Wednesday, July 22, 2020

City Council Timeline: Monday, July 20, 2020

The go ahead for a pair of large scale projects, concerns over uncivil behaviour in the downtown area, as well as worries over COVID made for some of the themes for Monday's City Council session, the only public session to be held this month.

The public commentary period of the Committee of the Whole provided for the guidance on concerns over downtown behaviour, with representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion sharing a number of their frustrations with City Council.

Also as part of that limited public engagement session, another Prince Rupert resident spoke to his concerns over the growing number of visitors to the community and the risk for the arrival of COVID that could come with them.

Council also heard a number of reports from the Chief Financial Officer, as well as the announcement of Civic Award recipients for 2020.

A late addition to the Agenda also brought the topic of a temporary land use proposal from the Port of Prince Rupert to the discussion table, with the Port seeking the temporary use for two years of property along Park Avenue for the preparation of lands and off dock facility for the container port.

Some background on the work of Council on the evening and the various Regular Agenda elements for the July 20th Council session can be explored here.

Council also hosted a Closed Session earlier in the evening (their tenth such closed session of the year), the details as to why they required the doors to be closed for the 5PM meeting 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 Monday, July 20, 2020

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

Video Archive for Monday, July 20, 2020

Committee of the Whole Session

( 0:00 -- 20:00 )  Mayor Lee Brain outlined the introduction to the Committee of the Whole session.

Council members received a presentation from a delegation from the Royal Canadian Legion, with their representatives asking for City Council to investigate ongoing issues of drunkenness and other anti social behaviour taking place throughout the downtown core and in their case in close proximity to the Prince Rupert branch of the Legion.

The delegation recounted a number of concerns beyond the ongoing drinking in the alleys near their Third Avenue location, making note of defecation in the alleys and the fears some of their members have in the neighbourhood.

Mayor Lee Brain observed as to how the City is working with the province and BC Housing on issues for the homeless and how they were trying to do all they can.

The delegation noted that they weren't singling out the homeless, noting that many of the problems are separate from homeless issues, with many people using the back alley as a hangout, lighting fires, consuming open alcohol and taking drugs.

The closing themes of their presentation noted that they were referring to illegal activities taking place near the Legion, noting that their membership should not have to take actions, or feel uncomfortable when trying to visit their branch.

A second presentation from resident Bill White, raised a pair of concerns, the first over the volume of visitors and new arrivals to the city; the second a question to ask the council members for their definition of the phrases non-essential travel and shop local.

The mayor deflected the non essential travel theme towards the orders of Dr. Bonnie Henry and the provincial government, on Shop local he noted how it means shopping with local businesses in town

That response from Mr. Brain brought comments from the city resident related to the recent contract award for civic paving to an out of town paving company, highlighting how it sends the opposite message of what they are trying to urge residents to do when it comes to their own requirements, as well as to reward a company that will offer no long term involvement with the community.

On the theme of out of town visitors, the speaker noted that as a member of the Haida Nation he was quite concerned by the volume of visitors to the region, calling on the RCMP to enforce COVID-19 rules and regulations.

Expanding on his concerns, he made note of the impact that he fears COVID could have if it was to be reported in the Prince Rupert area and how it could affect our health care system and those at risk in the region.

Mayor Brain noted that Council would take his concerns under advisement.

With that the Committee of the Whole session came to an end and Council moved on to its Regular Agenda.


Regular Council Session

( 20:00 -- 21:00 )   Regular City Council Session for Monday, July 20, 2020  -- Mayor Brain called the Regular Council Session to order, with Council adopting minutes of previous meetings and the agenda and revisions for the night.

21:00 -- 22:30 ) -- Report from Chief Financial Officer with the May Financial Variance Report    --  Ms. Corinne Bomben provided a review of the May Variances advising that revenues and expenses continue to perform as expected given the  COVID pandemic and transition to essential services provisions, noting that the results of May were much the same as that for April. She further explained that the coming months will prove whether the savings some departments have been able to achieve will cover some of the revenue losses experienced prior to the resumption of those services. 

The CFO also updated the work on roads to date, as well as to note that Capital projects are beginning to move forward, outlining how the Water Dam project is now at 15 percent complete as well as to note that an RFP has been issued for the expansion of the Landfill site.  

Ms. Bomben also reminded council that the two Alternate Approval process seeking the approval of the public for the Dam and Landfill projects will be coming to an end this week.

22:30 -- 31:00 ) -- Report from Chief Financial Officer related to the option of Council to delay Property Tax Sales and redemptions for a year  --  Ms. Bomben provided the overview of the options for Council members towards the annual Tax Sale process, outlining the pros and cons for them and how their decisions could impact on both the city and the homeowners. 

