Wednesday, December 11, 2019

City Council Timeline: Monday, December 9, 2019

An award, a presentation and a review of capital spending made for some of the work for Prince Rupert City council as they hosted their final Regular Public Council session for the year on Monday night.

A forty five minute gathering that also featured time to praise the work of those who helped out on the Hometown Hockey weekend and offer a reminder of the Prince Rupert 2030 event at the Lester Centre on Thursday.

The presentation featured Council delivering the Civic Appreciation certificate to photographer Phuong Nguyen, hailing his dedication to community and his photographic work at many of the city's events and festivals.

The much anticipated review of Policing in the community made for about one third of the nights work, as the Council members heard a number of themes from Sergeant Baldinger of the Prince Rupert RCMP.

While a tutorial from the City's Chief Financial officer on the upcoming capital spending and a number of other financial related reports provided for much of the remainder of the evening's work.

Some background on the work of Council on the evening and the various Regular Agenda elements for the December 9th Council session can be explored here

Council also hosted a Closed Session earlier in the evening, the details as to why they required the doors to be closed for the 5PM meeting can be explored 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 Monday, December 9, 2019

Mayor Lee Brain -- Present 
Councillor Nick Adey --  Present 
Councillor Barry Cunningham --  Present 
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present 
Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven --  Present 
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa--  Present 

Video Archive for Monday, December 9, 2019


Regular Council Session

(0:00 -- 1:30 )   Regular City Council Session for Monday, December 9, 2019  -- Mayor Brain called the Regular Council Session to order, with Council adopting the agenda and past minutes of previous minutes. With an addition to the Agenda of a presentation on the Business Facade improvement program.

1:30 -- 5:30   ) Report Presentation of Civic Appreciation Award to photographer Phuong Nugyen -- Mayor Brain outlined the community service that Mr. Nguyen provides around Prince Rupert, capturing public events for the community through his camera and Facebook page. The award was given to him tonight as he was not available on Canada Day for the celebration at that time. Mr. Brain also made note of the salute to Mr. Nguyen's work that MLA Jennifer Rice delivered in the Legislature earlier in November.

Presentations to Council

 5:30 --  21:00  ) Report Presentation from Sergeant Baldinger of the Prince Rupert RCMP providing a update for council   --  Among his themes were a look at the Quarterly report, with the Sergeant noting how the city's detachment is a four year limited posting for all member, there is about a 25% turnover, with this year slightly higher.  The Detachment resurrected its two member Crime Reduction Unit in the Spring, at the moment it is reduced by one member owing to a transfer but should be back at full strength in the Spring of 2020.

He also outlined some of the work of the Victim Services office at the detachment, with referrals up from last years numbers .  As well as to make note of the consultation with stakeholders in the community, this year those consultations identified initiatives such areas road safety, domestic violence, healthy aboriginal communities, crime reduction and developing supervisors as elements of focus for performance initiatives this year.

The Sergeant also explained how Stats Canada has changed the reporting process of crime statistics to them, with the new format now focusing only on founded and unfounded case files which has meant an increase in the number of founded files which will have an impact on the level of Crime Severity Index recorded in the community.

That topic served as a lead in to his review of the recent Maclean's magazine survey on Crime in Canada, nothing that there were no surprises with those stats and with the same trend found over the last few years. He did observe that the stats are misleading as it doesn't capture the number of offences where the victim and offender are known to each other, as opposed  to stranger on stranger offences.

He observed that in Prince Rupert there are not many stranger on stranger offences, with the majority of calls dealing with known offenders to the victims, he also highlighted how as the stats are based on a population base of 100,000 people it looks like we have a lot of property crime, which in fact is quite low in the community.

He observed because we have such a small population that if we have one or two stats that increase that spikes some of the statistics for the city, he also noted that in 2018 it was a bit higher for property crime which he attributed to one individual that was linked to nine separate break and enters which spiked the city's results, observing that overall the level of property crime in the city is low.

Sergeant Baldinger wrapped up his presentation with an update on a plan for a new online reporting program for the city to start in January, where people can report crime through an app or the RCMP website, the program is designed to reflect any case files that RCMP don't have to attend, such as a lost or stolen wallet, stolen bike and such which will generate a police file number for future attention.

When the Mayor turned things over to the Council members, Councillor Adey led off the questions or comments, first noting how pleased he was that the detachment had attended for the presentation and how he hopes that it will become a more regular part of the Council process.

As for questions, he first turned to the Maclean's report, and noted that as a 30 year public school teacher he has dealt with the Foundation Skills Assessments from the Fraser Institute and how the results can turn into something that they aren't.

