Nanaimo Events Centre; SIS; Bowen Road; 3.3% tax hike

Nanaimo Council has got off to a running start. The January 9th Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting was held at VICC rather than at the City hall boardroom.

The next Nanaimo Council meeting is coming up on Monday, January 16th. The Nanaimo Events Centre (NEC) is on the agenda again along with arts and culture grants and the Rutherford roundabout.

Nanaimo Events Centre – NEC

March 11, 2017 is the date proposed for the public to vote on whether they want to pay for the Nanaimo Events Centre. The cost of holding this vote is $130,000. This would include staffing, advertising, and space rental.

Leading up to the March vote will be a major ‘propaganda’ push to sell the Events Centre to the public. This push will include open house events in north, south and central Nanaimo starting at the end of January. The City is planning a mass mail-out to inform the public of the upcoming vote.

It will be interesting to see how the ‘question’ is worded. Will ‘Joe the Taxpayer’ understand?  Let’s hope it’s not a double negative question! There’s nothing less worse than not answering a question incorrectly.

City has moved on to Phase 3 of NEC

The City of Nanaimo has outlined 6 phases for the Nanaimo Events Centre project. So far the City has completed Phase 1 and 2 for just under a million dollars. This includes design, public engagement and looking at potential sites for the Events Centre.

In Phase 3 the following are to be completed:

  • architectural design
  • financial contracts
  • legal agreements

Phase 3 involves hiring a Project Manager, Architect and Operations Manager who will work with the City of Nanaimo project team and Yes Committee. The City’s project team includes communications staff and the new Chief Sustainability Officer.

The City anticipates the NEC project will go ahead. After the public votes,  work is scheduled to begin March 31, 2017.

Nanaimo Events Centre Manager

This week, the City of Nanaimo issued a bid opportunity for the management of the NEC. The closing date for bids is January 27, 2017. The contract is to be awarded by February 13th.

Show me the money!

An interesting presentation was given on Monday, January 9th by a concerned resident. Here are some highlights:

NEC is being fast tracked and has many red flags. The numbers don’t add up. The reports provided so far regarding the NEC projected revenue are misleading. The feasibility study was inadequate at best. It showed that the NEC would have 40 hockey games and 30 event shows a year. Currently, Victoria has only 20 event shows a year at its facility. How can a smaller city like Nanaimo have higher numbers than the capital city of BC?

The reports looked at other cities with way larger populations and demographics and income levels than Nanaimo and area.

When the City was proposing a conference centre, they had wild numbers too. The VICC was said to have 70,000 attendees a year and in its actual eighth year of operation there have been 20,000 attendees. [This building is costing the City almost two million dollars per year].

NEC is being built for a WHL team, most likely the Cranbrook team which has been for sale since 2011. Why are we building an events centre for a hockey team? They will get a rent-free arena? And the kicker – for every ticket sold at the NEC, the Nanaimo taxpayer will pay $29!!

Council Chatter:

Bestwick: …$50 is not much for a ticket…there is going to be more than 8 events a year…this is not an exact science…

Hong: …Abbotsford is desperate to get shows…

Fuller: …I wish the propaganda for VICC was not allowed…whatever the people want I’ll go along with…

NEC Questions from Joe Taxpayer

Where is this Nanaimo Events Centre going to be located? If it is at 1 Port Drive – what are they going to do about the contaminated soil there? It was estimated to cost $30 million to clean up the Wellcox Lands. In the 80s, BC taxpayers paid $175 million to clean up contaminated soil on the 82-hectare Expo ’86 site. The land was then sold to a Chinese billionaire for $145 million.

If they put the NEC at the Howard Johnson hotel site how will that affect the Millstone River?

3.3% tax hike for NEC

In the dark days of December council approved the idea of having a 3.3% tax hike to pay for the NEC over the next five years (or more). This money would go into a ‘Legacy Fund’ and provide the $100 million needed for the NEC.

Also, money from the casino in town would go to this new NEC fund. What happened to using the casino money to fund local arts and culture projects? This year culture and heritage grants are worth $316,519. Some groups will be crying in their boots when the money dries up.

