Nanaimo 2016 Budget, CAO shuffle, Corporate Sponsorship

At this upcoming Monday’s Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting, November 23, 2015 at 6 pm the public is encouraged to ask questions regarding the Nanaimo 2016 budget.  Also, you can give your feedback on service levels for Fire, RCMP, parks and recreation, water, sewage etc.

Property taxes are set to increase for the average residential home owner by approximately $430 per year over the next five years.

Property taxes provide funding for all or a portion of many City services. Solid waste collection and sewer and water services are funded through user fees. Property taxes also fund capital projects and fill reserves for future capital investment.

Where does your taxes go? Using a residential property in Nanaimo with an assessed value of approximately $331,000 the draft 2016 – 2020 Financial Plan estimates 2016 municipal property taxes to be $1,994.

Out of that $1,994:

  • $564 goes to Police
  • $305 goes to Fire Services
  • $298 goes to Other*

‘Other’ includes the Vancouver Island Regional Library requisition, Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, Port of Nanaimo Centre and administration services such as IT, Legislative Services, Human Resources and Finance etc.

Corporate Sponsorship – Renaming Nanaimo

At Monday’s COW meeting there will be a presentation from a Sponsorship Specialist.  Council will be deciding if they want to spend up to $95,000 on a ‘sponsorship consultant’.  What? Does that make sense?

Should Nanaimo get re-named? What buildings could they put up a ‘Pespi’ ad on, for example?

How much will the development of a Sponsorship Strategy cost? Will more staff be required in the communication department?

CAO – City Managers shuffle across Vancouver Island
  • Victoria hires former District of Highlands CAO
  • Saanich hires former Nanaimo Regional District CAO
  • Mapleridge hires former City of Nanaimo CAO
  • former senior manager City of Nanaimo becomes Town of Collwood CAO

The City of Nanaimo has hired an interim City Manager which the Nanaimo Mayor personally recommends.

“I have known Tracy [Samra] for a number of years. She is an intelligent and committed individual. I look forward to working with her over the coming months.”

Twitter Survey results

Do you want a webcam at Colliery Dam Park to watch the construction progress? (14 votes)
57% yes
43% no

Do you want a free 5 min. passenger pick-up zone at Departure Bay Ferry Terminal? Currently $1 per 30 min.  (41 votes)
93% yes
7% no

Remember this debate from 2012?

Food Trucks, Interim CAO, Flaggers

On Monday night the Nanaimo council met for a Committee of the Whole meeting. Mayor McKay was absent (in China) and Councillor Fuller was acting Mayor.  All councillors were in attendance.

There was a presentation regarding the development of old Wellcox Lands which the City of Nanaimo purchased for $20 million. The committee  tasked with how to develop the lands recommended creating a development corporation. They mentioned that the lands should be developed as one rather than parcelled off.  Councillor Yoachim mentioned that the Port Authority, the City, and the Snuneymuxw have not yet sat down together to iron out common goals.

There was a financial report, and Councillor Bestwick asked a number of questions. Confirmed was the cost of the Vancouver Island Conference Centre of $1.4 million per year and the water treatment plant at $72.5 million with possible more costs due to future claims.

The City Manager is leaving on November 13, 2015. Who will be the interim Chief Administrative Officer? With so many senior staff departing it looks like the task will fall on the mayor.

Our question on Twitter:

Food Trucks

Would you like to have food trucks in Nanaimo? Coming up at next Monday’s council meeting the City will put forward a proposal to bring food trucks to the City of Nanaimo.

Presently, there is no system in place to permit food trucks on-street or in City-owned parking lots. As a result, Staff is proposing to create a food truck licensing process to allow food trucks to operate in specific locations.

Here is the list of suggested areas that food truck vendors could operate:

  • Brechin Boat Ramp (1 vendor)
  • Departure Bay (1 vendor)
  • Harewood Centennial Park (1 vendor)
  • Maffeo Sutton Park (up to 4 food vendors)
  • May Richards Bennett Pioneer Park (1 vendor)
  • Merle Logan Field (1 vendor)
  • Pipers Lagoon Park (1 vendor)
  • Westwood Lake Park (1 vendor)
  • Long Lake Rest Stop (1 vendor)
  • Downtown
  • Hospital District
  • Duke Point

The City may allow food truck operators to purchase a permit (good for all locations) for $790.

Traffic Control Services

Also coming up on Monday is the topic of traffic control services (flaggers).  Apparently the City has been tendering traffic control services for over 10 years. Could this be done in-house for less? The value of the 2015 traffic control services contract is $302,625.

