Wednesday, October 24, 2018

City Council Timeline: Monday, October 22, 2018

One late addition to the Agenda related to city council salary issues and some fond farewells for Councillor Joy Thorkelson, helped to extend what would have been a fairly short final gathering for the Class of 2014 edition of Prince Rupert City Council.

As things turned out, they still managed to wrap their night up in less than half hour, continuing on with what has been for the most part the benchmark number on the clock when it comes to length of Council sessions from the group for 2018.

The main themes of the night involved approval of a contract for the Woodworth Dam project, the approval to seek out a grant for Emergency Service preparations through the Civic Centre and discussions on how the incoming Council of November may approach the issue of Community Enhancement Grants.

Mayor Lee Brain also introduced his plans to create a Blue Ribbon panel to explore remuneration themes for Council, an issue related to upcoming changes in the Federal income tax act that will take away some of the tax free income that council members receive.

The Council session came to an end with the tributes to Ms. Thorkelson, who was absent from the chamber on the evening, as well as a few final thoughts on a number of local notes of interest from Councillors Cunningham, Niesh and Mirau.

Some background on the work of Council on the evening and the various Agenda elements for the October 22nd Council session can be reviewed here.

Council also met in a closed session earlier in the day at 5 PM, with council closing the doors to the public citing the following elements of the Community Charter.

90.1 (c) labour relations or other employee relations; and (k) negotiations and related discussions respecting the proposed provision of a municipal service that at their preliminary stages and that, in the view of the council, could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality if they were held in public.

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 Tuesday, October 22, 2018

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

Councillor Nelson Kinney passed away on March 24th

Video Archive for October 22, 2018

(0:00 -- 1:00 )   Regular City Council Session for October 9, 2018  --  Mayor Brain reviewed the list of minutes and agenda items to be noted by Council members, including one late addition related to a the creation of a Blue Ribbon Select Panel Committee on remuneration.

( 1:00 -- 2:00  )   Report from David Geronazzo on an application for funding for the city's Emergency Services Program   -- The city's Director of Recreation and Community Service outlined the details related to the grant application to the UBCM Community emergency preparedness fund. Noting that if successful, the 11,000 dollars would be used to help fund the continued growth of the Prince Rupert Emergency Services Program, with the money to be used to continue to fund the Emergency Services team, recruit members and provide training.

Councillor Randhawa inquired if the committee was already in place, he was advised that there is a program and team in place through the Civic Centre, the goal of the Director is to help to grow the program by recruiting more members and increase its capacity.

Mayor Brain offered by way of an explanation of the program at work, by observing how it had been activated during the forest fire emergency of the summer in case Prince Rupert was required to accept those forced from their homes. He noted that the money from the fund would be directed towards those forms of the program's work.

The motion was carried by Council.

( 2:00 -- 9:30  ) Report from the Chief Financial officer on the topic of the 2019 Community Enhancement Grants -- Ms. Corinne Bomben outlined some background on the city's financial picture for the year ahead, noting that the city does not anticipate any new funding being available to increase the grant program for 2019.  She then provided for the finance department's recommendations when it comes to the grant programming, with $748,000 to be distributed to the list of grant applicants provided to Council.

(You can see the list of those applicants for the grant process from our preview of Monday)

Councillor Niesh began the discussion on the topic, noting that the city once again has found itself facing the same problem of new applicants wanting money, but with existing commitments,  the city is having a hard time finding a way to help new groups gain access to the funding.  He observed that with the new council coming on that they will need to find a new way of doing the grant enhancement grants, suggesting that for 2019 that Council go with the recommendations provided by the City's finance department.

Councillor Randhawa made note of the inquiries of the Immigrant and Multicultural group in the community which is looking to provide English language classes and as the city won't be taking on new applicants, he asked that the City write a letter to the college to ask that the college start the ESL language classes. The mayor observed that the request was fine and something the city council would look at.

Councillor Cunningham agreed with Councillor Niesh as to the need for a new formula to approach the issue and offered up a hope that in the new year the city may receive more money.

Councillor Mirau also suggested an amendment to direct staff to recommend a new in kind community enhancement grant process, reviewing how some of the applicants were not looking for cash, but in kind options. He outlined how that new category would be an improvement for the future. He also suggested that the city seek recommendations towards modernizing the process, noting how the process of asking community groups to come hat in hand every year is not suiting anyone's interest and has served as a source of frustration.

The Mayor added his thoughts to the topic, noting how it is time for a reinvention of the Community Grant process, one that will allow new people to apply and allow the city to be more flexible, adding how the current system has locked into a situation where once your in, your in and how that is not fair to the other community groups that are working hard in the community. He agreed with the recommendation from staff for this years distribution, but expressed the hope that by this time next year the City has a new process that is in place and different in nature.

( 9:30 - 11:38   ) Report from City Manager Robert Long -- Report on the contract award for the Woodworth Dam project, the second phase of the city's water works project -- Mr. Long pointed to his written report and recommended that the contract be awarded to Eiffage Canada.

Councillor Niesh offered up the first of the commentary, noting that even if the city wished to, it couldn't at the moment consider the cost of the most expensive of the three options available.

The Mayor reflected on how the Dam project is one of the flagship elements of the ReBuild Rupert program, reviewing the work done to this point and how the next focus will be accessing funding for the third element, that of the water lines from Island to the mainland. He commended city staff on the work that they have done on the file and noted how it was more good news for the community.

