Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Council Timeline: Monday, April 24, 2023

Monday's City Council Session provided for the final bit of Budget work for them membership, with one final report from the Chief Financial Officer, and one last community engagement opportunity before the Councillors provided their final direction to staff and charting the course towards a 12.5% tax increase for 2023.

In addition to the more than 106 minutes put towards financial themes, Council also received a presentation from a newly created animal rescue society PURS, as well as to receive a report on the city's upcoming waterline replacement contract.

Some variance work and a few other themes rounded out the two and a half hour council session.

The City's notes on the Committee of the Whole session, including Chief Financial Officer Corinne Bomben's final report  can be reviewed here.

You can review the Agenda for Monday's Council session here 

The earlier session closed to the public is explained here.  

Further information from our overview and placement in the video archives can be found below; with the permanent record of the Council minutes added as they are posted to the city website.


In attendance: Monday, April 24, 2023

Mayor Herb Pond -- Present 
Councillor Nick Adey -- Present
Councillor Barry Cunningham -- Present
Councillor Teri Forster -- Present 
Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa -- Present

Video Archive  for Tuesday, April 24, 2023 


Approval of Agenda  -- The Mayor will review the Agenda of the April 24th session and seek approval of Council  towards it. 


0:00 -- 31:30  )  Presentation -- Chantal Cornwall from the community organization  PURS provided Council members with an overview of their Operations and future plans. 

She traced the founding of the group from the fall of 2020 built on the work of Kim St Pierre and others in the community towards the creation of the non profit animal rescue society, recounting the range of issues related to animal abandonment that they had seen previous to the group's formation and one that continues as they continued forward.

Their work on vaccinations of the feral cat community was part of their presentation, as was  the work they have put into seeking out grant opportunities towards their work. As well as to highlight the work they have with local and regional stakeholders.

Of note of their presentation was their work towards the adoption of 300 cats, some  placed locally, others to homes provincially, highlighting their travel program which has local residents transporting the cats out of town for adoption.

The plan moving forward and the fundraising  and community involvement engagement that they are seeking out with the community also made for a segment of the overview of the Society's plans for the future.

Ms. Cornwall also shared some insight into how the Feral Cat population is of some benefit to the community and how their society can work towards more education to the topic.

She also inquired as to what if any support may be available to the Society from the province or the municipality. 

Towards questions and from Council 

Councillor Adey noted of his support for their work, asking questions of their TNR program and themes towards their Code of Ethics. The Councillor also asked as to what success would look like when it comes to a balance for feral and rescued cats may be.

Councillor Niesh asked Ms. Cornwall what kind of space they are looking for, she observed that they are looking for a small area to work with, that would be warm for use for a couple of days for recovery purposes.

Councillor Cunningham  recounted some of the history of their work in the community, he took had questions towards the space they are looking for and where they might be looking to place it.

Those wishing to donate, looking for information about their work or in need of their services can call them at 778-884-6663.  

Councillor Skelton-Morven also paid tribute to their work in the community.

Councillor Forster also hailed their work and noted of an upcoming auction that the group has coming up prior to Mothers Day.

Council forwarded a resolution to direct City staff to look into potential options for a small space, with access to water, for their society to use to temporarily house animals for recovery. 

Mayor Pond brought the presentation to an end, recounting some of this time in the Air industry and his own role in placement of kittens.

31:30 -- 1:06:00 )  Presentation -- The City's Chief Financial Officer, Corinne Bomben, provided a shorter snapshot version of her March 22nd presentation related to the 2023 Draft Budget. 

Of note from the condensed overview was the change from the original tax rate increase of 15% to the current request of 12.5 %.

She also noted of one new capital project that has been included, related to water works for efficiency to replace the waste water infrastructure, which is anticipated to be done through borrowing.

Ms. Bomben also requested that Council refer the Budget plan back to Staff at the Regular Session.

For Questions Councillor Forster sought out more information on the staffing position requests. Ms. Bomben noting that the requests were alleviate some of the workload that the current staff face in their duties.

Ms. Forster also had queries on landfill equipment and the city's sidewalk program.