Nanaimo Chamber vs Nanaimo Council

Highlights from Monday nights Nanaimo council meeting included the presentations by the CEO of The Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and the small lot development on Kings Road which many residents spoke of their concerns. Councillors Fuller and Kipp were absent.

Overall the presentation from Mr. Smythe, CEO of the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce was very gloomy. He spoke about the lack of progress that Nanaimo Council has made so far, the lack of respect that people have for one another, the lack of leadership, and the lack of a shared vision.

Mr. Smythe’s presentation covered six areas of concern:

  • Updating the 2012-2015 Corporate Strategic Plan – not yet started
  • Green Tape Committee – stalled while we wait for Core Review
  • Reviewing development and building permit procedures – initiated
    at staff level, but not reached Council table yet.
  • Overhauling sign bylaws – not yet started
  • Core Review – initiated the RFP in the past month
  • Freezing Commercial Tax Rate hikes – completed by freezing tax increases across the boards – other than the asset management allowance of 1%. *(this was an error as there was a 1.7% increase in taxes)

Bestwick: …you mentioned everyone who does business here has a negative experience…our single family and commercial developments are up since 2014…we don’t work at the City…are you talking about the hotel?…it has been on the books for 10 years…

…regarding big ticket items we have to make sure that they leave a legacy that the city can live with…I happen to know that there were three other interested parties in the hotel recently and we have chosen one so there is interest in the conference hotel…

…for you to suggest that we are not business friendly I find that offensive…everything we do is on social media…I learn more in the news about what is going on [some council members are being treated like mushrooms]…we should be working on the strategic plan…we need to have the green tape/red tape committee going, I don’t know why it’s not getting off the ground…

…it’s taking a long time to get to the core review…have you ever invited me for a coffee to talk about your concerns? when? (last December?) you know where I am. I am available to talk with you at any time…

CEO: I didn’t say that Council is not business friendly and I didn’t reference the Hotel project in my speech…

Brennan: …overall you and the chamber have some valid points…thanks to all the members of the chamber who are here…

Hong:…I love report cards. You are very generous…we raised taxes to 1.7% …we did increase taxes by .7% …I would like to see the sign bylaw changes…we need a strategic plan…

Thorpe: …thank you for the courage to give a report card that is not flattering…you make a number of valid points…things take time…we have not been respectful as much as we could be…I’m looking forward to the Watson Report…

Yoachim: …I look forward to meeting with the business community…we have an ‘F’ in that area in my view…we have an ‘F’ in external relations…we should be meeting with all groups…we have been working in silos for too many years…

Since the election we have not met once as a council to talk about our visions for the future…my patience is wearing thin…let’s get to work…

…the hotel people came to council and it was the first time we met with these people…we have to get some cultural awareness going…can we make it easier for people to get through red tape?…

Pratt: …It takes courage to come here and give your report…we are taking steps to move forward and I hope we are successful…we need to step up…

McKay: …It is not an individual effort to manage a council it is a collective…we have a long way to go…

Has Nanaimo council caught the Lantzville flu? Are people trying to run each other out of office? Who chose the $100,000 “get along consultants”? Who is really running Nanaimo Council? It looks like Mr. Smythe and Mayor McKay are working cohesively.

Kings Road small lot development

Many residents came to council to express concerns regarding a small lot development on Kings Road. Each expressed concerns about how the small lots would increase traffic congestion and change the look of the neighbourhood. After one hour of debate, Council approved the application for the development. Councillor Bestwick was the only dissenting vote.

This same story has been repeated many times at Council.

What is missing here is careful urban planning. In-filling neighbourhoods should be done with care otherwise neighbourhoods will quickly ghettoize. Pocket parks should be part of urban planning.

Don’t miss watching council meetings – that’s where the action is!

Financial Budget and Garbage Trucks

On October 22, 2015 from 9am to 11am there was a special council meeting on the Financial Plan. No new services are proposed for 2016.  Here are some of the highlights:

User fees will increase 2.7% in 2016 (about $70.94 per average household).

Future property tax increases are projected at 4.1%, 3.2%, 2.1% and 1.5% for 2017 through 2020.

The 2016 Operating Budget requires funding of $135 million representing an increase of 1.7% in property taxes from the 2015 approved Operating Budget.

Water User Fees will increase 7.5% per year through 2020. This increase in User Fees includes a 2.5% contribution to asset management.

Sewer User Fees will increase by 5% in 2016 and 4% per year thereafter until 2020 for asset management.

Garbage User Fees are projected to increase by 1% in 2016.

