Some Nanaimo council members are in Ottawa this week for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Conference (June 1 – 4). They will join 1,900 municipal leaders at Canada’s largest municipal conference.
The theme of the conference is nation building – how our cities and towns shape Canada.
Some of the issues to be discussed at the conference include:
What ideas will Nanaimo council gain from this conference? Hmmm…
How can Nanaimo get access to some of the $3.9 billion earmarked for public transit over the next five years?
Did you know that every year in Canada $10 billion in productivity is lost due to traffic congestion? In Toronto, for example people are having to commute an average of four hours a day.
Transit problems are related to the housing crisis. Because housing has become unaffordable, people have to relocate farther and farther away from their work or school.
The three main problems facing Nanaimo and other BC towns are:
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson chairs the Big City Mayors’ Task Force on the Opioid Crisis. More than 400 people in BC have died from opioids this year.
“The federal response so far isn’t reaching the frontlines in the way we need to save lives and tackle this crisis. Mayors are ready to help turn this around, but we need to be at the table. It’s time for all orders of government to get behind a coordinated action plan, before this opioid crisis spirals further out of control.”
What new steps are going to be taken?
More and more people every day are being run out of their homes because of rampant housing market speculation. This has reached a crisis in many towns. As of March 2017, there were approximately 70 homeless camps in the Lower Mainland.
There are three main branches to this problem:
condos and houses are being marketed offshore to foreign buyers
Five homeless people per day are dying in the streets in Canada.
Everywhere you look people are dumping garbage—it is a crisis.
Bill Veenhof, RDN chair said in a press release:
“I think there are a number of reasons why people dump illegally including lack of awareness about how easy and inexpensive recycling is in our region. In many cases, the dumped items can be recycled free of charge or for a small fee at any number of recycling depots in our region.”
Eliminate dumping fees and illegal dumping will be a thing of the past. The RDN needs to expand recycling services so that people don’t have to get into their vehicles just to recycle a few plastic bags and glass jars. SORT WASTE AND SAVE SPACE!
The RDN has launched a new campaign to bring awareness to the problem of illegal dumping. What are they doing? What more can be done?
Illegal dumping is a huge problem on Vancouver Island. Sick of the destruction, many people have taken the task of cleaning up illegal dump sites themselves.
In 2016, the RDN recovered over 35 tonnes of illegally dumped material. Pursuant to RDN Bylaw No. 1386, those who generate, deliver or abandon waste illegally can be subject to a fine of up to $200,000.
Illegal dumping includes but is not limited to:
yard and garden clippings
construction and demolition waste
furniture, appliances etc.
Why do people dump illegally?
There are two main reasons people don’t drop off their waste at the landfill:
hours of operation
One of the biggest obstacles to residents is the cost of dumping. For example in Nanaimo there is a minimum charge of $5 to dump off yard waste at the NRE on Kenworth Drive. For a small truck the charge is $10 or for a trailer full it’s $15.
In other municipalities residents can drop off yard waste free of charge. The Regional District of North Okanagan accepts yard and garden waste FREE OF CHARGE year round at all RDNO Recycling and Disposal Facilities.
Then there is the added inconvenience of having to drive to a recycling facility. The one on Kenworth Drive is full of potholes and the road is terrible after a rain. No wonder people are “losing” their yard waste somewhere over the fence. How many people are just putting yard waste into their garbage cans which further adds to the landfill?
The solution is to make dumping free and convenient.
Invasive Plant Infestations
The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) has discovered new sites where yard waste dumping has led to invasive plant infestations – both within regional landfills and at illegal dumping sites. Some invasive plants such as knotweed or ivy can re-sprout from small stem or root fragments.
The biggest question we have to ask ourselves is what kind of community do we want to live in? You either pay people to patrol rural areas looking to catch illegal dumpers or you take the same amount of money or even less and let people drop off their yard waste for free.
Also, when people throw their lawn clippings over the back fence or dump plants and prunings in the bush, the piles of green waste become breeding grounds for rats.
In Richmond, BC they have a reward program for citizens who report illegal dumping. Citizens can collect $200 on the conviction of a dumper.
