Speed Bumps; Bike Lanes; Drug needles; Nanaimo by-election

Nanaimo by-election is in full swing!  Advance polls open next Wednesday.

Coming up this Monday, June 26th there is a Nanaimo Council COW (Committee of the Whole) meeting.  Some topics on the agenda include:

  • Bike lanes on Turner Road to Dover Road
  • Application process for social planning grants
  • Traffic calming project on Ross Road
  • InFilm project for $30,000 Bestwick motion
  • Infill housing guidelines Fuller motion
  • Abandoned boats presentation from MP Malcomson
  • Business plan for Tourism Nanaimo

Ross Road Speed Humps

Two temporary speed humps will be installed July to September on Ross Road for a cost of $22,000. Emergency services has identified Ross Road as a top priority because most people speed an average 64 km/hr. What can be done about Stewart Avenue? It is also like a speed way.

Two temporary speed humps planned for Ross Road

Bike Lane on Turner and Dover Road

A new bike lane and sidewalk are planned to be built this summer between Turner Road and Dover Road.  The blue line marks the new sidewalk to be installed.

Bike lane and side walk plans for Turner Road and Dover Road

Social planning grants

The City of Nanaimo has made $85,000 available to non-profits/faith groups who can apply for a Social Response Grant and a Community Vitality Grant. First staff reviews the grant application then it goes to the Finance Committee and then lastly to Council for a vote.

June 19th Council Meeting

Highlights from June 19th Nanaimo Council meeting include:

  • RCMP report
  • Water leaking from City pipes
  • Selling City property on White Street
  • Victoria Crescent merchants’ request for security guards
  • Hammond Bay Road fish bowl

Note: Unfortunately the public microphone at the podium was not working all evening.

RCMP Report

Two speakers from Nanaimo RCMP spoke about some areas they are working on:

  • Crime Prevention (violence in relationships, drugs)
  • Youth intervention (5 full-time staff in schools)
  • Traffic (waterfront/marine/impaired driving)

Some stats given were:

  • domestic violence (3 domestic calls a day!)
  • traffic kills  (11 fatalities on the roads in Nanaimo)
  • drug deaths from fentanyl crisis
  • homeless youth (increased number of runaways)

Council Discussion:

Thorpe:  How many on bike patrol?
RCMP:  … eight on bikes…142 officers need more people to keep eyes on community…

Three domestic calls a day is a crisis. How much of this is due to financial strain brought on by the lack of affordable housing because of rampant speculation?

Mayor’s Report

Mayor McKay noted that eight by-election candidates were in the gallery.  The 2016 water treatment prevented a boil water advisory 70 times.  The City property at 100 Gordon street property is considered sold for $750,000. The City had six responses to the sale; the new hotel will have 118 rooms and is expected to be finished in early 2019. (Plus the hotel gets 10 years tax free).

Water Leaking from City Pipes

A presentation was given on water leakage from City of Nanaimo pipes. The speaker said 1900 mL (megalitres) has leaked from City pipes. This seepage is equivalent to 760 Olympic-size swimming pools!

According to a recent audit there was 498 mL of water leaking from South Fork to treatment plant equivalent to (200 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The speaker asked Council to consider water loss as a serious  issue.  What is the City going to do to fix the pipes?

Council Discussion:

COO: …this speaker sits on a committee…they can bring it up there…if we find leaks we will fix them…

Speaker: …we are consuming 14.4 million litres of water yet we are not billing for that… public works should take the initiative and get to work on the 2013 report….

Yoachim:…these water leaks are alarming…

CFO: …looking at an audit on leaks…

Downtown Drug Needle Problem

Council approved $45,000 to hire two private security guards and two people to pick up litter in downtown Nanaimo. Two needle boxes were donated and will be installed.

The Safe Injection Site proposed at 437 Wesley Street was rejected.  The $20,000 for litter pickup is for six months. The $25,000 for two private security guards will last until the end of September.

Council Discussion:

Fuller: …needle boxes…how many needles in each box each month?

Staff: …needle boxes are emptied 3 times a year…the one on Wisteria Lane is emptied 6 times a year…two more boxes are to be installed…for a total of nine needle boxes…

Fuller: …Someone is putting out brown bags of needles and crack pipes with notes not to use around the library at Wisteria Lane…are they educating people on how to dispose of these needles?…personal needle boxes are great…people bring them back to Harris House for more….

Staff: …regular users are informed…

Fuller: …random groups giving out needles are not helping…

Bestwick: …urban clean-up program…How many people participating in this clean up for two hours a day for two days a week?…16 hours…minimum wage…Old City Quarter has concerns about litter…we don’t know how many hours and how many people but just that we are paying minimum wage?…

Staff: …service provider will decide…before was one person…

Brennan: …urban clean-up program – why are we taking that from the study budget?…why not the budget for street cleaning?..we have been using that budget for other research initiative projects…

Staff: …$150,000 and $50,000 were spent on studies for affordable housing…Given that, we don’t need $30,000 on more studies…

Hong: …Why only two more needle boxes?…

Staff: There is a limit on how much I can ask public works to do…they haven’t yet pushed back…one day they will ask for more money to check on needle boxes…

Hong: …We need a needle box at the Military Museum…some groups get tax breaks; they can help out with the clean-ups…

Staff: …Nanaimo Community Living has been picking up litter five days a week without compensation…

Mckay: The budget is $45,000 to September…What about to the end of December?