She noted for Council that should the Tax Sale deadline and redemption period remain as it is, that there would be a limited number of properties going to Tax Sale this year.

Councillor Niesh led off the discussion, observing that in his opinion there is no difference this year as those of past years, adding that this year's situation is not COVID related, advising that he does not believe that there is any reason to change the existing deadline and remain consistent.

Councillor Cunningham sought out some clarification towards the topic and then  inquired as to whether the City could make the sale that of a virtual sale, Ms. Bomben noted that the city still had to investigate how the process would work when it comes time for the Tax Sale.

Councillor Randhawa spoke in favour of offering residents the extension to the Tax Sale deadline.

In response to Councillor Randhawa's commentary, Councillor Niesh returned to his theme to not extend the deadline for Tax Sale.

As for the vote, at its conclusion the Mayor observed that the motion had been carried,  However considering the limitations offered by the city's video stream presentation, he did not specify for the record for those viewing at home how that vote went and whether other than Councillor Cunningham, if any other members in the chamber or participating by phone had voted against the motion.

(31:00 -- 31:30 ) Report from  Corporate Administrator related to a Variance permit for a property on Atlin Avenue-- Ms. Miller observed that no comments had been received related to the variance permit.

Council approved the variance application and moved it towards final consideration.

31: 30 -- 33:30 Report from  Corporate Administrator related to a Variance permit for a property on Edward Avenue -- Ms. Miller read out the background related to the request for a variance for the property on Edward Avenue, seeking a height variance and front and side yard setbacks.

She noted that it was consistent with the previous requests from residents on the Street.

Council approved the variance application and moved it towards the public notification process.

33:30 -- 42:30 ) Reports from Council Director of Operations Richard Pucci on grant opportunities for Rupert's Landing project -- Mr. Pucci provided some background towards the plan to develop the transportation terminal at the area adjacent to Rotary Mariner's Park, the main focus for the terminal would be the relocation of the Airport ferry to the new location.

The motion for discussion was to authorize staff to seek out grant opportunities in support of the project, with the City to cover the remaining cost and any cost over runs that would be required.

Council Mirau who continues to participate in the sessions he attends by phone, inquired about the name for the proposed development, asking if perhaps the current moment in time does not provide for an opportunity to incorporate Sm'algyax or Tsimshan into the name.

The Mayor offered up that nothing was set in stone and that was a suggestion that could be considered, Mr. Mirau followed up by observing that naming the facility after Prince Rupert in the year 2020 seemed ludicrous to him, particularly considering the territory that the terminal would be located in.

Councillor Cunningham offered up his support towards Mr. Mirau's suggestion, as well as for the terminal project and then turned to the financing of the project asking towards some further background to whatever cost the city would be responsible for.

Mr. Pucci advised that at this time the city does not have the full cost implications and noted that it would depend on what attributes the city would want to associate with the project, noting that they would be partnering with Gitxala who would have their own attributes for the project.

Mr. Cunningham asked about whether there would be any time saved for the ferry transit with the move, Mr. Pucci could not provide an answer, though Mr. Brain advised that long term it would be quicker, suggesting that it would remove the problems of the rail line which delays the transit of buses to and from the area.

Mr. Brain also outlined that he also believes that it would make for a better tourist experience for the community and looks forward to it breaking ground.

Councillor Adey redirected attention towards the topic of the grant application, adding his agreement to consider a name change towards an Indigenous focus.

Councillor Niesh offered up the suggestion of a First Nations naming contest to name the new terminal, Councillor Skelton Morven concurred with the themes of shifting focus to an Indigenous name.

Council then approved the motion to have Staff seek out grant opportunities for the project.

42:30 -- 45:30 Report from  Director of Operations related to successful bid for the removal of fuel tanks in Moresby Park -- Operations Manager Richard Pucci provided the overview for Council outlining the scale of the removal project, calling it a pretty historic event. 

He traced some of the history of the past plans for removal of Tanks 1 and 2 and outlined for Council that the City's Request for Proposal received two bids, with the Operations Manager recommending the Bid from Tervita for $799,950 plus taxes.

The City's CFO noted that the only outstanding issue was because the project wasn't budgeted for previously, where would the city be amending the budget to allocate funding, noting that since the city has received the Northern Capital Grant after the budget it would seem fitting to use that money to remove the tanks.

Council then voted to approve the motion to award the contract for the removal of the tanks at Moresby Park

The Mayor noting that it was one of those projects that needed to be done, adding that as they have been many times in council once again are cleaning up their past.

45:30 -- 49:30 ) Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller relaying a resolution from a recent closed meeting with the names of the award recipients. -- Ms. Miller announced the names of recipients for a number of civic awards for 2020 which this year will be mailed to recipients owing to COVID.