Garbage and Recycling App
Recently, the City of Nanaimo announced that they have acquired an app which would remind residents when to put out their garbage and recycling. What wasn’t mentioned was how much they paid a Vancouver tech firm, ReCollect to do it. The RDN also used the same company to answer a few basic questions on their website.
ReCollect digitized garbage collection schedules and maps in order to enable citizens to download it into their calendar or set up a recurring email reminder. ReCollect has made a hefty profit at basically no cost to themselves by using open source data – something an RDN staff member or a summer student could have done.
Donald Duck Litterbug
Everyone has met a ‘Donald Duck Litterbug’ but there is still hope for their offspring. If you see any dumping happening or has already occurred, report it to Solid Waste Services by calling 250-390-6560, 1-877-607-4111 (toll-free) or you can call the BC hotline Report All Poachers and Polluters at 1-877-952-7277 (#7277 from cellphones).
The last Nanaimo council meeting for May covered some interesting topics such as upgrades to the dangerous intersection at Northfield Road and Island Highway 19A, how Nanaimo Pride Parade almost got de-railed, and the plans for an expanded Nanaimo Waterfront Walkway from Departure Bay to Port Drive and more.
Northfield Road/Hwy 19A intersection upgrade
After a year of delays, Council approved $1.5 million to upgrade the Northfield Road and Highway 19A intersection. Complicating matters was the railway crossing at this location. Last year Council was unsure what was going to happen to the railway, was it staying or going?
Opposed to the improvements were Councillors Bestwick, Kipp, and Fuller.
In favour were Councillors Brennan, Hong, Thorpe, and Yoachim.
Hong: Do we have an update on the number of accidents?
Staff:1 to 2 accidents per week…
McKay: …$1.5 million cost …Ministry of Transportation will pay half of the costs?
Staff: …no high speed trains now…[won’t have to pay for higher standard of rail upgrades]
Kipp:Has staff looked at any other re-alignment options?…
Bestwick:…What’s the future of rail?…rails to trails…I don’t see rail traffic…only 8 to 16 cars a week on the rail…I don’t support millions of dollars being spent on rail crossing improvements…I prefer to see rails being removed…pending lawsuit from First Nations…No movement from provincial or federal government to make railway work…
Thorpe:…I don’t want to be here in a year talking about this….
Fuller: …potential of railway being removed…
The Design Isn’t Ideal
Hong:…This intersection needs work…the design isn’t ideal…needs a turning lane from the highway….It needs a merge lane off the highway…what about lights at Mary Ellen?…54 accidents in 2015 (compared to 82 at Bowen Road)…Buy the corner of the school property to fix the design…
Brennan: …Taking out the rails…is a much bigger question…deaths at this intersection…province willing to pay half…Council has a reluctance to spend on infrastructure…
Fuller: …Federal standards are different than provincial standards for railway…we are doing the minimum safety standard…How are we getting around this?
Mckay: ….railway is active…85% of intersections meet standards…rail tomorrow?… corridor is owned by 15 First Nations and 5 regional districts of which we are one voice…there are 19 others…
Kipp: …we are adding costs to this intersection…the busy road is Northfield…not much improvement…
Bestwick: …60% markup on goods ordered, must we still order through Southern Railway?…
Mckay: There are two makers of rail crossing goods…Southern Railway has chosen one maker…they do the repairs…
Bestwick:…they go buy it…they sole source it…I have seen the bills…markup is significant…broken rail arm at Bowen Road and Island Highway has never been repaired…
Note: On May 17th, Liberal and Conservative members of the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly against Bill C-322, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act (road crossings), which would have forced railway companies to help construct safe road crossings. Nanaimo MP Sheila Malcolmson voted in favour.
Nanaimo Pride Parade almost de-railed
A few months ago a group came to Council and presented their plans for a Nanaimo Pride Parade and requested barricades and signage for road closures along the parade route. They also asked if the City could re-paint the rainbow crosswalks which had faded. Their requests were approved by Council at the time.