Councillor Adey spoke to the theme of Human Resources and the need for balance, seeking information on work towards reducing other costs such as travel and other areas. He also added transportation an material efficiencies to the list.

Ms. Bomben noted the city is always looking for opportunities to reduce costs. She also observed that staff only travels when absolutely necessary, making use of virtual forms of communication, though noting there are some periods of time when personal interaction is useful.

Councillor Adey noted council uses the same concept towards its own travel.

On Capital Project requests, Mr. Adey asked for a look at some of the items that didn't make the list, so Council could compare the two, to that she observed of some rolling stock purchases that have been scaled back or deferred to future years.

On Civic Debt the councillor noted that the City is approaching its borrowing limit under provincial regulations, asking if there is way to provide information to the public, to provide residents with a view to where the city is at in its borrowing themes.

Ms. Bomben pointed to the city's webpage and Financial statements that provide some of the information he was speaking towards, as well as through the Five year Financial plan.

Towards that advice, the Councillor noted he was looking for a specific way, or simpler format to provide transparency for the public in a go to location to find that information. Ms. Bomben advised she was take that suggestion.

Councillor Cunningham had questions related to Vehicle GPS plans and the collection trucks.

Ms. Bomben observed how the vehicles were in use for both recycling and refuse, with second truck a buyout option.

Notes related to downtown revitalization observed that they funding would be split between grants and money from Legacy dividend. 

Mr Cunningham also spoke on the theme of Travel, observing that sometimes it's required and how it can deliver results, noting of the travel prior to the Provincial announcement of funding for infrastructure.

The Councillor also asked towards the impact of inflation on the 12.5% tax increase.

Councillor Skelton-Morven used the opportunity to thank the CFO and staff on their work considering the challenges of the times.

Mayor Pond asked a question of Operations Director Richard Pucci related to the 1 million dollars budget for roads, asking how are a road budget would be needed towards an investment.  Mr. Pucci observed that ideally 2.2 million would be put towards roads.

The Mayor then turned to the borrowing process, asking for some background on how the City approaches the process.

Ms. Bomben noted of the diminished nature based on revenues and the impact of inflation and interest rate costs, that means being selective on what to borrow towards.

If the 2023 Budget is approved staff will return with loan authorization requests, that will be taken to the public.

Councillor Niesh spoke to the issue of infrastructure and asked if moving to concrete roads would be a better option for the city.  Mr. Pucci noted of an analysis conducted by the City which indicated the cost would be more for cement roads, with the more cost efficient option to continue with asphalt. 

Mr. Pucci also noted of the work ahead and how in some areas only be half the road which would make for a mix that wouldn't be workable. He did advise that they may consider concrete in the future if the situation suggests savings are possible.

Councillor Forster followed up with comments on the streetlight replacement program, along with a request to describe what non essential recreation upgrades may be.

Before the answer, the Mayor noted of the number of staff members who have more than on title or portfolio at city Hall, in reply to the Councillors question Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller highlighted areas such as lights, fixtures and such.

From that point, Mayor Pond moved to refer the final decision following the public comment period of the  Regular Council Session.

From there council moved to the Regular session.


1:06:00 -- 1:07:00 )  Approval of Agenda  -- The Mayor will review the Agenda of the April 24th session and seek approval of Council  towards it.  Which the Council members provided.

1:07:00 -- 1:18:00 Public Comments regarding Agenda items -- This period offers a chance for those in attendance to speak to any items to be addressed on the Agenda for the evening. 

The only public participation for the night came from Mr. Terry Sawka,  who had spoken at the previous Budget commentary session earlier in the month.  He picked up where he had left off two weeks ago, exploring a range of items from the proposed budget, sharing some comments for council towards the ones he had concerns or interest in.

To preface the session, Mayor Pond noted that the opportunity was not one of Questions and Answers, but for observations or comments.

The city resident opened his review of his commentary on the budget, focusing his view of the Budget as that of a Christmas Wish Budget, with some of the entries on the list curious items.

Among his areas of interest,  the distribution of payment and borrowing towards equipment purchases, funding for the Wastewater plans, Mr. Sawka observed that the increase for utility rates would impact on homeowners and renters.