Police Services is requesting an additional four RCMP members. Council has approved an addition of two staff, one in the Information Technology Department and another in Police Support Services.

Garbage collection and the Duke Point incinerator

At the Monday Council meeting on October 26, 2015 there was a two hour debate on garbage trucks. The question was should council purchase eight automated garbage trucks for $9 million which would include 90,000 garbage bins. There would be three new bins, one for garbage, recycling, and food waste.

Councillor Bestwick put forward a motion to purchase two new automated garbage trucks and 30,000 bins. The rationale was to see how the new system goes. Those voting in favour were Mayor Mckay, Councillors Bestwick, Hong, Yoachim, Fuller, and Kipp. Opposed was Brennan and Thorpe. Councillor Pratt walked out before the vote.  Pratt expressed frustration and wanted the council to support the entire package because of added purchasing incentives with the bulk purchase.

During the discussion Councillor Bestwick pointed out that council had approved the purchase of two garbage trucks in June. Then in September a new City report suggested  to purchase eight automated garbage trucks.

Councillor Kipp pointed out that recycling pick-up would be going in-house and would be no longer contracted out.

Councillor Fuller had serious concerns regarding the huge size of the garbage bins and thought they might cause injury to residents trying to get them to the curb because they are so massive.  Also, he wondered if there would be incentives for those who put out small amounts of garbage, but was told it was not possible to customize or scale garbage user fees.

Yet for example, since March of 2006 Vancouver residents are now using an automated garbage bin system, which standardized the garbage bins. Households that require bigger bins pay a higher price.

For example, Vancouver homeowners can purchase five different sizes – from the smallest, a 75-litre, container size bins that cost $70 a year, up to the 360-litre bins that cost $147 per year.

It cost Vancouver $11 million in capital costs to set up its new garbage collecting system.

Garbage bins
Garbage bins Vancouver Residents use – extra large bins are 360 litres.  

How do all these changes to garbage pick-up work with the plans for a new garbage incinerator at Duke Point? With these new massive garbage bins there will definitely be more to burn.

Colliery Dams Investigation, wine and sewer

Here are highlights from Monday’s Nanaimo Council meeting on October 19, 2015. Councillor Fuller was acting Mayor. Mayor McKay and Councillor Kipp were absent.

Colliery Dams Independent Investigation:

A delegation gave a presentation on why council should have an investigation into the Colliery Dams renovation project. They submitted a report on the concerns that it is a tainted project. To summarize the points:

  • technical committee didn’t get information they needed
  • wrong approach
  • wrong location
  • project pushed by the BC government


Brennan: the way it has been constructed this report leads to a predetermined outcome, it uses words like ‘somewhat’,… you’ve made some judgements in your presentation…so can you help me with that…

Delegation: … I know it’s going to a government  level…we need to investigate why council was forced into a decision…we need answers…

Brennan: your hope is that this review would find the obstacles in the process…

Bestwick: (makes amendment to include those involved in Colliery Dams since January 2012 be interviewed)

Pratt: I am not in favour of this investigation – it is a waste of money… BC government forced this on us…with their new standards…so we picked the option that works…no different than the drinking water standards that have been forced on us, so we had to build the water treatment plant …we aren’t going to get our money worth on this [investigation]…

Yoachim: …I wish we could do nothing…this saga has gone on too long…there are so many conflicting stories…fear mongering…I need answers..citizens need answers…we are spending $8M…so far conflicting answers..will the mistakes be reviewed? is not a fair process..proper closer needed…

Brennan: I won’t support this..a terrible waste of money..we don’t have support of the community…no idea how much it is going to cost…the provincial government will probably decline to be interviewed…had the City of Nanaimo pushed back on the comptroller then things might be different but it wouldn’t make a difference…the government position was well supported in response to our appeal…the warning signs had to go up…public asked for them…we will have to find the money for this so we will have to comb the budget …we’ve got to get our taxes down I’ve heard people say.. provincial government set the standard and we are meeting the standard…we didn’t get a meeting with the Premier of BC at UBCM—does that have something to do with the Colliery Dam?…

Hong: …I agreed to go forward to build the spillway…expected people to support this investigation…we still have to build the middle spillway…the people of Harwood deserve this investigation…this investigation might reveal what went wrong…we talk about combing through the budget; we have to do it anyway…didn’t we submit the report to the government that the dams need work?…

Swabey: yes we sent the report

Yoachim: I am well aware of the costs of this investigation…

Pratt: I said that the province changed their standards on the dams…I am voting against this investigation…I don’t think this investigation is going to be any different…

Bestwick: …there was fear mongering…150 deaths..rebar in the dams which was omitted in the report…we were under stress to vote [approve] the dam…

Fuller: …I want this to be a serious attempt at an investigation..we did have a select committee which was less than it could have been…i don’t want this investigation to be a joke…

Approved: Hong, Yoacham, Bestwick, Fuller
Opposed to an investigation: Pratt, Brennan, Thorpe
4-3 vote motion passes: Independent consultant to be hired to review the Colliery dams project.