He then asked a question based on the Maclean's article asking if Prince Rupert was a safe place to be, the Sergeant reinforced his comments of earlier as to how the majority of the violence found in town was between people known to each other, with few incidences of stranger on stranger violence reported.

A follow up question from the Councillor asked for the impressions of the members when it comes to things that we don't see, noting of some planning sessions he has been involved with through an initiative called the Situations Table group that illustrates the work that the RCMP does outside of the public eye with local stakeholders. Towards that area he asked for some examples from the Sergeant as to what the day to day work of the members may bring.

In reply, the example of the Crime Reduction Unit was highlighted and how they build relationships with vulnerable community members and stakeholders, noting their work with MCFD, Transition House, the Schools, the Fire Department. Friendship House and Northern Health.

Councillor Mirau sought some further detail on the scope of the stats that are collected and how the detachment members collect their information.

Mr. Mirau also noted how Councillor Adey had highlighted the flaws of the Maclean's survey data  and asked what trends that the city should be aware of over the next few years.  The Sergeant noted how the city is growing and that the largest issue that the members seem to deal with is the homeless issues in the community and how more housing might take away some of those issues.

Councillor Cunningham followed up on that theme asking if the larger issues for the detachment were more social than policing issues and if so, would it help if provincial agencies increased their assistance on those issues.

The Sergeant concurred with that observation and responding further on the homeless issue he did offer up the note that with a limited shelter availability there has been an increase in the amount of homelessness in the community.

Councillor Cunningham observed how he believes its a myth that crime increases as the homeless population increases, the Sergeant noted that while he hasn't seen the stats on that comparison he doesn't believe that the level of street crime in the city has increased with the rise in homelessness.

Councillor Niesh offered up the thought that statistics are all about what the author wants it to sound like, turning then to how the crime statistics can be skewed by one person causing problems in a small town. Adding that he doesn't take a lot out of articles out of Macleans and how no one in the community or those visiting the community would consider it a dangerous town.

He did acknowledge that there are social problems to be addressed and also noted how with the new on line crime reporting system in place, the members on duty may have more time to attend to the larger issues on the street.

Councillor Skelton Morven agreed with both the themes expressed by Councillor Niesh and Cunningham, while Councillor Randhawa simply thanked the members of the detachment for their service.

With no other questions, the Mayor thanked Sergeant Badinger for attending and moved on to other city business.

21:00 -- 23:00 ) Report from the Manager of Transportation and Economic Development on the Business Facade improvement grant program -- The City's Financial Officer Corinne Bomben spoke on behalf of Mr. Venditelli and outlined the background to the program that is offered by the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

The Mayor offered some notes on the initiative, with Councillor Randhawa inquiring as to how those interested in the program could apply for it, the Mayor noted that it is run through the Economic Development office. Councillor Cunningham recommended that the initiative be highlighted on the city's website so people can learn more about it and can't say they didn't know anything about it.

( 23:00 -- 25:00Report from the Chief Financial Officer, related to the October variance report -- Ms. Bomben noted that operating and utility budgets are all on track, though did observe that the water utility operating expense is higher this year than budgeted, which she attributed to the level of increased testing since the Boil Water order of earlier this year. She also noted that it was not anticipated during the budget initially, however that it was a variance of note. She also advised that all capital projects are finalizing at this time and costs will be reflected as final invoices are received.

Councillor Mirau had one question on the water testing, asking if it was something that will need to be budgeted for until the new water treatment facility is built and in operation. He was advised that yes the testing program will have to continue until Northern Health as the regulator advises that they can be dropped.

( 25:00 -- 35:00 ) Report from the Chief Financial Officer on the 2020 Capital Financial plan for works and purchases -- The CFO provided an overview of some of the programs planned for the year ahead and how they will be funded, among the notable ones:

Work on the Second phase of the Woodworth Lake Dam
Planning for the Water Treatment facility
Work on the plan for treatment of the City's Liquid waste, with mapping of the pipe network
Completion of the landfill leachate lagoon, with new cell creation work to get underway
Replacement of Boilers for the Recreation Centre complex
Examination and assessment of the city's bridges according to an assessment schedule
Arrival of the new city multi-purpose garbage dump and development of a plan for curb-side recycling
An expanded paving program for the year ahead with an increase to 850,000 for 2020

As for questions Councillor Cunningham inquired as to the paving increases, asking if there were any grants available to address the poor road infrastructure that is found in the city so that the City could expand even further on its remediation plans

Ms. Bomben noted that there have not been any grants made available in the past towards paving, with the Mayor noting that the good news is that the city continues to increase the amount of money that it is putting towards paving.

Councillor Adey spoke towards concerns the public may have towards the idea of debt towards some of the capital requirements, observing how the debt that the city is taking on is more of a manageable part of the budgetary process.