He also spoke once again of the McCarthy GM property plans, observing of  lease payments of $25,000 a month for the property, noting of the cost of the renovations for the building, observing of it as creation of Taj Mahal that may not necessarily be required. Adding that the money towards the McCarthy lease/purchase could be better used on the current site. 

His final item of note, was to look at the pilot project for the wastewater facility which he described as a swamp, noting of its unproven nature and the funding that has already been allocated towards it.

To close, he observed for Council of their oath of fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Prince Rupert and not to Managers who want new equipment or pet peeve projects that they think that they should have.

With no other members of the public coming forward, the public comment period came to an end.

1:18:00 -- 1:19:00 -- Consent Agenda

Council minutes -- Council will review and adopt the minutes of the  Regular Session for April 24. 


North Coast Regional District Board Highlights   (see page 8 of Agenda)

Thank you from Special Events (see pages 9-10 of Agenda)

Letter of Support from the Carrier Sekani Family Services re: CSFS Project through the First Peoples Cultural Council for their Pillars of Hope and Strength project (see page 11 of Agenda)

Announcement re: Virtual Public Open House about negotiations on the Kitselas Treaty and Kitskumaklum Treaty (see page 12 of Agenda)

Update on the Situation Table Program Roll Out (see page 13-16 of Agenda)


Council accepted the Consent Agreement and filed it without comment. 

Staff Reports

 1:19:00 -- 2:17:00   )Report from the Corporate Administrator -- Report re: Committee of the Whole Resolutions.

Council accepted the resolution towards the PURS group, then used the period towards of discussion towards their thoughts on the 2023 Budget. Council once again reinforced the desire to have City Staff work with PURS potential options for a small space, with access to water, for their society to use to temporarily house animals for recovery. 

The Second portion of the Committee of the Whole Resolution returned to the Budget with some final comments from the City Council members towards their Budget Decision.

The Councillors for the most part returned to many of their previous comments during the last month towards the Budget issues

Councillor Cunningham noted of inflation pressures that the city can't control, the recent CUPE labour contract, he also did not agree that the Project list was a Wish List and how the request was not an unrealistic increase.

Councillor Adey noted of the structure of the Budget engagement and asked questions that the public had raised, he started with the equipment purchase seeking clarification on the city's approach.

Ms. Bomben observed of the timeline from order to delivery and how that impacted on their budget planning.

The second area of enquiry was related to Borrowing and Leasing, with Councillor Adey noting that if the property taxes do go up, as well as the utility fees that there will be a ripple effect on homeowners and renters.

Towards the Liquid Waste project, Mr. Adey observed that there was more to the story and asked for some further background from the Operations Manager towards the pilot project.  Mr. Pucci provided much the same response he has in the past, noting of the studies that have been done on its use in Europe and the East coast of Canada and Northern communities. Noting how it's considered effective by those communities. 

He outlined how the city has formed a stakeholder group with the Federal and Provincial governments,  with both groups waiting and watching to see the results, which if successful could be used in other communities. As for the location, Mr. Pucii observed as how it is a wetland it will work well with the design for the technology. He also noted if successful it will save money and avoid having to place three of the more common structures on the waterfront areas.

Councillor Adey also noted of the financial gain for the city if the pilot project is a success, asking for a dollar figure. To that Mr. Pucci noted of the 100 million dollars in savings that could but realized along with less in the way of staffing requirements .

His final observation was on the McCarthy GM property plans, noting of the desire to move the city workers out of their current facility which is not of a good standard, asking for a review of the decision on moving to the new facility.

The Operations Director reviewed many of the themes he previously had stated towards the move, suggesting that it was a more cost effective plan to move forward on the purchase towards the building which is now underway. 

He also observed of some of the changes they have made to their use of the building to reflect further savings. Ms Bomben added that the funding for the renovations was coming through dividends from Legacy.

Councillor Niesh noted as to how this has been the hardest of the budgets he's had to review over the last I and half years, noting in recent years the Council had not had large increases and how they had done a good job at keeping that lower, observing of the benefit from Watson Island towards that.