Fast forward to Monday night, Councillor Brennan raised a motion for repairs to paint the crosswalks and barricades for road closure for the Nanaimo Pride Parade request.
Brennan: We have done nothing! Pride weekend is in early June…
Thorpe:… barriers and signage…are we being consistent…do we do this for other events?
COO (Chief Operating Officer):…this is not a City sanctioned event…
Hong: …City sanctioned event? What about Heritage Days? How are they doing barricades?
COO: …private company…
Hong: …who puts the stuff on the road?…
Mckay:…City crews bring the barricades down…then they collect them…last year… the [Pride organizers] had to go to public works and pick them up, put them up and take them down and take them back to public works…No service from public works…
Hong: How did we do it for Heritage Day?…Did they [parade organizers] do all that?…
CAO:…I find it odd that the City would have someone pick up our equipment and set it up…
Fuller: …$2,500 for the other two sidewalks…like to see the other sidewalks done…amendment to motion…to add …other two sidewalks
Brennan:…this was brought up several weeks ago…we didn’t pick up the ball…tonight it’s an urgent matter…
Yoachim: …I am proud to support an event such as this…We got to make this happen…
Kipp: …$5,000 to deliver the barricades and to pick them up?… is that a guess?…
Bestwick:…this is a downtown event…application for an annual event?…
Brennan: …we need to have a definition of ‘City sanctioned’ event…
All Councillors voted in favour of painting the sidewalks and paying for the barricades for the parade.
City Sanctioned Event Confusion
This was a very strange ‘event’ at Council. What happened? It appears that there is no one department that looks after parades. There should be a one stop shop so people don’t have to run around and ask 10 people for help. Does the City of Nanaimo already have a Special Events Coordinator? If not, this is probably something that can be given to one of the directors in the Parks or Culture departments.
Is it possible that the Pride Parade requests were overlooked because some people at the City have a personal objection to it? The COO repeatedly said it wasn’t a “City sanctioned event” but the Pride Parade had been approved by Council. Isn’t that direction enough for Staff? Does the City have a Special Events Policy?
Here is a good example of why a pyramid structure of government doesn’t work. The CAO is removed from any problems. Everything goes through the COO who is the new gate keeper. All departments including Public Works should report directly to the CAO.
Also, what happens with traffic control? The City could be held liable for any accidents that result from the misdirection of traffic.
Nanaimo Waterfront Walkway Plans
The City is planning on expanding the waterfront walkway. There are five areas that are proposed to be completed by 2018. The gaps in making the waterfront walkway continuous are:
1) Northfield Creek
2) Asia Pacific Yacht Club
3) Nanaimo Shipyard
4) Boat Basin
5) 1 Port Drive
The 2.5 km section from Departure Bay Beach to the Departure Bay ferry terminal is controversial with the local residents. In 2002, there was a 480 meter trail installed from Stewart Avenue and Brechin Hill to Northfield Creek for $700,000.
In June a team of consultants will prepare some options for the walkway and a draft plan is to be presented to the public in September.
New banners to show case Canada 150
Patrick Belanger won the banner competition for the second time. Only seven artists entered the competition. Why did so few people compete for the banner contest?
At first glance it looks like a man playing bagpipes but it is a man with a miner’s lamp and someone playing a violin. Can you spot the number 150?
$99 Summer Transit pass for kids
Youth between the ages of 12 to 18 can get a transit pass that is valid from June 29th and September 4th. Passes can be used for youth drop-in recreation programs in Nanaimo, Parksville and Qualicum Beach. There are 300 passes available.
In the meantime, there needs to be a shuttle bus for NRGH workers who clog up the highways driving from Ladysmith to Nanaimo and back every day.
This is what happens when Public Works don’t pick up City equipment:
Some hot topics coming up at the next Council meeting on Monday, May 15th are:
Northfield Road and the Island Highway upgrade
RCMP operations report
Two new 6 storey buildings proposed for 91 Chapel Street
Four storey 60 unit building proposed for 5260 Dublin Way
Fewer parking stalls at 1805 Summerhill Place
At the May 8th COW (Committee Of the Whole) meeting there were some interesting presentations: an idea for a park at Green Thumb; a rail trail; a BC Transit Beef and a new $17 million fire hall which was approved by Council.
