Tuesday, December 14, 2021

With praise for the efforts of staff on Capital Spending preparations, City Council makes quick work of the approval list for 2022

CFO Corinne Bomben provided for the hosting and narrative duties as
City Council explored the scope of Capital Spending for 2022.

Prince Rupert Council members received a forty eight minute tutorial on Monday afternoon of what their senior staff members believe are the must haves for 2022. 

That as the City's Chief Financial Officer Corinne Bomben served as presenter and moderator for the Capital Project and Spending Presentation session.

The afternoon session was attended by a majority the Council Membership in person, with Councillor Niesh taking part by phone, Councillor Skelton-Morven did not participate in the Monday event.

As the program moved forward, Ms. Bomben outlined each line item from her Report for Council  (available from the Agenda Package) which provided for the details on Spending plans in both Operations, Policing and Fire/Rescue as well as some of the City's large scale Civic improvement programs such as the Waterfront plans and those for the CN Rail building on the Waterfront.

"As far as content, this document sees the larges request to continue the work on our large utility projects as well as investments into protective services and investments at the waterfront. 

As far as financial impact to our citizens and businesses the proposed amount of funding to come from taxation is 200,000 dollars less than in the previous year, or approximately a one percent decrease to the mill rate with respect to capital items funded as compared to 2021"   -- CFO Corinne Bomben introducing the 2022 Capital Budget presentation on Monday

The synopsis of spending, the majority of which comes from reserves, surpluses or funding from other sources can be reviewed below:

For the most part Director of Operations Richard Pucci was the main speaker from staff, called on a number of times to speak to some of the spending or to clarify some of the elements up for review on the afternoon.

There were only a few items from the lengthy list that the Council members made inquiries on during the presentation.

Below are a few of the themes that were explored:

Councillor Mirau spoke to the themes of cost savings on the plans for renovations to the city's boiler replacement program, a project which we made note of a few weeks ago.

There was some discussion on plans to expand on parking at the City's Canfisco Warehouse property, with Councillor Mirau and councillor Cunningham seeking some background on the plan.

Director of Operations Richard Pucci at the
Monday Capital Spending presentation for Council

Mr. Pucci outlined the scope of that work ahead at the waterfront facility at Rushbrook.

"We believe there will be between fifteen and eighteen new parking spaces that will be generated once the parking improvements are completed, we can make that area as part of the Rushbrook improvement area  we're just internally looking at whether that's the best course of action,  just because it is a little removed from the main parking area, so that is under review"

Mr. Pucci also expanded on how the parking set up will work at the facility, looking to avoid the mix of trailers and vehicle traffic in that area.

Councillor Nick Adey had a question on the plans for development for a power supply for Watson Island and any opportunity for that project to pay itself back and provide for cost savings.

Mr Pucci noted of the current situation and what the project would deliver to the site.

"It would likely pay itself off within three to five years, we are right now bringing  diesel down to a generator and running a generator 24/7. So we're just looking at the alignment to bring the power down there. So it will translate into significant savings over time"

Councillor Mirau inquired towards the city's procurement policies when it comes to heavy equipment purchases that are planned.

The Director of Operations provided for the overview of how the city makes its purchase

"These pieces of equipment are quite specialized and they're different, some of them are built on different chassis and then you take the chasis and bring it to a coach builder who builds it. Then the dozer is a completely separate specific piece of equipment. We would go out to RFP singly and try and get best value that way"

Mr. Pucci also confirmed for Councillor Cunningham  that they would be new buys and come with warranties.

Plans for extensive work in the areas of Fourteenth Street on the west side of the city, were of note for Councillor Adey, with Mr. Pucci outlining the work ahead for that area.

"The fourteenth Street retaining wall, it's in a semi failure state, it has a bulge in it.  We have a house that is located right below it. And so when we went and looked an it, it is in immediate need of work and what we're looking at doing isn't a very expensive build.  What we're looking at doing is while we're in there redoing the water on fourteenth street and the sewer and storm on fourteenth street. We think that's part of the reason why the bulge has happened and some of the deterioration of the wall, we think that some drainage has become a little bit disjointed and we want tomato sure get in there and fix that"

In a follow up question on the plans, Councillor Cunningham asked about who would do the work.

Mr. Pucci noted that it would be awarded out as a contract job for a contractor and how the figures cited for the project were estimates based on previous work on projects of a similar scope.

For Councillor Niesh the Director of Operations highlighted how the sidewalk project would work in 2022 and if it was specific to downtown or the entire range of city sidewalks.

"It's for general repairs all over town, we will be looking for tripping hazards  and other hazards around town and fixing those"

The introduction of the garbage/recycling program gained some feedback as well, with Councillor Mirau asking for the rationale of the purchase of 1,000 cans and plans for them, as well if some are in reserve for replacement in the future with Mr Pucci noting:

"It's a combination of both, we've had a number of requests so far.  So we're projecting that  once we start the program we'll see that double or triple the number of requests and then we'd like to keep a few hundred in the warehouse, like we have a few hundred of each bin because we can do replacement or for parts"

The use of the Utilities Fund for closure of a Landfill cell and expenses of 100,000 dollars made for a question from Councillor Cunningham, with the Director of Operations providing some background on the situation.

"At this point right now we're unsure how long we'll be doing this testing.  So as the justification talks about, is that there was a unilateral re-permit on the site. So originally there was what was called a pollution control order on the site, the site was closed in 1991. But during COVID Ministry staff    reviewed a lot of the closed permits and they reissued a permit that required the city to start some very rigorous programming and monitoring of that site. So it's in the order of about 96,000 to complete that, we've got a proposal to do it. We are looking at working with the Ministry on finding a happy medium at that site possibly and also we've talked about other uses for that site as well.  So at this point we're keeping it in operations and one day that may be reduced or removed"

A question from Councillor Mirau on the challenges of the Woodworth Dam project, provided opportunity for a wider overview of what the Councillor referenced as the High Ticket items. 

