Events Centre Referendum; DNBIA; BC Transit rate increase

Nanaimo Council had the longest meeting in local history! The meeting started on Monday and ended on Wednesday. That is because the meeting was ‘recessed’ on January 23rd. On Monday they didn’t have the referendum question ready and the location of the Events Centre at 1 Port Drive was just announced.

Talk about a rushed project. The panic button has been hit, folks. Here are highlights from Monday night:

DNBIA funding cut

On Monday night there was a presentation from the DNBIA to give a report on what they were up to.

At the end of the meeting there was a very distraught man who came to speak at question period. He mentioned that the DNBIA gets $250,000 from the City and all the money goes to administration. Meanwhile, his business is going broke because the area of downtown he is in is turning into a ghetto and it needs desperate help. He was just short of calling the whole organization a fraud. The Mayor cut the speaker off but the speaker didn’t need a microphone to be heard. There is nothing little merchants could do because Port Place Mall and Coast Bastion Hotel have the bulk of the weighted votes in the DNBIA.

Late last year a number or merchants came to Council to voice their objection to the DNBIA and how the money was being spent.

At the end of the week Nanaimo Now reported that the City will cut the funding to the DNBIA. But, the $250,000 paid by the 400 members of the association will continue to be collected for the next 23 months.

Chinese Societies ask for help

There was a presentation from a group representing Chinese societies in Nanaimo who requested $5,000 to re-open a Chinese school and fees be waived for the following:

  • 2017 property tax of 850 Hecate Street
  • rental fee of Beban Park
  • Port Theatre administration fees

They hope to sell 600 tickets to the Chinese New Year event next week. The money raised would help out the following groups.

  • Nanaimo Chinese Culture Society est. 1982 – 100 members
  • Nanaimo Chinese Freemasons est. 1929 – 40 members
  • Nanaimo Chinese Women Society est. 2015 – 300 members
  • Nanaimo Asian Professional Association est. 2015 – 100 members

Council thanked them for their work in the community and advised that they could apply for the appropriate grants.

Adult Basic Education cuts

Two post secondary students requested a letter from Council to be sent to the BC government to fund adult basic education.

At one time it was free to upgrade your high school education. Now it costs $320 per course. This is having a negative effect on VIU. There has been a 55% drop in students at the Powell River VIU campus since the funding cuts.

All councillors voiced their objection to the program cuts and said it hurts those in need.

Tourism Nanaimo is gone

Tourism Vancouver Island has signed a one year service agreement to provide destination marketing for the City of Nanaimo.

City of Nanaimo is in the process of signing up someone to operate the Visitor Centre which re-opens in April.

Events Centre

The Wednesday night council meeting got off to a rocky start.

One delegation wanted to speak twice – once for the Protection Island Resident Association and once to air his own opinions. Council had to put this to a vote. Councillor Hong didn’t want to let the man speak twice saying he spoke last week. Councillor Brennan said that it is inconvenient for people living on Protection Island to get to the meeting, and let the delegation speak.

The results of the vote were:
Against hearing the delegation: Councillors Kipp, Thorpe, Fuller, Hong,
In favour of hearing the delegation: Councillors Brennan, Pratt
Abstaining: Councillors Yoachim, Bestwick and Mayor Mckay

After the vote Councillor Bestwick said he wanted to speak but Mayor McKay cut him off and Councillor Fuller yelled out he wanted to speak too.

After all of that hullaballoo the delegation spoke at the end of the meeting for five minutes!

Councillor Kipp said (while lifting his left nostril) he had better places to be – such as at a restaurant with his wife who was having a birthday, so he would be leaving early. Councillor Kipp was also absent from Monday’s meeting.

Nanaimo Events Centre proposed for 1 Port Drive (red dot)

March 11 –  referendum

Council approved the referendum question on Wednesday as follows:

“Are you in favour of the City of Nanaimo Council adopting Loan Authorization Bylaw 2017 No. 7237 which will authorize Council to borrow a sum not exceeding $80,000,000, repayable over a period of no more than 20 years, for the development and construction of an event centre that will include an ice arena and other related entertainment, cultural and recreation facilities?”

