Stealing from City? Surplus Equipment; Nanaimo Events Centre; Jazz

Monday’s Council meeting started off with the Nanaimo Mayor reading the riot act before the agenda item regarding the referendum vote on the Nanaimo Events Centre.  Later in the evening, grants were handed out  to arts and culture groups. Another hot topic on tap was the purchasing policy and the possibility of surplus equipment growing legs! (See video below).

March 11 Events Centre Vote

The proposed NEC will go to referendum on March 11, 2017. The referendum will cost $130,000.  All councillors voted in favour of holding a referendum.

Six people spoke about their concerns regarding the proposed NEC. All spoke in favour of a referendum except one. Some very interesting questions were raised. Here are the highlights from the delegations who came to speak:

Speaker 1:

Not one of you campaigned on this Events Centre. The report was prepared by developers of events centres. This is a one-sided sales pitch and an excuse to build a centre for rich WHL owners.

The $86 million price tag is just a drop in the bucket. The price doesn’t include land remediation, infrastructure, WHL team subsidizes, plus we have to borrow all the money and pay interest on it. There are so many other areas which need attention in the City of Nanaimo.

There has been a lot done to see what the waterfront area can be. We need the full picture presented to the taxpayers. I feel like I am speaking tonight to the de-facto ‘yes’ committee. I would like to see a referendum.

Speaker 2:

Don’t hold a referendum! Restart the process. Improve community consultation. The process is divisive. The referendum process creates winners and losers. It is either a yes or no.

This is a 1950’s style consultation process.  We have moved beyond that style. Community planning can include productive discussion sessions involving citizens. Use this process as a community building process.

Hong: …we tried that with colliery dams…

Yoachim: …you can’t please everyone…I support a referendum…

Speaker 3:

The process has been biased and rushed. We have to have a referendum now. Too many WHL events centres are costing taxpayers money year after year. We had a proposal for a private events centre and now we have this.  Too much debt will be put on our taxpayers.

Speaker 4:

I feel that some of the speakers here tonight have been treated quite rudely by a few of you [Council]. You used this opportunity to rip people apart. I will not respond to rudeness.

We need a referendum. The consultation notice is totally flawed. By the time I got the notice in the mail about the public open houses they had already happened. Most people I had talked to had not received a written notice at all.

The process was too rushed and in favour of the centre which is no surprise because the consultants hired to present this proposal are also in the business of building event centres.

This is just a sales pitch which we had to pay for. Is this the only solution for the waterfront lands? Most cities lose money on these events centres. Some of you have made up your minds. Keep your minds open, please.

One councillor I talked to said they wanted to have a legacy for future generations. When I asked if he would like to see anything else he said no. He had only one project in mind and that is the events centre.

Building this events centre would mean that many other projects could not be completed because we would be stuck paying for the NEC for years and years.

Other City improvement projects would not get done. We could do so much more. Other projects would attract much more to the City. This process is flawed.

Bestwick: …were you referring to me?…

Speaker 4: Yes…

Bestwick: …I would love to see an Imax, a Science World, a mineral pool, to replace the outdated Beban pool, I would like the workout gym at the Beban pool located at the ground floor because no one even knows it is there, at Departure Bay – knock down the activity centre there and put in a YMCA…

…if the referendum doesn’t go through, I will be back here with a proposal for an Imax, a new pool at Beban,..remember closing Beban pool? I want everyone to know I would like many new things and opportunities for this City and if this doesn’t get approved then I will be back March 12 with those 5 things I mentioned…

Speaker 4: …glad to hear that…we are focused on only one project now…how can we get behind other projects when this project is so huge and expensive?…

Hong: ..Council went through a plan and this project was on the list …we didn’t just pull this project out of a hat…We all got together and we had 52 items on the board and we eliminated the projects we were not interested in and this project was one of the top 5 projects on the list…we just didn’t say let’s build an events centre out of nowhere….the public knew when we selected the items …

This is what councils do; we decide what needs to be done…

I would like to see a gondola, a tunnel to Newcastle, a bridge to Vancouver because I hate BC Ferries…maybe a bridge to Gabriola but not to Protection Island no offence…there is a lot of things we want to do…

…we pick one thing at a time…if this fails then it falls off the list and then something else like Bestwick says will pop up on the list and we will focus our money on it…

Speaker 4: … I think you were just giving your opinion and not listening to me…you have a microphone every week; this was my opportunity to be heard…

Where are people going to park?

Speaker 5:

This project is the MOST expensive in Nanaimo’s history. We need information. Where is the traffic and parking study? It is not on the city website. I thought it would be available by now. There will be no additional parking – what about a parkade?

What about when people attend events at the Port Theatre and the Vancouver Island Conference Centre – where is everyone going to park?

How will this work? The underperformance of the conference centre is blamed on the lack of a hotel. In the future the failure of the Events Centre could be blamed on the lack of parking.

The business plan and operating plan is marked confidential and has disappeared from the City’s website. We paid for this study.

How much will NEC cost to operate?

Operational costs? This Events Centre could cost $2 million a year to operate. This Events Centre is not supposed to turn a profit for three  years.