Calling the 12.5% tax increase a tough pill to swallow, challenging some of the observation towards the spending and the need for investment in the services of the community that to attract more people to come to the city to live.

He also observed of comments related to the Fire Department found online and how a Paid Fire Hall is something that he believes in, noting of the ability it offers for a quick response.

Towards policing he noted that much of that is out Council's control owing to contracts and how the city was still five members short.

Mr. Niesh  commented on the McCarthy proposal noting there aren't many frills for it,  observing of the cost of building these days is increasing, noting that he considered it an opportunity to get a building that suits the city's needs and not have to build a new structure.

He also spoke to comments raised online over road repairs and observed on the funding through the city's instruments and their hopes for a better tax situation with the Port to come in the future. 

Councillor Cunningham, also spoke to the Fire Department commentary,  noting how other communities that had a volunteer department are changing towards a paid option, observing of the struggle to get volunteers in Prince Rupert would pose a problem towards a volunteer model here. He also suggested sharing the cost with Industry towards the Fire Department.

He noted how the Fire Department was an advantage for the community.

He also spoke in favour of the McCarthy Move, and how it will be a nice facility noting that a replacement cost on Wantage Road would  not provide the same value, observing of his faith in staff to watch the pennies on cost.

Councillor Randhawa raised a theme he has in the past, that of tapping into the Legacy Fund to help reduce the tax burden, noting of the impact the tax increase will have on homeowners and renters.

Towards his wish to use the Legacy Fund for that purpose, the City Manager noted that they had visited the question wth the Legacy Board and that the answer was No, noting of the amount already delivered by the financial instrument and what remains there needs to be retained for the purpose of the instrument.

Councillor Cunningham noted how they had held the line in the past on taxes and how perhaps they should have been raising the rates over the last eight years in hindsight. 

Councillor Adey observed that what he has been hearing is that people aren't questioning the need for an increase, observing of other communities struggles to work on their budgets.

He noted of the inflationary pressures on such cost drivers as fuel as instrumental to the city's concerns. 

Towards improving on the city's financial situation he observed of the need to resolve outstanding issues with a collaboration of community players towards how the city can achieve a predictable revenue stream.

Towards the question of the night of approving the tax rate hike, he noted he reluctantly  stuck with supporting the budget, noting there was not a lot that they can do with it.

Reviewing recent conversations with the Province and Federal governments he offered up hope that this would the hard year and that some progress was ahead on the revenue issues of concern for the city,

Councillor Forster also spoke to the online observations on the Fire Department, noting of concerts that she has towards any potential impact on home insurance opportunities. Mayor Pond noted that it's somewhat of an unclear topic, noting of the check list that underwriters use an how changing fire department status may be a risk.

Ms. Forster returned to he struggles on staffing, with Ms. Bomben providing another run-through on the requests that seemed to satisfy the Councillors concerns.

Councillor Niesh took Council back to the days of Peter Lester and the money that flowed from the pulp mill and council's that did not think of asset management. Observing of the many facilities that were constructed in that period of time.

Moving forty years forward, he observed as to how the city now does not have the ability to collect  the appropriate amount of taxes from industry to help maintain the current assets, let alone to build new ones.

He reinforced the frustration with the current situation and how it is impacting on the community. 

Councillor Skelton-Morven used his time to speak in favour of the waste water initiative, as well as to praise the use of Legacy Inc, and the revenue streams that the city has access to, He also paid tribute to the staff that the city has working on behalf of the community.

For Mayor Pond, the main focus was to acknowledge the scope of the tax increase and the impact it will have on taxpayers.

He compared this moment to his previous term of office a decade ago,  observing of the opportunity available now to rebuild the community. 

He returned to a frequent theme of his of the strong senior staff on hand, many of them born and raised in the community, products of the School District noting of the awards that the community has received ro recent initiatives.

The Mayor noted of the revenue challenges, but noted he did not want to point fingers, observing of how the employees of those industries have been supportive of the community in the past.

Using the road budget as an example he observe that the city can't live with a one million dollar budget and how there is a need to step up towards improving that infrastructure.