Green Thumb Park Proposal
The Green Thumb Nursery in North Nanaimo is selling for $23 million. Situated between the Island Highway, Hammond Bay Road and Uplands Road, it is the last large undeveloped tract of land in north Nanaimo—44 acres.
This would be an ideal space for a park. Nearby, 20 storey high rises are slated to be built behind Costco and Longwood Station.
Fred Brooks, a professional landscape designer, came up with the an idea of a Central Park, Van Dusen Gardens or Beacon Hill type park.
Unfortunately, the Council’s reaction to the presentation was a collective of blank stares. Councillor Thorpe said Council needs to be careful with its money.
More and more people are moving to Nanaimo so smaller lots and big high rises will the the new norm. People will need a park to go to for mental health. Ghettos have no trees and no parks.
Large treed lots are being denuded to make way for high-density small lots. Trees are disappearing fast.
Remember the controversy about saving Neck Point? A lot of people questioned the idea of saving it at the time; now look how many people go there today.
$17 million Fire Hall approved
Last Monday, Council approved the proposal for a $17 million fire hall on Prideaux Street to replace Fire Hall #1. Included in this proposal is $125,000 worth of art.
Opposed were Mayor Mckay and Councollor Hong.
In favour were Councillors Thorpe, Yoachim, Brennan and Kipp.
Councillor Fuller was absent for the vote (because of a business conflict).
Bestwick: …What was the cost of the Chase River Fire Hall? $3 million?…We need 3,250 square feet for administration?…a total of 15,000 square feet in this new building…
Hong: …We need a command centre…RCMP is the next building to be re-built…fire, police, ambulance, …we are building a ‘Cadillac model’…$125,000 budget for public art in a fire station?! (Hong screams)…Public art people won’t see!…Public art in this building [SARC] people don’t see…Borrowing is cheap…paying for building over 40 years…we should not be using reserves…
Brennan: …Why do we need to have administration located at the fire hall? Will there be parking issues?..What about the fire hall in the north end? In 2009 we were going to have a fire hall on Hammond Bay Road?…
Mckay:I support a new building but we need to have all services in one building…[a command centre]…
Bestwick: Have we put all our 45-year-old buildings on a list?…What are our priorities?…public works needs a new building…Beban Park needs upgrades…Departure Bay Activity Centre needs replacing…There are more than 10 buildings that need replacing…
Hospital Parking and BC Transit Beef
A resident came to make a beef about the bus transit to the hospital and how it doesn’t meet up with peoples’ work schedules at the hospital. Here is some of what the delegation had to say:
“The first bus leaves from the downtown Nanaimo to the hospital at 6:55am when most people start their shift at 7am. It is useless! So I have to drive…lack of transit coordination… Same with the mall in the northend; the buses aren’t there when mall shifts end or start….The BC Ferry terminal is the same thing…the bus that connects to the ferry leaves empty…why isn’t the bus coordinated with the ferry?…”
Hong:BC Transit…gives us hours…we can only shuffle the schedule…problem is we don’t have enough hours…
Speaker: I am not asking for more hours…just coordinate the schedule with the hospital shifts….
Bestwick: …nothing has changed…we are building a parkade for the hospital…
Fuller: …transit sucks…find more people to complain…
Yoachim: …I am willing to bring this up for you at an RDN board meeting…
Kipp: …$8.5 million we pay for BC transit every year…we have had transit reports…empty buses…bad system…you can walk to VIU faster than the bus…we have made a cash cow out of parking…$100 for student parking…empty bus syndrome…our town is linear…we are driving all over the place…soon Nanaimo to Comox will be one big strip mall…
Speaker:…just re-schedule the buses…the #30 that leaves Prideaux Street and goes to the hospital takes 12min and leaves at 6:55am, they don’t care that people are trying to get to work on time!…it is NOT about more hours…
Empty Bus Syndrome
Check out this article called Why Tactical Transit is the Next Big Thing. “Tactical Transit” has the ability to jump start virtuous cycles of increasing bus ridership by speeding up travel times, improving passenger experience and enhancing overall perceptions of riding the bus. Empty Bus Syndrome could be a thing of the past!
