Thursday, March 14, 2024

Ready to Spend! City Council speaks to Funding success, work ahead on infrastructure plans

There was one more round of congratulatory messaging to make for City Council coming out  of last week's Federal Funding announcement, with Mayor Pond and some of the council membership sharing some observations on last weeks events as part of the final Discussion period for Monday's Council meeting. 

Councillor Nick Adey was the  first to speak on the topic of the recent award of 77.2 million dollars from the Federal government for infrastructure, with the Councillor and those who followed him in the discussion, reprising a number of shout outs for those involved in the lobbying process with senior governments over the years.

Towards the funding now in place, the Councilor asked what kind of oversight that the two senior levels of government may have over the funding as well as to if the City has any local knowledge towards strategic oversight on local conditions of the work.

City Manager Robert Buchan observed on the city's success in the past in securing grants, though noting of the unprecedented nature of the current funding, adding that the city's approach is much the same whether large or small funding grants.

"The City has been very successful in the past in securing Capital Grants and has done a lot of very important work. We're in the very fortunate position of having secured very large grants this time, very large funding agreements. 

Outsized funding agreements, unprecedented in Rupert's history and probably unprecedented in the province for the size of our community.

Having said that, it's really the same reporting structure. You know, we sign a funding agreement and then we report back to the manner we spent it in, in the appropriately approved  way.

There's a very large agreement we signed with the Federal Government it's basically the same process as the previous grants we've received."

Towards the local understanding of the work required, the City Manger noted of the initiative taken by past Councils and Administration in creating a Master Service Agreement process award to the Coast Tsimshian Northern Contractor Alliance which he noted has partners and incredible capacity.

"I understand that question to mean, do we have the capacity in contractors to do this work.  And the answer is yes. 

Council, previous staff and administration had the foresight to do a Master Services Agreement process, that was awarded to CTNCA which is a local contractor, which has partners that have incredible capacity within the province. 

And the agreement with CTNCA and their partners is that they will be able to do this work and within the time frame that we are looking at having it done.  So they can draw on resources local and outside of local in order to get the work done.

We do not have concerns, even though it is a very, very large undertaking"

Councillor Barry Cunningham noted of the contract award earlier in the evening to Broadwater as the example of the local capacity to do the job and do it cheaper than anyone else.

He also noted how the Master Agreement specifies the use of local labour.

"I really think, I agree with Doctor Buchan, we do have the physical capabilities and the labour force and expertise to do it, I'm glad to see that. 

And also I believe in the Master Agreement, part of that was, that they will use local labour wherever they can get it and not go out of town. That was one of the conditions we put on it"

When Mayor Herb Pond spoke to the topic later in the discussion period, he echoed many of the themes of the civic announcement of last week.

Mr. Pond observing how the funding is not to be used for tax reduction but to help towards addressing the scope of the infrastructure issues in the community. 

"I just think that it's important that people understand, that this is a massive help in moving for us, but it is exactly that, and that and the RBA is for moving us forward, moving us closer to being on top of infrastructure.

It is not money that is designed to reduce tax burdens, or ... this is our chance to finally get in front of a monster that was just too big for us to tackle on our own. And so it's really important that people understand.

And this by itself does not get the job done, there is a whole lot more for us to do in terms of raising money, it's a massive step forward  and we have a whole lot more work to do"

As Councillor Adey had previous, the Mayor also paid tribute to those over the years who took up the challenges, comparing the process to that of a relay race where you are always passing on the baton.

"This is always a relay race, no one Council finishes anything. 

They start some things, they finish some things that others started and then pass the baton on to somebody else.

It's just always that way  and I think it's important to always recognize where we are in that process"

He also outlined the city's plans to host a Town Hall presentation on April 4th to try to give residents a sense of where things are at and where the community is going,

"That's the plan as we're working towards having a Town Hall, State of the City Presentation April 4th, where we can sort of try to give people a sense of where things are at, but also where we see ourselves going and what role people can play"

Councillor Cunningham picked up on the Federal Funding announcement of last week, noting how it came out of the Federal Disaster Mitigation Fund an how relates to the city's situation.

"So that sort of ties in with what you were saying. You know our situation was pretty well a disaster and you know this is how important that this little city with a port is. 

It's not a little city with a big port, it's a little city feeding a lot of Canada's economy through that port. And so many other communities rely on this community for their livelihoods and economic engines to run"

The Mayor reflected as to how at times the funding quest could have gone off the rails, observing how the Federal Fund distributes a billion dollars Canada wide, with Prince Rupert gaining a significant share of the funding that would have been allocated to British Columbia.

"This is a one billion dollar fund for all of Canada, for all of Canada. And even if you just divide in ten ways, that would be 100 million dollars for the province of British Columbia ...

So out of let's call it 100 million dollars that might have been British Columbia's share, we got 77 million out of it, 77 million for a town of 12,000 people.

I mean It's hard to put into words, it's hard to process. Certainly every other Mayor and every other City Manager  and every other Public Works Manager all understand how impossible it is to imagine that a community the size of us got 77 million dollars.

And you know I'll say it over and over and over again because people need to know it.  I happened because a whole lot of people, did a whole lot of things right"

Mr. Pond then recounted some familiar tales of past council sessions providing a timeline towards some of the elements of the City's lobbying for the funding over the years. Listing off the work from Council and staff members over  the years  attending UBCM to make the city's case to other meetings in Victoria and Ottawa and the decisions that were taken by the city through the last eight years.

The Mayor's focus noting how the City made the case to all levels of government  of the importance that the community has to the national trade policies for Canada and how they would have been at risk.

Mr. Pond noted that the total of 200 million dollars that the City will put to use will be significant  to the work ahead, but also cautioned the community of the disruptions that the work will bring over construction period.

"I've said it many times and I'll say it again, as much as people are celebrating today, You're going to hate me by the time we finish the tree years of construction because it won't be fun"

Councillor Cunningham  once again observed of the work of both MLA Rice, MP Bachrach and the city's own staff towards bringing the success of last week.

On that theme, the Mayor noted of the detailed work of staff to prepare the city's funding requests, paying tribute to the level of work delivered. 

"People often ask me, you know, what it's like to be back a second time? 

And there are things that are different and the circumstances are different. We have more tools to work with. 

But one of the things that  I tell people, we have great staff, if anything we don't have enough of them. 

You're going to see that particularly once the work starts on these construction projects.  It takes money to make money, it's just that simple.

You can review the various commentary on the topic from the Video archive from two segments, the first starting at the 29 minute mark.  

The second commencing at the 48 minute mark.

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

A look at some of the Infrastructure plans ahead is available here.

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