Safe Injection Sites -SIS

The big topic on Monday, January 9th was the temporary safe injection site located on City Hall property. The site was started up over the holidays by Councillor Fuller and a temporary trailer was later added.  The City had some concern over safety so they hired two security guards for $357 a day.

The Vancouver Island Medical Health Officer commented that VIHA has been pushing for a safe injection site in Nanaimo for two and half years. They have been warning the public they will die if they use fentanyl drugs alone.

Councillor Pratt commented that the City was sending the wrong message to the community by having security guards patrol where the trailer is located. Basically a ‘not in my backyard attitude’.

The CAO argued that setting up a SIS is not the City’s problem and VIHA should be dealing with it.

Councillor Thorpe who opposed the SIS claimed it was ‘federally illegal’.  Evidently, Thorpe was not aware of Bill C37 which passed in December 2016, making SIS legal. Mayor Mackay was also opposed to the SIS site (on religious grounds?) Councillor Brennan was absent.

In the end the SIS will stay where it is until VIHA sets up a long term solution.

New housing project

The former Mayor of Victoria waited until the end of the meeting on Monday night to ask for Council’s support of a ‘wet housing’ project across from the old Dairy Queen in South Nanaimo. He said that the ‘wet housing’ project in North Nanaimo was a success and had generated few complaints from neighbours in the area.

Monday January 16th Council meeting

Here are some topics to be discussed:

Rutherford Roundabout
The owner of 5200 Rutherford Road has agreed to a land exchange with the City at 5290 Rutherford Road. The  exchange will be for a $1.

1406 Bowen Road
There is a proposal for a 25 unit multi-family development at 1406 Bowen Road. The developer is requesting to reduce the front yard setback from 8.5 metres to 1.2 metres as well as reduce parking from 41 to 18 parking spaces.

3330 Stephenson Point Road
A new home is about to be built at 3330 Stephenson Point Road. The builder has asked to  reduce the watercourse setback from 15 metres to 6.79 metres.

515 Milton Street
A 25-unit housing project is proposed for 515 Milton Street. The builder has asked for a reduction in parking stalls from 25 to 19 and elimination of loading spaces.

Arts Culture Grants
2017 culture and heritage grants are being awarded for a total of $316,519. Thirty community group projects are to benefit. The largest amount goes to the Vancouver Island Symphony.

7 Temporary public art projects
There were 22 outdoor public art proposals presented to the City from across Canada. Seven projects were selected for a total of $25,000. These art pieces are to be located at the waterfront walkway and installed in May. Here are two pieces that will be coming. You will have to go for a walk and find the others this spring.

New Temporary Art for the Nanaimo waterfront in 2017
A life buoy made from old rope – coming to waterfront in May 2017

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City of Nanaimo Sues the Mayor

The City of Nanaimo is suing its own Mayor. Is that not like the dog chasing its own tail? It is said that Mayor McKay helped a former City employee with her wrongful dismissal grievance by providing a confidential email.

This employee had spent over forty years at City Hall with a clean work record until she was essentially fired (demoted to another lower paying job) last Spring.

Could they not have had an early retirement party instead? It would have been cheaper.

Why waste taxpayers money suing the mayor? Could this be some bizarre way of shuffling money to a law firm and then onto who knows who? There is a provincial election coming up….

You can’t make this stuff up.

3 thoughts on “Nanaimo Events Centre; SIS; Bowen Road; 3.3% tax hike

  1. I’m completely confused by this council, they campaign on a zero percent tax increase, want to shut down Beban pool, complain about the conference centre and the Port theatre and then want to blow millions on an events centre. it’s inconsistant and troubling.

  2. Thanks a pile for your sensible article.
    I am in Yellowpoint so thankfully I have a good Ladysmith council that seems sane, but we are also civically connected to RDN.
    I am a hockey fan and a fan of people getting out of their homes and supporting good community events. Nanaimo would like to be recognized as a classier city and a WHL team could up that goal a notch.
    Your article confirms that the NEC project would not work at this time. Nanaimo council seems to still have an adolescent mentality and Nanaimo area has too low of a population to support the NEC project. Too bad. Maybe a good foot ferry would speed up the growing process.

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