Wednesday, May 13, 2020

City Council Timeline: Monday, May 11, 2020

The first Council session for March featured a number of presentations
to Council members

The official agenda for the night took but eleven minutes for Council members to take care of, as they approved two Property Variance requests, offered support to Tourism Prince Rupert in its quest for funding for a marketing initiative and put a pause on endorsing a request for support from the Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers, seeking more information on their proposals for online and delivery options in British Columbia.

The remainder of the thirty eight minute council session consisted of a Report from the City Manager on the City's COVID Response, a Report from the Mayor on some recent provincial funding and some local initiatives, as well as a range of comments and questions on a variety of themes from some of the Councillors participating on phone on the night.

Some background on the work of Council on the evening and the various Regular Agenda elements for the May 11th Council session 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, May 11, 2020

Mayor Lee Brain -- Present ( in Council Chamber)
Councillor Nick Adey --  Present  (by phone)
Councillor Barry Cunningham --  Present (by phone)
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Absent
Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven --  Present (by phone)
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present (by phone)
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa --   Present  (by phone)

Video Archive for Monday, May 11, 2020


Regular Council Session

(0:00 -- 1:50)   Regular City Council Session for Monday, May 11, 2020  -- Mayor Brain called the Regular Council Session to order, with Council adopting the agenda and past minutes of previous minutes. 

1:50 -- 3:15 ) -- Report from Corporate Administrator related to a property variance application for a property on Jamaica Avenue -- With Councillor Niesh recusing himself from the process, Ms. Rosa Miller outlined the nature of the variance request.

Council then approved the permit.

( 3:15 -- 4:30 ) -- Report from Corporate Administrator related to a property variance application for a property on Kaien Road  --  Ms. Miller once again outlined the nature of the variance request, which is an addition to an existing warehouse on the property.

Council then approved the permit.

4:30--9:30 ) -- Request for an endorsement of a letter from Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers (ACCRES)   --  Council reviewed the elements of the letter seeking the endorsement of Council towards the Retailers quest for the opportunity related to online shopping and delivery.

Council members had a range of questions related to the letter and the long term plans for the Association, among those who spoke towards getting more information before making a decision on the endorsement were Councillor Niesh, Councillor Adey and Councillor Cunningham.

Council tabled the request until they have more information related to it.

9:30 -- 11:00  ) -- Request for a letter of support for Tourism Prince Rupert to their Application to the Marketing Initiatives Program offered by Northern Development Initiative Trust  --  Council members reviewed a request from Tourism Prince Rupert which is seeking a letter of support towards accessing grant funding of up to 20,000 dollars for a Northwest Regional Marketing Campaign.  Councillor Cunningham spoke in favour of the request, as did Councillor Adey, who noted that the tourism sector will be greatly impacted in the fall out from the COVID situation.

At the end of their discussion the Council members approved the letter of support.

City Manager's COVID Report

( 11:00 -- 22:30 ) City Manager Robert Long provided a review of the city's approach to its COVID response and the prospect of reopening for City hall business.

Among his themes:

The City is where they were a couple of weeks ago, with most of the services back up and running in a safe fashion, the City is still producing masks and the Recreation crew has taken on duties of picking up litter around town.

Towards returning to Civic business, the City is looking at taking an approach of by appointment only, they await further guidance from the Province and are watching other Municipalities as they open up their business model.

As for a return to the Committee of the Whole process of public engagement, Mr. Long observed that it may take a while yet to get to understanding what the city can do for that element.

He noted that many of the civic staff are working from home still.

As for comments, Councillor Cunningham inquired as to which services are not running, in reply the City Manager noted that the majority of those are related to recreation, while other civic services are being done in a different fashion than in the past, with Personal Protection Gear and measures in place at work sites.

On the return of Parks and such, Mr. Long noted that the city continues to engage with the province to determine when the city may be able to do that.

He outlined that work continues as in the past on sewer and infrastructure issues as well as paving.

He also observed that the Cow Bay Marina is closed at this time.

Councillor Adey picked up the discussion and made note of the provincial reopening plans and spoke to the local parks, museums and libraries and how some may be opened at mid month in other jurisdictions. He wondered if there was any planning place towards those elements.

The City Manager noted of some confusion on the provincial notices, and that staff are presently planning for re-openings, working with provincial officials on those elements, observing however that it may be a while yet before facilities in Prince Rupert and the the City is not authorized at this point to open up the local parks.

As for local sports, Mr. Long noted that the provincial agencies will be deciding on how they reopen their activities.

Councillor Cunningham returned to the theme of opening City Hall again, asking for further details on the by appointment plan, with Mr. Long noting that it would be on a schedule of one appointment at a time owing to space limitations at City Hall. 