With Mr. Pucci again providing for the narrative to the topic of the impact of weather and other issues on the cost over runs and some focus on the dam project.

"The major over runs are really, delays ... so when a storm hits, we have several moths worth of storm management and storm work. So we would have a large storm it would wash out a certain area, we would have to go and rebuild that certain area  and then also kind of pick back up. So, we lost several months due to these storms and repairs associated with the storms, not only on the project but on other areas around the site.

The other major factor was some geo-technical issues, so you know we did a very rigorous geo-technical program on the site. But even after that, we found once you drill down there was fissions in the rock and also soft rock area, so we had to over excavate and take out more rock than we thought. And when you take that out you have to replace with also dowels and  with concrete. So that obviously was extremely expensive, bringing concrete and other items to this site is very, very expensive. Every little bit of gravel, sand everything was brought over by barge. 

So you know, COVID saw a little bit of delay on it, but not as much as say the storms, the rebuild back after storms and also this the geo-technical conditions"

He also provided council with some notes on the plans towards the four million dollar cost of the preparations for the engineering and design of the water treatment facility and submarine line which will be funded by reserves.

Plans to rebuild 11th Avenue also made for some commentary from Councillor Niesh, with the Operations Director noting that the previous work in years past had used materials that did not stand up to the test of time or conditions on the north coast, with newer pipes that are available to be used in the rebuild. 

Plans for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations planned for the Civic Centre and Cow Bay (which we noted last month) provided for some discussion on the introduction of the stations to the community with Mayor Brain providing for some background on the project and what the two stations to be placed in the community will bring to a larger network across Northern BC.

A plan to introduce projects related to Human Resources programs to be put inlace brought questions as to how they would be delivered, with Mr. Pucci observing they would be conducted on a contract basis.

Among some of the other larger scale investments, the Councillors had no comments to relay, or questions to ask on the proposed spending on the CN Station refurbishment program, or the waterfront redesign program which will move the Airport Ferry Dock to the Kwinitsa Station area of the waterfront.  

As well there was no further information shared on the progress towards the new RCMP detachment.
The full review of what captured the interest of the Council members can be found from the Council session video from the afternoon session.

The forty eight minute presentation can be explored from the City's Video Archive page.

We took a look at the Capital spending plans on Monday morning as part of our Council Preview package , you can review some of the details towards the spending themes for 2022 here, which includes a link to the Report from the Council Agenda.

When they returned to the Council chamber at 7PM the Prince Rupert Council members had much to say in praise about the work of staff in preparing the Capital Spending  plan for 2002 and for their participation in the Monday afternoon information session. 

As for the spending plan, at the evening session the Councillors had few things to note about the volume of spending, taking less than five minutes to move forward on the extensive list of spending on programs, projects and vision plan elements for the year ahead.

Councillor Cunningham led off the members who were unanimous in their praise of the work of city staff in compiling the Report on Capital Spending and the participation of a few of the city staff members during the afternoon session. 

"I'd like to thank the staff that came today, as well as the staff that prepared this report, it was quite in depth and I think they should be recognized for what they've accomplished"

He also noted of the format that was used in the afternoon, and noted if any residents have questions they can contact the council members to go over any items that they have questions on.

Councillor Mirau spoke to the investments being made towards the city's infrastructure and list of projects towards development themes.

"I think there's a lot of good reasons for us to support staff's recommendation on this capital budget, first of which they make it easy when you can hold the line on taxes;  so barring any unforeseen issues in the new year I think we're on pace to at least be able to hold the line, I'm hoping.

More importantly though I think that this capital budget is an investment into our city's future that is consistent with our kind of stated strategic plan. 

Whether it's  CN Building revitalization, Canfisco Warehouse Parking, new RCMP detachment, finishing off the dam, recreation improvement all those things that are over and above our regular operation requirements. 

But then there's lots of investments to in things that are either cost or energy or environmentally friendly  investments. New Boiler and HVAC system, new pump truck for the Fire Hall to keep everyone safe, new plow quite timely today, commerical garbage truck  and landfill dozer, the list goes on.  

I appreciate how thorough you guys were in preparation of this budget and there's plenty of reasons for me to support this budget as it was written.

Councillor Adey also praised the work of staff and the focus on strategic planning that they have taken on, as well as to continue to advocate for transportation planning and the wastewater plans in motion.

"I'm also happy to support the package as it stands, very impressed with the degree which you've taken in to account the need to develop strategic plans moving forward in various areas"

Councillor Randhawa echoed some of the same as themes as the previous members.

Councillor Niesh, also saluted staff and called attention to the plans for one million dollars towards paving that the capital spending will bring to the community.

Councillor Cunningham had the final word on the topic recapping the presentation process that took place.

"It was very well explained, I think it was well done. Each department got to say what they wanted to and what we need, and it's not very often that we have the expertise of our staff in a meeting to explain different things, especially in front of council or in a forum in front of the residents"

The Mayor added his own thoughts of support for staff for their work before bringing the topic to an end.

Council then gave approval for the Spending list as it was presented earlier in the day, coming in at just under 71 million dollars detailed for 2022.

You can review the Council discussion to the topic from the Regular Council Session video, starting at the one Minute mark.

More notes on the Monday Council Session can be explored here.

How all that spending will evolved through the year can be followed through our Budget and  Major Infrastructure  and planning archive pages.

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