Friday, April 14, 2023

Operations Director's Report puts spotlight on City's Capital Spending plans

Operations Director Richard Pucci provided an overview of
capital Spending plans at Tuesday's Council Session 

A late addition to Tuesday's City Council session, by way of a report from the City's Operations Director Richard Pucci has provided for a bit more overview on some of the key Capital Spending requests from last months Budget Presentation.

At the March 22nd Budget reveal, CFO Corinne Bomben provided for a slide show (available here) that charted each of the Budget spending requests, with much of the spending asks those of Capital projects, much of them funded through grants or by use of the Legacy Incorporated financial instrument. 

OnTuesday, Mr. Pucci had opportunity to provide for some additional notes.

As we noted previously the lead off item was that of the plans to relocate the City's Operations Department to the McCarthy GM facility on Portage Avenue.

Mr. Pucci noted of the city's success at gaining grants over taxation and the use of Legacy funding for their requests and the must haves that are directed to the city by senior levels of government.

"We were very very pleased with being able to present our Capital Budget to Council this year for Operations. You know there isn't at all very many tax implications associated with what we're doing, which is pretty phenomenal. 

We've been very successful in getting grants and being able to use grant money instead of our own to move forward with some of this stuff.

Also some of these things that we're looking at like sewer treatment and that is really a must have, we have administrative directives from the Federal government that make us do what we have to do here"

Towards some of those additional higher profile projects Mr. Pucci observed:

Omenica Waste  project -- The Operations Director noted how the site was basically a marsh and how the pilot project would make use of land not conducive to building, and how it reduces the visual impact of facilities on the city's waterfront.

"So this is a new green innovative way, to deal with the community's wastewater, we think it's the way of the future. It's in a marshy area already that isn't really conducive to building, below Omenica. 

And really the alternative to that would be putting three different large wastewater facilities on the waterfront. 

And that's something I think we would rather cherish our waterfront and our views and sort of the waste water treatment in sort of the back area, in the marshlands and really be in a green environment that is environmentally friendly and resilient to flooding and sea level rise and stuff.

So we're really happy with that"  

Waterfront Development program -- He also expressed pride in the moving of the airport ferry to the area of Kwinta Station  and how that is fully funded by the province.

Other areas for proposed spending addressed included, the plans for the McBride Street Court use, fleet and equipment purchases with the money rolled over into this year.

He also spoke to the various annual programs such as streetlights, sidewalks and such. 

As well he noted of replacement plans for the Third And Fulton traffic light, bridgework that is required in the community which if not done would see the bridges in the community downgraded

"These are absolutely required, if not, we will likely be downgraded on some of our bridges, so that maybe we can't take buses and stuff across them so we have to do upgrades to these bridges. 

There will be a couple of years worth of upgrades, this is the first sort of tranche and there will be more coming"

As well the Operations Director  noted of the work in the Woodworth Lake area with road remediation required. 

He also observed of work at the Landfill site, Water Treatment plans which will require borrowing.

Mr. Pucci also noting of some extensive work ahead for the First Avenue waterlines and the Shawatlans Road area, the latter their first priority, which once completed would see a better road in place to the Industrial park following the work on the new waterlines that are required. 

"We are continuing with the work on First Avenue, that is a priority line, that  line will be able to get funded out of the 65 million dollars as it is identifies as a high risk line. 

And we are looking  Shawatlan Road as our first objective line that's going to happen out of that 65 million dollars ... that is the most critical line in town, that line is our feeder line if that goes down we have no water in our community, so we have to make sure that that that line is secure"

Both of those items would come out of the province's recent allocation of 65 million dollars in infrastructure funding.

"As part of the 65 million dollar money that we got, we had to make a commitment to fund the design works associated with it. So to get the sixty five, lets just say we had to put in five  million which is a pretty  good pay back on that.

So we committed  to the Premier  and the province that we would do design for all of the work ahead of time and that they would help us with the works. 

And so we have to honour our side of that commitment which is the design works and they have come through with their side of the commitments which is the 65 million."

Also on his list, Hays Creek Sewer replacement,  Industrial park treatment plant and outfall repairs that are required owing to government requirements. Mr. Pucci also observed of ongoing community planning, transportation planning and the installation of EV Charging stations at the Civic Centre.

The full report is available for review here.

City Manager Robert Buchan followed up with a few observations of his own, noting of the significance of the plans for this year and how they will make a huge difference to the future of the community.

He featured the waste water plans and how once it is proven as a workable solution, will save the community 100 million dollars from the more traditional approach of facilities on the waterfront, noting of it as a staff team achievement.

"Yes it is innovative, and it is a pilot and we have some grant funding towards that. And it's going in on a piece of Prince Rupert that you can't really do much else with.  

What it's also doing is, once we've proved this, is it will save us somewhere in the order of 100 million dollars from an alternative, conventional sewage treatment approach and facilities on the waterfront.

So that's one of the things that the staff team is achieving, it's not just getting grants, it's doing things smartly and cost effectively in ways that benefit the community"

He also pointed to the success of the Legacy Corporation and its investments in Watson Island and how it has returned funding to the community.

"I just want to emphasize this,  5.4 million dollars is what Legacy has contributed this year.

If the City of Prince Rupert had not pursued the development of Legacy and Watson Island we wouldn't have had that. And what that contribution this year means in terms of tax increase avoidance, is approximately just over 14 percent. 

That's what we would have had on top of this budget, if it weren't for legacy and Utilities would  have been up 75%. so that's just to pay respect to the good work that has gone on here"

Mr. Buchan  also reiterated the city's focus on issues such as the PILT and if they lose that court challenge then there will be a significant impact, with the City intent on not losing that but they will have to go through the process.

He also observed how the City needs to address successful outcomes for the PILT, Tax Cap and to gain a Resource Benefits agreement, with success in those areas the city won't have to find solutions through taxation on other users.

"Those three things are critical for the future, and if we can achieve those then we can hopefully avoid the ongoing large increases. We don't want to see this be dealt with by way of taxation, it's not fair to the residents and so we are focused on finding solutions that are fair to the residents. 

Mayor Pond then observed of the importance of the 65 million dollar grant from the province and how it has given the community a remarkable opportunity, should they  gain similar funding form the Federal government.

The Mayor noting how the waterline work would lead to better opportunities to rebuild the city's streets and renew everything underneath. Mr. Pond observing that residents in Prince Rupert may have to be prepared  to pay for some of that work through higher taxation.

"And that may mean, that those of us that live here and enjoy those roads ... it may mean that we may have to be the ones to pay for it.   

I'm prepared to do that.  

A question was asked earlier about you know,  shouldn't that road budget be bigger, isn't a million dollars pretty small?   

It's incredibly small, if you want to know where I'm arguing, I'm arguing that  number needs to be much bigger, even if it means we have to pay more tax"        

The full overview of the Capital Spending plans and use of Legacy Inc funding can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive starting at the 43 minute mark.

More notes from Tuesday's Council Session can be explored here.

Our Budget Discussion Archive themes are available for review here.

While notes from the Operations Department can be found from our archive page here.

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