Downtown Nanaimo Security Guards

Six people were signed up to speak about the problems with aggressive panhandlers and drugs in downtown Nanaimo. Here is some of what they had to say:

Speaker 1:
Years ago there were two women who would patrol the whole downtown; that seemed to really help things…then the bylaw department took over and they didn’t do a good job…It has gotten really bad since the Jean Burns fire…I was surrounded by six aggressive panhandlers who challenged me to a fight!…The other day homeless people were fighting with each other using baseball bats! I was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher for 15 minutes and then the fight was over…I will call the police about a drug issue and three hours later they may come…I call the police about issues near my business and they don’t come…

Speaker 2:
It has gotten really bad in the last 10 months…one of our staff was severely assaulted in December…we have called the police and their response has been slow…Three times a week we clean up drug needles…way more aggressive panhandling…

Speaker 3:
We talk to the police once or twice a week to have people removed from our property…we are losing business…extra security cameras…police have come to our calls when we have asked for help…we need more community outreach…we are at ground zero…Does the community policing office still exist?…

Council Discussion:

Fuller: …There is a more aggressive group of people around downtown panhandling…

Yaochim: …what could we do better…bylaw department?…

Speaker 2:Increase security patrols in early morning…

Hong: …I’m on that street…lighting new…LED will be brighter…
will that help?….

Brennan: …Do we still ban people from downtown?…

Staff: …we just do it through civil court now…

Why doesn’t the current bylaw enforcement team and RCMP work together? If there are 8 RCMP on bicycles and 5 bylaw staff members then that is a total of 13 people patrolling the downtown streets of Nanaimo – why would the City need to hire 2 more private security guards?

Even if the City gets these panhandlers and drug addicts to move elsewhere, that does not make the problem disappear. They will move into neighbourhoods and show up on peoples’ lawns or doorsteps. We need some provincial or federal help. This is a crisis beyond the scope of the City.

1411 White Street – future park?

The City purchased 1411 White Street in 1997 for $115,000 and proposed to sell it for $240,000 almost 20 years later in 2017.  It was purchased as part of a sewer plan. The house is currently being rented out for approximately $900 a month. The current tenants asked if they could buy it.

Mckay:  The notice in the newspaper was for a disposal of property; not a request for proposals…help me understand your logic…

Staff:generally we go for a request for offers…but we have a tenant who lives in the house who would like to purchase it…we usually aim to get market value…it’s just an easier process this way…

One delegation spoke in opposition to the sale:

I oppose this sale. The City owns the land next to this lot and it should be protected as a park.  The Millstone River is a fish bearing stream. There are concerns about flooding on this land. It should be a left as treed area by the river.

Council Discussion:

Brennan: …how about a covenant on the lot?…

Staff:The whole lot is in the riparian area…

Brennan:  (made motion on covenant)

Thorpe: … is the lot tied to the lot next to it?…

Yoachim: …leave as is…protect the river…

Bestwick: …we get $10,800 a year for rent from this property…it is in the riparian area…It doesn’t make sense to have it in private hands…

Mckay: …we could make $240,000 on this property sale…

Hong: …we have rules for riparian areas…have it as a right-of-way…the way it was set up to be…

Thorpe: …riparian setbacks are important…

Fuller: …How much rent are we getting for this house? $900 per month? (shakes head)…

All voted to not sell the City property on 1411 White Street. What will happen to this land? Will it be made a park?

3217 Hammond Bay Road

A resident spoke about a new 10-unit development at 3217 Hammond Bay Road with plans for 20 parking spaces.  Three storey homes perched on a slope now overlook a formerly private lot. The resident spoke how the new development  has devalued their property by $20,000 and made his house a fish bowl.

large lot on Hammond Bay Road divided into 10 lots – no privacy, no trees

The homes are too large for small lots. Why aren’t the houses smaller to scale with the lots? Yet the shopping malls are one level with no residences above. As well, many of these strip malls are visibly empty. As an example, Woodgrove Centre does not have any condos above and there are five empty retail spaces.

Advance Polls open next week

Advance Voting polls open Wednesday, June 28th and Wednesday, July 5th at the Nanaimo Alliance Church on Meredith Road. General voting day is Saturday, July 8th.

Why only one location for advance voting? Why at a church? How much is the City of Nanaimo paying the Nanaimo Alliance Church for the polling station?  Why not use a publicly owned facility such as a community centre?

Scientific studies show that “subtle environmental cues in a polling place can significantly, but unconsciously, affect citizens’ real-world votes” mainly due to what’s known as the “priming effect” which “nudges voters in a predictable direction [leading] to a systematic, non-random bias in individual’s decision-making.”

Nanaimo residents can vote for one of the following thirteen candidates running in the by-election:

Sheryl Armstrong
Brunie Brunie
Sacia Burton
Leon Cake
Kevin Cantelon
Jim Mercier
Alexis Taylor Middleton
Noah Routley
Neil Saunders
Fred Statham
Kevin Storrie
Al Thompson
Kelly Whiteside

If you want to learn more about these Nanaimo by-election candidates and their thoughts on City topics, visit Our Nanaimo (ournanaimo.com).