He outlined that a sign with a number would be posted outside of City Hall to book appointments, observing that "people are not just not going to have the freedom to come and go as they see fit, they're going to have to get an appointment so we can manage it, to make sure that there is not more people than we can legally get inside the downstairs office, where there is only room for two people"

Further to that theme the City Manager noted how they were using a model based in place at the City of Surrey, they await further authorization on the plan.

Mayor's Report

( 22:30 -- 28:00    ) Mayor Brain outlined the background to a new Small Business Task Force that was created in response to COVID and business recovery, with Tourism Prince Rupert, the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce and the City's Economic Development office working together on a number of initiatives.

Among those noted by the Mayor, plans to waive the 350 dollar fee for sidewalk patios for restaurants in the City, as well as the City refunding all seasonal fishing charter licences for those who have chosen not to operate in 2020.

The Mayor observed how he believes it's important to have a central focus on those issues.

He also reviewed the funding announcement of Monday morning by the Province of British Columbia, with this second round of funding providing Prince Rupert with 6.5 million dollars towards capital infrastructure.

Mr. Brain noted how the goal of the Resource Benefits Alliance of the Northwest is to have funding such as this delivered on an annual basis by the Provincial Government.

Towards the new normal of civic governance, the Mayor outlined how the city is hoping to resume as best they can the public engagement process towards their Official Community Plan discussions, he had no details as to how that engagement may look like, promising more updates on the plans in the future.

As for the City's handling of the COVID situation, he observed that he believes the community has addressed the situation well and thanked the City staff in keeping essential services running, noting that as more information comes out the City will inform the public.

Mr. Brain also spoke towards the plans of city staff towards hosting some form of a Committee of the Whole for the next Council session on May 25th.

Reports from Council

28:00 --  38:00 ) Councillor Adey led of the opportunity for Councillor commentary, first speaking to the impact on the landfill site after the Recycling Centre on Kaien Road went to an appointments only process, observing for his part that he finds that new process one that works well.  His concern though was whether items that normally would be recycled are now going to land fill instead.

Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller fielded the question, observing how Operations Director Richard Pucci had noted that there has been some increase at the landfill site, particularly in the way of cardboard but not at levels that they can't accept, noting that they were approaching the situation as a COVID Clean Up.

Second Councillor Adey's list were a few thoughts on the city's plans for a return of the Committee of the Whole and its public engagement segment, with the Councillor expressing his pleasure that city staff were working to find a way to accomplish that and how he hopes the issues can be resolved prior to the end of the month meeting.

His third observation was on that until the Pandemic has passed he would like to see the COVID Report from the City Manager as a regular feature for the Council sessions.

His final note was on the transition issues for the Homeless Centre from its previous location on Third Avenue West to its new location in the Fisherman's Hall and explored questions related to making the Fraser Street location a full service shelter.

Councillor Cunningham offered some insight on that issue, noting how the City was fast tracking some permits for a shower trailer for the Fraser site, as well Mr. Cunningham outlined how there were plans for up to six porta potties to be placed around the downtown area, along with hand washing stations to help alleviate some of the situation for the homeless through the day.

On the permitting process, the Councillor acknowledged that there were challenges in these times to run something through City Hall quickly, though he noted staff were fairly quick in the shower requirements.

Ms. Miller did note how City staff had been working closely with BC Housing making note of the topic, without getting into too many details on the Fisherman's Hall and how the city is actively looking for solutions.

Councillor Cunningham also offered up a glimpse into the future, noting how the local stakeholders are continuing to advocate for housing issues for those in need and how he believes that other things that are in the works in the near future that will be surprising for the city but will offer a solution  to a lot of the problems in the housing area.

Councillor Adey had one final observation on the COVID situation, noting how residents seem to be loosening up on their behaviours, though he did offer up caution towards and that people need to remain careful and not take things too far, too fast.

Councillor Cunningham, spoke to the Patio seating concept and noting how it will address some of the COVID requirements and will enhance the downtown area, he did ask if it was an option to expand the program beyond the restaurant industry.

Councillor Cunningham also had concerns about enforcement of the property maintenance bylaws and suggested having those property owners in the downtown area be approached to address their properties and to also move into the residential areas to have those issues of unkept properties addressed.

Mr. Cunningham also asked that the three directors of the Small Business Task Force provide a report to City Council, Mayor Brain noted that the task force had just been announced that afternoon.

To wrap up his participation, Councillor Cunningham asked if the City could approach Northern Health to find out just how many COVID tests have taken place, the Mayor observed that they would have to ask the Health Authority.

Councillor Randhawa asked about the road paving program timeline, the City Manager observed that they were moving ahead with the program, though no timetable has been set for the program just yet.

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 here,  where 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 May 11, 2020 (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 May 25th, which will a Committee of the Whole Session, which if brought back for participation will provide opportunity for the public to comment on issues of note or concern to them.

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

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