Council then voted to approve the recommendation from staff.

11:38 - 15:45 ) Report from Mayor Brain on the creation of a Blue Ribbon Select Panel to review city council remuneration -- Mr. Brain provided some background on a change to the regulations from Revenue Canada, that will be taking away a tax exemption for elected officials to claim one third of their salary as tax exempt.

He observed as to how city council's across the country have been forced into making changes to the remuneration scales to retain the same level of compensation that they receive now, citing the work being done by the Prince George after consultation with an advisory committee on remuneration.

To approach the issue in Prince Rupert, the Mayor outlined the concept he has in mind for a Blue Ribbon Select Standing Committee on Remuneration, which will be formed making use of members of the community to analyze and make recommendations on three topics.

1) Make a recommendation regarding how to address the impacts of the removal of the one third federal tax exemption will have on council remuneration.

2) Make a recommendation on appropriate Mayor and Council remuneration moving forward.

3) Make a recommendation on appropriate daily per diem framework moving forward.

To achieve those goals the Mayor observed that there would be a development of terms of reference for the work ahead and the establishment of the Blue Ribbon Select Standing Committee on Remuneration.

The Committee will be asked to provide a  final recommendation to council by the end of December 2018.

The Mayor moved the motion forward, seconded by councillor Mirau.

Mr. Mirau provided for the first of the commentary on the topic, noting how the role of council is a balance of public service, as well as an element of volunteerism, but how there is also a need to set compensation for the time and work of the role. He observed how he's not a fan of politicians setting their own wages, so he is favour of the approach of the committee process. He outlined how he believes it's a good idea to get the  comparison with other communities so that they can have a recommendation on what the benchmarks should be.

Councillor Randhawa inquired as to who may be on the committee, the mayor noted that there will be a call out for members to apply for the committee and then they will take on the work of providing for a review of compensation that will be comprehensive and fair. Mr. Brain also noted that with the Federal tax change the existing salaries for Council members now will actually be reduced, adding that an adjustment should be made to ensure that they get the same level of pay as they get now.

Councillor Cunningham added to the discussion by noting how two things that the committee could look at  was if the city can afford any raises and the impact on the city tax structure if they do get a raise.

The Mayor again reiterated that one focus of the review won't be a raise, but an adjustment to keep the same level as pay now, he also noted that the work of the panel could recommend  a raise in the salary structure and that a city staff member will be part of the committee to ensure that impacts on the city budget are considered.

With no other comments council voted to move forward with the creation of the committee.

( 15:45 - 16:45 Correspondences for Action -- Council approved two requests for proclamations --
The first  request from Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development, asking for a proclamation to declare October 2018 as Foster Family Month in the City of Prince Rupert.

The second request came from Rotary Club of Prince Rupert, seeking a proclamation to Declare October 24, 2018 as World Polio Day in the City of Prince Rupert.

( 16:45 -- 18:00 Bylaw change request from the Corporate Administrator, related to the change of the municipal voting date from November to October -- Council heard from Corporate Administrator Rory Mandryk on the nature of the need for the change to the procedural bylaw for the inaugural city council meeting following a general election. The move is required due to the change of the month from November in previous years, to October for this years Municipal vote.

Council voted to approve the language change to the bylaw.

 ( 18:00 -- 23:00 ) Comments from Council on the Retirement of Councillor Joy Thorkelson -- With this the final council session for the current contingent of elected members, Council members paid tribute to Councillor Joy Thorkelson who did not seek reelection this year.

Prior to going around the chamber to take the comments from the council membership, the Mayor congratulated those members who had been re-elected to Council on Saturday evening and how he looks forward to working with them for the next four years.

Mr Brain then turned to the theme of Ms. Thorkelson's farewell, while noting that she was not in the chamber on the evening to hear the comments from council members.

Tributes came from all council members in attendance on the night including Councillor Cunningham, Councillor Randhawa, Councillor Niesh, Councillor Mirau as well as from Mayor Brain.

Mr. Brain closed the tributes by noting how he wished that she had been in attendance on the evening to hear the comments from those around the room on the night

23:30 - 26:00 ) Reports and Comments from Council members 

Councillor Niesh opened the comment period by making note of some work of the Recreation Commission and  the recent creation of a sub committee of four members who will review the policies and create policy on how recreation space is to be allocated.

Councillor Mirau offered up a public thank you to those who put their names up for election for both City Council and School District elections, noting the commitment that it requires.

Councillor Cunningham also had comments related to the recent election and also offered his thanks to those who stood for election.

He also raised a question about a street in the City, Emmerson Place and some confusion for residents there as to whether the roadway is a road or an alley. He noted that some residents had been advised that it's an alley and  that any work that would take place on it will require an increase in their taxes. Mr. Cunningham asked that city staff provide some clarification for the residents of that area.

Mayor Brain made note that the inaugural meeting for the incoming council elected on Saturday night will take place on Monday, November 5th, adding he looks forward to seeing the public come out for that.

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 October 22nd herewhere a number of items regarding the council session, including links to local media coverage, can also 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 October 22, 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, November 9, 2018. That session will be the first public session for the newly elected City Council membership, following the October 20th Municipal election.

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

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