Rail Trail Proposal
A group spoke to Council about an idea to have a rail trail from Parksville to Courtenay, citing the deteriorating condition of the E&N rail bed. Their website is Fortvi.ca for more information.
The federal government gives a private company $200 million every year to operate the railway on Vancouver Island yet nothing is being done to maintain the tracks.
There are many areas around the world where trains are THE mode of transportation. Many seniors have mobility issues and would prefer a train system rather than beating off feral dogs and rabbits with their canes.
New building on Skinner
Two new six storey multi-family buildings are being proposed for 91 Chapel Street. The proposal includes some live-work studios which could be marketed to young creative types.
Out of Order: SARC boardroom Audio System
The audio system at the City Hall building is terrible. If you have ever tried listening to a COW meeting there is a constant noise of paper shuffling, binder clicks and chronic coughing fits. Whenever someone speaks it sounds as though they’re talking through a vacuum tube.
At the last COW meeting the camera was at a very low angle at the back of the room so the view was obliterated every time someone passed by within inches of the camera. In the meantime it was not possible to see all the council members or have a good view of the delegations. Councillor Fuller looked like he had a blue lump on his shoulder and it turned out to be Councillor Kipp.
For a $14 million dollar ‘Cadillac’ building, the audio and visual equipment is ‘Pinto’-like. There will be no audio for a while according to the City so we will just have to fill in the blanks with some wild speculation. There is no date when the audio equipment will be fixed.
Recordings suspended in SARC boardroom while sound equipment upgrades are being made to ensure all future committee mtgs can be recorded.
Next week there will be a Nanaimo COW (committee of the whole) meeting on Monday, May 8th at 4:30pm. Some topics of interest include building a new Nanaimo fire hall downtown, the E&N rail trail to Courtenay, and future uses of the Green Thumb Nursery lands.
Last week Council approved a tax increase of 1.5% and very briefly went over the 2016 Financial Statement:
$17.3 million operating surplus (accumulated) – up 1.5 million over 2015
$127 million in reserves – up 5 million from last year
$43.9 million debt – down 3 million from 2015
$634 million in tangible assets – up $11 million
In 2016 almost $152 million of property taxes were collected. The reserve accounts for 2016 include:
snow removal budget reserve $400,000
photocopy reserve $309,408
housing legacy reserve $2,415,652
Fire & Emergency reserve $2,047,367
Hong: …Port of Nanaimo Centre…got a reduced rate so are we going to see a reduced rate for the other projects?…better rates?…
McKay: …better to ask that in the finance committee meeting…
Thorpe: …reserve funds…Old City Parking Reserve (what’s that for?)…
Staff:…it’s for Old City Quarter parking stalls…
New Fire Hall Downtown
The Council will look at a report on replacing or renovating Fire Hall #1 on Prideaux Street, which was built in 1966. It had seismic upgrades in 2000. The report favours building a new fire hall on the existing site with room for administration staff.
Some deficiencies at the fire hall include no accessible washrooms, no elevator (note the polished brass fire pole below), repairs needed to boiler, roof and concrete.
It is surprising to read that the ‘egress systems’ don’t meet current building codes. There is no sprinkler or fire alarm system in the building. How could they not have proper exits or smoke detectors at a fire hall?
This approach is probably the most expensive way to go with a price tag of just under $20 million.
This plan would require the temporary use of another building while part of the fire hall is torn down. Tune in next week for any updates.
Skinny Jeans and Real Estate Frenzy
What do ‘skinny jeans’ and the real estate frenzy have in common? Maybe tight times.
Skinny pants have usually coincided with economic upheaval – early 50s, early 60s, early 80s and now.
Skinny pants with holes in them and mens’ suits with no socks are now the norm.
How does this impoverished look meld with the escalating cost of housing across Canada? The real estate frenzy shows no sign of slowing down.
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.
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?…
Brennan: …Core Services Review? how much did that cost us?
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.
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.
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
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.