He also outlined how he believes the community is on the verge of a breakthrough, with new building and new development on the horizon over the next few years.

Mr. Pond then issued a commitment to seek out further funding and chase down all the revenue sources that they can find towards rebuilding the city and providing for improvements in the community.

To close the Mayor thanked city staff, all those who participated in the process and to Council for their work on the budget.

To bring the Budget discussion to a close, Council by a vote of five to one, moved forward with the direction of staff towards the Budget and it's 12.5% property tax increase. 

The only Councillor casting a dissenting vote, was Mr. Randhawa, taking a stance he has taken in previous years after having his request for use of Legacy funding towards tax relief denied. 

 2:17:30 -- 2:18:00 ) Observations on Recent awards -- Mayor Pond made note of the two awards that the City's Woolworth Dam project received, paying tribute to the work of the team at City Hall. 

 2:18:30 -- 2:19:30 )  Report from The Corporate Administrator -- DVP 23-01  -- Recommendation that Council proceed to approval for Development Variance Permit #23-01 for a property on 4th Avenue East. Councillor Cunningham raised some questions as to the current status of the work. Council moved the process forward (see page 17 -22 of Agenda)

2:19:30 -- 2:20:00 Report from The Corporate Administrator -- DVP 23-02  -- Recommendation that Council proceed to statutory notification for Development Variance Permit #23-01 for a property on 6h Avenue East. Council moved the process forward  with out any further discussion. (see page 23-27 of Agenda)

2:20:00 -- 2:24:30 Report from the Director of Operations and Intergovernmental Relations: Re: Water Infrastructure Project - Phase 1 Award -- Council will receive a recommendation and award to Coast Tsimshian Northern Contractors Alliance  (CTNCA) for Phase 1 of the Water Infrastructure program for up to 20 Million dollars under the Master Service Agreement.  

Towards comment, Councillor Niesh asked towards he nature of the increased cost, as a reply, Mr. Pucci observers how the scope of the project had expanded with the pipe to be used the largest cost that the project would see. A follow answer observed how the road work would mean improvements to the road towards the Industrial Site.

Councillor Cunningham asked for a clarification towards the nature of the contract and expectations of the ability for the company to be able to provide for the work required. 

Mr. Cunningham also asked for a sense of the oversight towards local employment and local equipment that is to be used on the project. (see page 28 -  32 of Agenda)

 2:24:30 -- 2:25:30 Report from the Corporate Administrator -- Report re: Liquor Licence Amendment -- Recommendation that Council support the Liquor Licence Amendment to enable a lounge area endorsement for 380 Bill Murray Drive as requested.  Council offered its support without any discussion.  (see page 33 of Agenda)


2:25:30 --2:26:00 Cow Bay Marina Fees and Regulations Amendment Bylaw No. 3516, 2023 -- Council will give fourth and final reading to the City of Prince Rupert Marina Fees and Regulations Amendment Bylaw. Council provided for the readings without any discussion.  (see page 34 -  35 of Agenda)

Business Arising

2:26:00 -- 2:30:00  Council Round Table and Public Question Period --  Councillor Adey led off the final element of the night, first offering praise towards all of those involved with the weekend performances of Mama Mia at the Lester Centre.

He shifted focus for a follow up theme, noting of concerns around the community on the nature of dogs and what they are leaving behind in the community, the Councillor noting of off leash dogs in the Salt Marsh area and the concerns that has raised in the community.

He then asked of the Bylaw enforcement elements that could be required.

Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller outlined the specifics of the city's enforcement program and urged the public to contact bylaw should they have concerns for their attention.

Councillor Cunningham noted of the recent volunteer clean up that took place at the Seal Cove site, noting of recent complaints that had been made about the condition of the location.

Councillor Niesh offered up a few thoughts on that theme. 

Adjournment -- The Mayor will bring the session to a close with a call to adjourn

You can access our Council Archive page for April 24th here, from that page a number of items regarding the Council Session, including links to any local media coverage can 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.

Council next meets in a Regularly scheduled session on Monday, May 8, 2023

That session starts at 7PM.

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