that of a case of Prince Rupert paying for another town.
To make sure no one was left unclear when it comes to how the City views the Port Edward dispute, two final graphics put up on the Lester Centre Screen highlighted the city's ultimate goal towards the Ridley Island Tax irritant, with a look at what would be the Before and After view as to how the City would like to address Port Edward's share of the Ridley Island money flow.
|X marks the Spot for Port Edward|
(click to enlarge)
Towards a path to reach that goal for Prince Rupert, the mayor outlined how the City has submitted a fair proposal to the facilitator who had been dispatched north to discuss the issue between the city and Port Edward, the official having recently submitted a report on the situation to the province.
However, the Mayor noted that should the situation not be resolved to the city's satisfaction with a final resolution, then the City would be calling on Prince Rupert residents to lend some assistance towards supporting whatever happens next.
The Mayor didn't expand on that ominous addendum to the discussion, leaving one to wonder if we should try and corner the market on torches and pitchforks, or tar and feathers, for future retail opportunities.
Those in attendance or viewing at home should try to keep in mind that the Port Edward question was presented Wednesday purely from the Prince Rupert point of view, so we have no real idea as to what the view from the District of Port Edward might be, or how the province may view the City's interpretation of the situation.
The theme however might make for an interesting debate between community representatives and maybe even the MLA, though where we could find a location that would constitute neutral ground for the discussion is anyones guess.
The City's decision to become landlords at Watson Island rather than having sold the industrial land off also made for some significant focus by the Mayor, though he never fully explained how that decision to shift Council's gaze from seller to landlord, ever came to pass at Council.
That surprising change of direction for City Council was a theme that never did make for any public discussions for the council members until after the decision had been made.
The Mayor outlined the decommissioning and tear down work that has taken place on Watson Island conducted by a team of city staff members led by City Manager Robert Long.
From the Wednesday night narrative, the Mayor observed that Watson Island now could be considered the city's ticket out of its difficulties, the city's golden nugget and a place of opportunity.
The Mayor outlined how the City is anticipating that the recent Pembina deal will be but the first of many that will see the Industrial area fully subscribed within five to ten years.
From that success, the Mayor outlined how the city would be collecting lease payments and taxes from tenants making Watson Island their destination of choice.
All that money collected from Watson Island and through the land at Lot 444 at Tuck Inlet is destined to be put into the city's Legacy Fund for use for future infrastructure projects with the mayor referring to that collection of money as the city's Infrastructure Bank.
Some of the Legacy Money will also be provided to the city through a dividend to put to use on operational items, as well the City may also use some of the Legacy money as a business arm to engage in joint ventures with other companies or initaitvies in the area.
The Legacy Corporation details were rather limited however, with no update provided as to how much is currently sitting in the fund, or where the city may be planning to direct those funds.
The other major theme for potential revenue comes through the City's hopes for the Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance and its efforts to gain a better share of the revenues from resources, with the Mayor pointing towards a revenue sharing deal in the Northeast that delivers significant money to communities such as Fort St. John and Dawson Creek.
So far however, other than a 300,000 dollar burst of funding for community engagement for the membership of the Alliance, the province has not as of yet indicated how they plan to approach the request for a larger share of revenues from resource developments in the Northwest.
As for the plans for major projects that may be ahead someday and a few of the items that the mayor described as the "fun stuff", the Hays 2.0 update was true to themes of recycling, with the majority of the presentation items those that have been delivered a number of times before, with perhaps a tweak here or there from their original version.
Among some of the proposals that made for the showcase on Wednesday:
Road network for Lax Kw'alaams, Metlaktla and the Airport
Amalgamation of Airport, Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams Ferry with shift of dock to Kwinitsa with the Ferry to feed into road network
Relocation of Alaska Ferry to Lax Kw'alaams
The Port has a plan to build a road to the container port along the harbour
The City also has plans to develop their own container bypass road along Wantage Road as well as use that area for Industrial use
City could turn Wantage Road into the Highway, freeing up Second Avenue for civic oversight
Rupert's Landing and Waterfront plans
Main Street Rupert/City Hall Square
Many of those items, previously announced at City Council sessions of the past can be explored through the following archive pages we have kept through the years.
Major Projects and Infrastructure
Redesign Rupert/Sustainable City
As the presentation headed towards the finish line the Mayor embraced the focus towards a more positive theme, one that proclaimed that we are heading towards better days.
With much in the way of comments about how People are the potential for the community, that with new money coming from AltaGas, Pembina and whatever other industries may set up at Watson Island the community is about to turn a corner.
The Mayor closed the information session by noting that it was a time for optimism, that the City Council has us on the right trail and how it was a time to let go of the past.
Mr. Brain also highlighted the theme that it was Rupert's time to shine, with the City serving as the facilitator to make it all happen.
Towards those ambitions, a chart from the evening outlines the path forward.
The current city council should best be hoping that all of the anticipated revenue streams come in; that the two major irritants of the Port Cap Tax and that the Ridley Island Tax Agreement both are resolved to the city's satisfaction, not to mention the prospect that endless amounts of money through the Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance comes rolling into town.
On Wednesday, there was No Plan B outlined to help residents understand what the city might have to do to resolve the many challenges ahead, should many of the Hays 2.0 bullet points not come to fruition.
That possibility seemingly has no place with the new approach to forward thinking, thus no one on Council has offered up any cautionary thoughts, or provided for any alternative views as they collectively follow the course laid out by the Mayor and the City Manager.
As we head towards the 2018 municipal elections, the Mayor and the five current council members would appear to be all in on the plan, if they aren't, those on Council only have five months to run up that flag of caution and offer up some other themes for consideration.
For the most part, Wednesday night had all the theatre of a campaign launch, with the Hays 2.0 plan and all of its successive components now part of this council's blue print and where they will hang their hats as they face the electorate, providing of course that they decide to seek another term.
What will be interesting to watch over the next few months is if anyone else in the community decides to put up a challenge, or offer a different narrative to this Council's expansive list of reports, studies, vision plans and such that have marked the last four years of Council.
The full presentation from Wednesday evening is available for your review below:
For more items of interest related to Prince Rupert City Council see our archive page here.
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