Recording of meetings in the Service & Resource Centre (SARC) Board Room

Staff recommended holding off on video recordings of committee meetings in the SARC boardroom until after the Core Review.

Approved: Thorpe, Brennan
Opposed: Pratt Hong, Yoachim, Bestwick, Fuller
Meetings in the SARC Board Room will be recorded soon.

[Note: Currently, only audio recordings are created for in-camera meetings. These recordings are kept for 1 month then deleted.]

Also, The City Manager commented on the issue of moving the COW meetings starting in 2016 to the SARC boardroom from the current location in the Shaw Auditorium. There was no discussion on this (it wasn’t on the agenda).

Green Lake Sewer hook-ups to get taxed

Council unanimously  approved a sewer tax for Green Lake residents, beginning next year. According to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, 70 homes have had a sewer connection since 2013 but haven’t yet paid taxes for the service. Sewer connection has been established for 78 homes and 20 are in the process of being hooked-up.

 445 Hillcrest avenue

One delegation spoke with concerns and presented two petitions regarding a small lot subdivision.

Wine in grocery stores

Council voted unanimously for a liquor control plan. Six councillors approved having grocery stores apply for permits to sell wine. Only Councillor Bestwick was opposed.

The Province published the British Columbia Liquor Policy Report which contains 73 recommended changes to liquor control legislation and policy within the province. Of those 73 recommendations, 34 have been implemented to date, including the ability to sell BC wine in grocery stores.

There are 14 grocery stores that Staff believe are eligible for wine sales in Nanaimo. The Province does not consider the sale of wine in grocery stores as a liquor store use.

Councillor Hong expressed concerns for the small beer and wine stores that they could lose out to the big grocery stores. Grocery store chains could take over the BC wine market and they would be able to under cut the small guys.

Sanitary Sewer Agreement with the Snuneymuxw Reserves No. 2, 3 and 4

Passed unanimously.

Councillor Yoachim was unsure if he should step out because of a perceived conflict of interest. Councillor Bestwick advised from his experience it would best to step out but it was up to him. No advice came from the City Manager or Staff. In the end Councillor Yoachim stayed and voted.

The City has no in-house lawyer so new councillors must rely on their own intuition. A dangerous situation to be in.

Note: This meeting proceeded smoothly under the acting mayor, Councillor Fuller. There was no acrimonious debate or behaviour. Absent was Mayor McKay – coincidence? Perhaps the $100,000 ‘Get Along’ consultant is just another waste of money.

Linley Valley Drive Road Design Problems

Last week the City of Nanaimo held an open house at Oliver Woods to get feedback on the future plans for road design around Linley Valley West. What is the best solution for Linley Valley Drive?

Over 600 plus homes will be built in Linley Valley West.

Linley Valley West homes
Linley Valley West homes – 615 total homes planned

The number of homes planned  for Linley Valley West are:

  •  25 homes for Rocklands
  • 200 homes for Linley Pointe
  • 350 homes for Linley Park Estates
  • 40 homes along Rutherford Road
    615 homes in total (This doesn’t include the 50 homes already built along Linley Valley Drive)

Coming up soon before Nanaimo Council will be the financial options and the preliminary costs that the Nanaimo taxpayers will have to incur. The cost of Phase 1 and 2 below is estimated at $9.9 million.

Note: Phase 2 shows plans for a road going right through and next to a wetlands area. Is this the best planning we can do?

Linley Valley West Road Plans
Linley Valley West Road Plans

There are three elementary schools that children could go to (in yellow below):

  • Randerson Ridge Elementary – 6021 Nelson Road
  • Uplands Park Elementary – 3821 Stronach Drive
  • Rutherford Elementary – 5840 Hammond Bay Road

There is a proposal to close Rutherford Elementary which will cause major traffic problems if this closure were to go ahead.

The nearest high school is Dover Bay Secondary at 6135 McGirr Road. Rutherford Road would need to have some improvements to deal with the increased congestion. At what cost and to whom?

Linley Valley West School Plan
Linley Valley West School Plan

Many questions need to be answered such as:

  • How will the traffic flow in this area?
  • Where will public transit routes be?
  • How will children get to school?