That is not a question — it is a paragraph!

Why not a simple question such as:

Do you want the City of Nanaimo to borrow $80 million to build an Events Centre at 1 Port Drive?

Yes? or No?

Borrowing $80 million

There was a presentation from the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) on where the $80 million would come from.  A report from Ernst and Young was referred to regarding the risks of the project.  Some of the risks raised in the report:

  • lack of attendance
  • lack of luxury seat sales
  • high costs of management
  • lack of events held

The report based the revenue to be generated on 80 to 130 events being held per year.

Where will the $80 million come from?

A loan will be taken out for 20 years at an interest rate of 3%.  It is estimated the loan payments would be about $5.4 million per year plus operation fees. Plus $200,000 a year is needed to maintain the building.

Funding would also come from the following areas:

  • ticket surcharge fees
  • hotel taxes (hotels would have to agree)
  • general taxes
  • casino revenues

As far as the design of the building the CAO commented that it may not be a First Nations longhouse design theme as shown in the drawings.

The CFO made a bold statement that there would be no increase to taxes or cuts to services because of the new debt!

Council Chatter

This mega project generated zero debate! Before voting on the borrowing motion some Councillors came to life.

In favour of borrowing were:
Councillors Bestwick, Hong, Yoachim, Thorpe, Fuller

Against borrowing were:
Councillors Pratt and Brennan

Brennan: …using property taxes to fund everything is onerous…gas tax …It was Jack Layton who convinced the government to share the gas money with local governments…To tell us spending that gas tax money is not spending taxes is a shell game…it is to assist our public infrastructure…it is local tax money…casino money…we said yes to gambling and that has some negative effects in our community…We need that money to fund programs…Now we are spending that money on an Events Centre…don’t have the solid facts…I support the referendum…but can’t support the financing of this project…

 Pratt:…I agree with Councillor Brennan…The gas tax shouldn’t be used in this way…I can’t support this …

Thorpe: …I support the borrowing bylaw…this Events Centre will need subsidies …it’s just moving the money around…we don’t have private investor…it will be taxpayer funded…it will have an effect on future projects …there probably will be future tax increases for other projects …

Hong: …we don’t have a choice… we need a bigger tax base and this Events Centre will do this…our schools are shutting down.. this Events Centre is an infrastructure project…this Events Centre is critical for the downtown…

Bestwick: …this is an investment…the 1940’s arena was built by residents…in the last 80 years we have spent $10 million on big projects…Nanaimo Aquatic Centre is most popular…

CAO: (suggested reworking the motion on debt borrowing)

Brennan: …this is too much on the fly…

Snuneymuxw First Nations

No concerns of the SFN were raised. Where were the Councillors’ questions?

SFN Acting Chief Douglas White III told NewsNanaimo.ca that an archeological report in 2015 “locates some of our longhouses right through the middle of (the Events Centre site).” Under SFN’s 1854 treaty with the Crown, the Snuneymuxw village is recognized and protected.

Public is VERY Worried

Apparently there were three sheets for people to sign up to speak about the Events Centre. People were quickly cut off if they wandered off the boundaries of the topic. Councilor Hong jumped in after every speaker to challenge any negative comments as the ‘defacto’ attack man.

Over the course of the evening 13 people spoke about their various concerns.  Here are some the comments:

Delegations:

1) Is this the best location for the Events Centre?

2) What happened to the proposed transit exchange? Where is the transit exchange going to go?  What happened to the idea of a Granville Island type of project? How can we not have a tax increase?

3) Nob Hill neighborhood – Traffic congestion concerns.  Will taxpayers pay for a parkade?

Kipp: …people walk to the downtown for many events…fireworks…

Delegation:  … walk?… to a hockey game in the winter? …dark?

Hong: … port authority…robins parking…walking is great… less parking now…

4) Are other Events Centres generating revenue? Why no option B?  No private investors?

Mayor: … no private operator has come forward…

Bestwick: …not all Event Centres are profit generators…

Staff: …different contracts for every Events Centres…some have subsidies…

5) Can this Events Centre run by revenue it generates? Or will it need our funding?
What about?

