Budget Heckler; RDN Buffoonery; City Annex Condos; Old City Quarter Business Improvement

At the April 24th Council meeting there was the ‘Budget Heckler’, RDN ‘Buffoonery’ and approval of the Old City Quarter Business Improvement Area.

The next Nanaimo Council meeting will see the CFO go over the City’s financial statements  with a lice comb, which should be interesting. The establishment of a new economic development department, a new lease for the Nanaimo Yacht Club and plans for condos for the Old City Hall Annex Building, are also on the agenda.

No Public Hearing on tax increase

In the past there have been opportunities for the public to give their feedback on the budget for the coming year, but not this time. The Council is determined to keep tax hikes coming every year. What happened to the ideas in the $300,000 Core Services Review on ways to save money?

At the last council meeting  Councillor Brennan had several questions on the budget. Some councillors appeared defensive of the new tax increase of 1.5% while others had no comment. One heckler yelled at Councillor Brennan several times throughout the discussion.

Council discussion:

Brennan: …I will not support a budget that relies too heavily on reverse [billing]…This is a politically motivated budget… Are we adding any services?…RCMP? What are they asking for?… We are using reserves to keep our taxes lower…Two weeks ago we were facing a tax increase of 2.3% so where did we get the money to cover that?

Staff: …we could have kept the money in a debt reserve account but it was decided to use it to keep the taxes down…

Brennan: …there were several opportunities to reduce services this year as recommended by the Core Services Review…gender guarding eliminated [interrupted by heckler]…did we reap any savings out of that?

CFO: …can’t speak to that …no change has been made yet…

Brennan: …so the instructions were given but it has not yet been implemented?…

CFO: … it’s been implemented…

Brennan: …what about the closure of the Beban Pool during the summer?…going ahead with that?…

Staff: …it’s unclear…

Brennan: …Core Services Review? how much did that cost us?

Staff: …about $300,000…

Bestwick: ..I’ll try not be a bystander and ask that the member of the audience refrain from making comments while debate is taking place…We discussed road repairs, the worse weather in 20 years!…Finance committee is made up of all council and we asked staff to use reserves to cover the road repair budget….

Kipp: …we offered to have gender specific guarding as an overtime issue…we saved money on purchasing…I vote for this budget…some members of council are not attending  meetings (squints at Brennan)…Our wages have gone up 53%…In 20 years we will be $250 million short…we found $5 million in savings…We have to concern ourselves with climbing wages*…

*Reminder to readers that Council voted themselves a 3.35% increase to their base pay a year ago.

Hong: …we have to increase taxes…snow removal…

Brennan: …our staff has done a great job…no argument from me…but skinny budget…

Fuller: …I don’t think it is a political budget…$285 million shortfall for infrastructure over the next 20 years so hence the 1%*…we met and decided…staff did their job…

All voted in favour of the 1.5% increase in taxes for 2017 except Councillor Brennan.

*a 1% property tax is proposed every year until 2022 to cover infrastructure expenditures.

Old City Quarter Business Improvement area

At the last council meeting a new downtown association was approved called the “Old City Quarter Business Improvement Area”. A spokesperson representing the new group came to answer questions.

Council discussion:

Brennan: …to see this gone is a shame [DNBIA]…

Fuller: …I heard at the meeting that they [DNBIA] had $20,000 in the bank at the end…

Hong: sad to see it go…it was too big…too much…you need a lot of buy-in from the merchants…BIA 2 is looking to start forming again…good restart…

Thorpe:…hope we will see a new business downtown group…

Bestwick: …new events funding $150,000 for downtown festivals…

Fuller:…we are seeing another new group with the Victoria Crescent merchants…

Thorpe: …The rebirth of a new business improvement area…

New Economic Development Department

Council will vote on establishing an “in-house” economic development department on May 1st. It was in December 2016 that council shut down  the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation.

This could save money with less office space and staff. BUT not if it all goes to more consulting fees! Why is it every time the City turns around it needs to hire more consultants?

Old City Annex building on Franklyn

There are plans to replace the Old City Annex building with a 5 storey, 46 unit, multi-family rental building. It will have commercial space at street level and 26 parking spaces accessible from Robson street.

Old City Annex building – new plans
New Wallace/Franklyn building

Councillor Fuller gets seat on RDN

Last week’s Council meeting got off to a rocky start with Councillors trying to decide who should replace Councillor Pratt’s vacant seat at the RDN board.

Councillor Kipp got hot under the collar accusing the Mayor of playing politics, calling the process “buffoonery”.

Mayor McKay said that they have not been following policy by alternating the RDN board position.

Councillor Thorpe mentioned that Council hasn’t had a primary alternate for the RDN position. He said that while one person had an edge with the number of votes, the other had more years of experience. He nominated Councillor Brennan.

Councillor Hong  said they alternated with Brennan because of Fuller’s health issues.

Councillor Bestwick suggested that there should be a policy to protect them from this mess.

After almost 30 minutes of talking Council voted to go with the person who had received  the most votes at the last municipal election which was Councillor Fuller.

Word of the night goes to Councillor Kipp for “buffoonery”. What will it be next week?

City Clerk Wanted

Clerk Clerk Ad

This job ad for a City Clerk was posted in the Nanaimo News Bulletin. Why does this position have such high turnover?

Some departments are all men, some are all women; maybe they should mix things up a little.