Receiving the awards are: 

Achievement Award -- Kristy Tillman and PRMS Band
Civic Merit Awards --  John Patterson, Donavan Dias
Sergeant Willian Booth Award for Valour -- Dylan Palmer, Dan Atkey, Keegan Silva, Garret Duffus, Mark Solmenson, Colvin Thompson and Todd Rhino
Freedom of the City Award -- Mrs. Barbara Gruber

Councillor Randhawa recommended that the City post the information to the city website.

Councillor Adey thanked those who have been named for the awards and acknowledged how they make Prince Rupert a better community.

49:30 -- 54:00 Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller with background on an application for the temporary use of a vacant lot along Park Avenue --  With Councillor Adey excusing himself from the discussion (his absence not explained for the public however), Ms. Miller reviewed for Council the nature of the request received in July from the Port of Prince Rupert, which wishes to use of an area of land known as vacant block 10 along Park Avenue for industrial use for a period of two years.

The purpose of the land while not explained in detail, appears to be that of use for preparation of lands and subsequent operation of an off dock container facility on a 30 acre property on highway 16 known as Park Avenue.

Ms. Miller noted that a portion of the land is currently listed as Zoned for residential with Council asked to refer the motion to public notification. She provided some detail on the bylaw process related to the land in question.

Among her observations for Council, approval of the application for public notification simply provides the opportunity to take the question to the public and it is still subject to the range of referrals required.

Councillor Mirau asked a procedural question on the topic, asking that if the city granted the PRPA request after public input, how would the city move forward to address the bylaw process.

Ms. Miller noted that rezoning would not be required, as it is a temporary use Council could choose to ignore that portion of the bylaw and over rule the bylaw.

The Mayor observed that the city would start with public input and then could have further discussion once they have heard back from other participants in the process.

Council moved to adopt the motion, Councillor Adey then returned to the Chamber.

(54:00 - 1:04:00) Reports from Council 

Councillor Niesh led off the discussion returning to the presentation from the Legion representatives at the start of the Council session, with Mr. Niesh providing for his own commentary of anti-social behaviour that he has witnessed or heard about when it comes to people milling around town, drinking, defecating and recounting stories of having heard of people having sex in public.

He expressed his frustration and noted that if he had done some of the incidents he had heard of he would be put in jail and charged, he added that COVID cannot be used as an excuse and how its more than just an issue of homeless people but more one of people just hanging around town, adding that the law should be applied to all equally and how he is disgusted from what he has seen and heard around town and is an issue that needs to be dealt with, adding that Council should speak with the RCMP.

Councillor Cunningham spoke to the concerns from the Committee of the Whole over COVID and noted of the growing number of out of town vehicles and visitors to the community. The councillor observed on some of the frustration that council feels on the issue, adding that there isn't much that the city can do about it, that after the Province suspended the City's State of Emergency from March.

He then asked who was responsible for enforcing COVID measures in the community at restaurants and other commercial locations, as well as to highlight how unfair it seems to him for local sports fishing charter operators who after holding back on their own start dates,  may be losing their business opportunities to out of town providers.

Mr. Cunningham also expressed concerns that the public was not taking the threat of COVID seriously, adding that as the city's hands are tied we've been lucky so far, but that there is a risk that it could run through the town should it be brought into the community.

The Corporate Administrator advised that so far the city's bylaw officer has not been involved in any enforcement requirements through the Public Health office in the city, she noted that public health is very responsive to any questions that are provided to them.

Turning back to his concerns over Fishing charters, Mr. Cunningham again reviewed his thoughts on the out of town charter providers and asked who is responsible for enforcing business licence issues, with Ms. Miller noting that any concerns on out of town charter or other business providers should be addressed to the City Hall office for follow up.

On the topic of COVID, Councillor Adey observed that it is a little difficult to understand the jurisdictional areas where actions can be taken and how the regulations can be interpreted, noting that what the City can do is proactively and frequently reinforce the messages around people's behaviour, adding that unfortunately some of that is still going to be left up to people's discretion, which limits the city in some ways.

On another topic, the Councillor returned to the Financial Variance report of earlier in the evening, asking for an indication as to the impact that the revenue situation has provided.

The City's Financial Officer offered up her anecdotal thoughts to the topic, suggesting that the CowBay Marina has not seen any return of traffic, the Recreation Centre has only provided for a few revenue generating programs, the reduced level of activity from the Prince Rupert Airport is providing for reduced revenues, while Transit has come back somewhat so those revenue streams are not as good as they were before.

And with those financial themes the final notes of the night, the mayor brought the only public Council session for July to a close.

You can access our archive on the City Council session 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 June 22, 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.

Monday marked the last of the twice a month sessions for City Council, with the city's elected officials taking to a more relaxed summer schedule of once a week sessions through until October.

Council members next meet on August 24th.

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

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