  • the FULL price of this project?
  • the size of this Events Centre?
  • mine shafts in the area?
  • foundation of the building?

Hong: …building is going to four stories high…

Mayor: …Moose Jaw is great …

6) How much land does the City have down there? (28.5 acres) Has the City considered a joint venture with another organization? Sports school or Sports medicine?

Mayor: …you are off topic…

RCMP funding and Fire Hall

7) It was stated earlier that there would be NO new taxes and NO cuts to services…this council created a fund for the Events Centre with a 3.3%  tax hike and cut $700,000 from the RCMP fund…that is new taxes and a cut in services…local programs will be cut…casino money will be taken away from programs…redirecting money…You can’t take money out and not cut services…$44 million raised through the casino money…that money is being taken away…

Staff: …tax increases will be over time…built into 5 year plan…money moved from general revenue…gas tax money…

Mayor: …casino money should go into a legacy fund…like the Richmond Oval…

Speaker: $700,000 out of RCMP fund going somewhere else?

Staff:  ….Yes, we are decreasing our services…

CAO: …over last 10 years the RCMP has had a surplus budget…no cuts…

Speaker: What about the plans for the Hammond Bay Fire Hall?…

CAO: …Hammond Bay Fire Hall is not on the plans…

8) You are using the wrong model. Input output model not good. A better model is cost- benefit model. The Clippers are going to leave. One team leaves one comes. What’s the difference? It doesn’t increase the pool of money. This will only generate 57 jobs! You are spending $80 million to get an extra $2.4 million? Not smart growth.

Hong:..no one is here in the winter…57 jobs is good…

Fuller: …What brings people to town?…the fast ferry has failed four times…I want this community to grow…

Contaminated Soil; Funny numbers

More delegations came to speak raising some good questions:

1) What about  soil contamination on the site? Coal mine under this site? Where will the money come from? How will we pay for this? What happened to the south downtown plans?

Hong: …$80 million uses 26% of our debt…

Staff:…we are increasing our debt from 12% to 26% …room to borrow more money if there is emergency…

Mayor: …VICC will be paid off in 2028…

2) A request for a copy of the reports on the Events Centre was made and the response was that it’s still confidential. How can people make informed decisions when they don’t have the most important financial information? Voting stations? We would like to request  scrutineers at polling stations.  An extra polling station is needed  in the south end because of the number of people without cars.  Need a polling station at the hospital and at the larger elder care facilities. Consider mobile polling station on days of advanced polls.

Staff: …people can  mail in ballots….someone volunteers to do this

Mayor: …how about polling stations at shopping centres?… (swivels head)

4) You have to get the money from taxes. Phase 1 and 2 reports are not accurate and are deceptive. The Ernst and Young report is based on misleading numbers. Victoria has only 30 events per year; how can we project to have 80 to 100 events per year?

1) Change the question to say $160 million rather than $80million.  That’s how much it will cost. Do the voters know how much taxes will go up?

Fuller: …I had a massive heart attack a while ago and shouldn’t be here tonight…

Question Period

Why is 1 Port Place not on the BC Assessment role?
How can you borrow a lot of money and it doesn’t cost you anything?

BC Transit fare increases

Youth and seniors could be facing an increase of 75 cents per transit fare in September.  BC Transit is giving three options. Each proposes to increase fares for youth and seniors.  There will be no more paper transfers by September 1, 2017. What do you think? Send them an email to rdnfares@bctransit.com or send a letter to RDN Fare Proposal, P.O. Box 9861, Victoria V8W 9T5.

 Current FaresOption 1Option 2Option 3
Senior / Youth$2.25$2.50$3$3
Senior / Youth tickets (10)$20.25$22.50$27$27
Senior/ Youth monthly pass $41$40$40$50
Adult
$2.50 $2.50$3$3
Adult tickets (10)$22.50$22.50$27$27
Adult monthly pass $67.50$65$70$70
VIU Student monthly pass$55$65$70$70
VIU Student semester pass$176$170$182$182