Ms. Bomben confirmed that view, noting that some of the debt that is planned will be funded through Legacy dividends and other instruments such as revenues through Watson Island.

She did acknowledge that some of their projects could require the use of debt, which can be accessed through the Municipal Finance Authority and how the funds required for the water projects won't be levied through water fees.

Councillor Cunningham expanded on those themes, observing that the debt won't affect the level of taxation, owing to the use of the Legacy dividends and other options. Ms. Bomben outlined the steps that the city takes when it comes to servicing debt, with any rise in taxation usually the last stage should they not have other sources of income to bring the budget down to zero. The CFO reiterated that she hoped that there won't be any additional taxes required for any debt that may come from the large major projects of a general operation nature.

Councillor Niesh thanked the staff for their ability to generate revenue, Councillor Mirau echoed that adding how they also aren't planning to raise fees even though the city is still in lean times. He also noted how things are getting easier as more revenue comes in from Watson Island.

Mr. Mirau also pointed to two investments that the city may not have been able to tackle in years previous, pointing to the work planned on the Recreation Centre boilers and how it will save the city money and reduce energy consumption, as well as the plans to move ahead with deliver of their curb-side recycling program which could cut down on the need to develop landfill space.

Councillor Adey also joined in on the praise of the work of staff on delivery of the capital spending plans.

Council then moved to approve the recommendations on Capital spending from staff.

( 35:00 -- 36:00  ) Report from the Chief Financial Officer on the Cemetery Fees and Charges bylaw -- Ms. Bomben outlined the proposed changes to the bylaw with an increase  of fees of three percent for some of the services that are provided, noting that non-residents will see a higher rate of fees as well as part of the changes, with a thirty percent surcharge to be put in place.

( 36:00 -- 37:00 Report from the Corporate Administrator related to a change in fees and charges for services provided by City Hall and the RCMP detachment -- Ms. Miller noted that the upgrades are the first in a number of years and will move fees to be more in line to providing the cost of service and removing any obsolete elements.

Reports from Council

( 37:00 -- 46:00 ) Councillor Wade Niesh led off the final segment of the night, paying tribute to the work involved as part of the Rogers Hometown Hockey weekend in the city. He offered his praise for the work of many of those involved but in particular the efforts of the Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller and that of the Recreation Director Davide Geronazzo and the staff that work with them.

He also highlighted the work of the many volunteers and city staff members that helped out during the course of the weekend at the Civic Centre. He observed how the town did a spectacular job of showcasing who we are and how they had heard much praise for how the community came together for the event. He added that he hoped that the spirit of the weekend would spur others in the community to lend a hand for many of the other activities that take place in the city.

Mr. Niesh also recommended that the Hometown Hockey jersey presented to the city be placed at the Civic Centre, something that the Mayor noted had already been decided on and with plans to place the sweater in a prominent spot in the facility.

Councillor Adey echoed much of what Mr. Niesh said in relation to Hometown Hockey and then drew attention to two other events that he added in recent weeks.

The first was the work of the Cradles to Moccasins Family Centre on Fraser Street which offers services and support for parents of children from birth to six years of age, with a range of programs and information to parents.

The second was an acknowledgment of the vigil held at Coast Mountain College to mark the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre at Ećole Polytechnique, with the Councillor noting how events such as that can serve to shape the publics view towards issues. Mr. Adey observed how the memorial sign in Montreal now specifically notes that it was a tragic attack on women, something which took thirty years to happen. Adding how it is important to commemorate events.

He also reminded the Council chamber and audience at home of the upcoming Jingle Bell Rock performance at the Lester Centre on December 15th.

Mayor Brain took advantage of the final minutes to remind the public of Thursday night's Prince Rupert 2030 presentation at the Lester Centre at 7 PM, noting that renowned city planner Larry Beasley will be part of the night that will showcase the vision for the city for the next ten years.

The Mayor also noted that the event will be quite an exciting night covering a range of themes, as well as some pretty exciting events and how it will be streamed live by CityWest for those that can't attend in person.

Councillor Cunningham picked up on that theme and urged the public to get out to the event as it is something about our future and offers a chance for the public to participate and how it was something to get excited about and support.

He highlighted that changing the nature of the city will require all of the city's residents an not just the city council or planners, he observed it also offers a chance for the public to provide some feedback on the plan.

With no other concerns of note on other topics, the Mayor brought the evening to a close.

You can access the City Council Session Archive 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 December 9, 2019 (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 in a Special Regular Session set for 5:30 PM on Thursday, December 12, 2019. Council will also hold another closed session also at 5:30PM

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

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