We need a business plan…the economic impact studies have not bothered to look at the risks of this Events Centre; there are no details of this in the report…This report needs to be made public…We need answers to some basic questions.

Staff: …information will be ready this week minus the traffic and parking study…by February 6th all the financial information should be available…

Hong: Would you like to hear my comments about parking? The last delegation didn’t want to hear my answers. Everyone thinks parking is a huge problem…but we have lots of land…we can lease land from Island Ferries…we are going to get that going… railway lands can be leased…the potential for a developer to make a parkade is available…

Speaker 6: …you have made plans for the Events Centre and you haven’t made plans for the parking?

Hong: No…there is parking there…

Speaker 6: …Who is going to build the parkade?

Hong: …private developer…

Speaker 6: …we will have to pay to build a parkade….just like what happened downtown …we should be factoring in these costs of the parkade now…

Hong: …we make money from a parkade…

CAO: … transportation study will be made available soon….

Speaker 6: …there are lots of unanswered questions…

Pratt: …when will all the  information be on the website? After February 6th?

CAO: …some things can be shared…some can’t…

Speaker 6:

We have already spent considerable money on the events centre proposal and have seen some design drawings. This project is rushed. This events centre is a want rather than a need. Do we want all our taxpayers dollars to go into this project? That is the big question.

Mayor: …lots of questions…construction costs…we are still trying to digest this…by March 11th there should be no questions[!]…

Hong: …What does $130,000 get us?…

Fuller: …I never made a concrete decision whether I want it or not…some people think it is rushed some don’t…When we talk about democracy failing I have seen it with Colliery Dams…

Purchase policy: where does surplus equipment go?

The City is updating its purchasing policy – a recommendation from the Core Services Review.  The new purchasing policy and purchasing power bylaw passed all three readings.  There were no environmental and social purchasing policy guidelines included.

Voting in favour were: Councillors Hong, Yoachim, Bestwick, Thorpe, Fuller.
Voting against were: Councillors Kipp, Brennan and Mayor McKay.

Speaker 1:

One concerned resident spoke of a lack of input from vendors regarding the purchasing policy. Other areas of concern were:

  • bids not public after being received
  • bids from foreign countries
  • point system not fair
  • no whistleblower policy
  • material in-kind  donations

The speaker questioned how surplus items are being disposed.  There is no surplus equipment page on the City’s website. When an item gets deemed ‘useless’ what happens? [There is a good chance  it gets shuffled off and then given away].

A process needs to be in place where taxpayers can bid on old equipment. Will the City set up a Surplus Equipment page?

Council chatter:

Kipp: …problems with purchasing policy…contracts not looked at …the Corex contract was not evaluated on the same scale as all the other bids…A $8,000 a day sole source bid for Colliery Dam…disposal of bikes…the Roper investigation and Integrity contracts …Sole source contracts are a problem…I have concerns about the way things are done….will staff sit down with me? I have asked them to but nothing yet.

I have real concerns with our water audit. Sole source concerns that exclude people and companies…On Colliery Dams there were 3 split invoices…I don’t like what I saw…I will not support this purchasing policy as it stands…

Everyone is afraid to speak out or they will be treated like him [delegation]…I have been threatened…Everyone is afraid to bring up any errors …dragged thru the mud…I can’t move forward…

Fuller: …I am more confused than normal….some new some old policies?

Staff: …a total redo of the original policy… 22 procedures…new and different process…

Fuller: …How do we get feedback from people?…

Bestwick: …core services review…two consultants said that they would come back to us in 2018 with policy procedures…in May?…hear back from them?…

Staff: …a one time savings of $4 million if we change purchasing policy…

Bestwick: …we can change things after…a lot of vendors are not going to come forward …Where is the approved product list?…

[council takes 10 minute break in middle of motion]

Kipp: …Who is driving the bus?…

Bestwick:…when the open houses are held then we will get more information…

Mayor: …a social purchasing policy…where is it?… language in the bylaw that says that you can’t sell to the City for five years if you are in a lawsuit with the City…I would like to change that…

Staff: …coming soon is a social purchasing policy…

Mayor: …free trade agreements?….

Bestwick: …is this urgent?…

Staff: …we are trying to promote a local purchase policy…

Mayor: …I don’t see a social purchase policy?…

Hong: …room for change to these bylaws…

Nanaimo Jazz Festival

Nanaimo International Jazz Association said they started up two years ago. They are working on some shows for the Canada 150 celebration.

New Poets Laureate

Tina Bielo  and Kailey Defehr were chosen to be Poets Laureate. They will read their first poem at the February 6th council meeting. Mayor McKay mentioned one will serve a year and the other two years. The first poet laureate, Naomi Beth-Wakan, served three years and received $3,000.

VICC Contract

The current service agreement with Atlific Hotels is set to expire March 19, 2017. A new service provider for the VICC will be announced soon.

Recycling schedule

People are complaining that they can’t read their garbage and recycling calendars. If you want one a new one that you can read call 250-758-5222 or email the City’s Public Works department at Public.WorksInfo at nanaimo.ca and request one to be mailed out.

The recording of this council meeting was heavily chopped up; people are talking and lips aren’t moving.