Tag Archives: nanaimo

Nanaimo Events Centre Phase 3 and 4; Fire plan; AVICC

A Nanaimo council meeting is coming up this Monday night February 20, 2017. Hot topics of the night will be the Nanaimo Events Centre (NEC) and the Downtown Nanaimo Revitalization Fund. Other topics of interest include the Fire Plan and the land shuffle between the City and the School Board.

Nanaimo Events Centre Phase 3 and 4

Council will vote to approve $500,000 for Phase 3 & 4 of the NEC. This is to pay for the open houses and referendum process. The total spent on the NEC so far is approximately $1.25 million.

The City is in the process of selecting a Facility Operator. Meanwhile, four other companies have been hired for the following:

Legal – Weirfoulds LLP
Financial – Ernst and Young
Architect – BBB Architects
Manager – Colliers Projects

Many City staff are involved in planning the NEC such as the CAO, CFO, COO, CSO, and three Directors; this cost to taxpayers has not been included.

March 11 – $80 million dollar Voting Day

Yes or no? Do you want the City of Nanaimo to borrow $80 million to build an events centre at 1 Port Drive?

Advanced voting days are March 1st and 8th at VICC from 8am to 8pm. March 11th is the main voting day. Here are some of the arguments for and against building the NEC.

economic spinoff to restaurants, hotelsNo private funding
create jobs100% taxpayer funded
Poor use of waterfront
Lack of parking
$80 million not full price
No more Casino money for other groups
City debt will balloon to over $140 million
No money for other projects

What could be done with $80 million?  Here are some examples:

  1. a cheque for $1,650 to every household in Nanaimo (48,475)
  2. a train running from Victoria to Nanaimo
  3. free transit
  4. state of the art recycling centre
  5. more cycling/walking routes

There is so much more that could be done to help the poor in our community. One in five children in Nanaimo live in poverty.


The AVICC (Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities) 2017 Annual General meeting will be held in Campbell River April 7-9th . Some of the topics that Nanaimo Council will raise at the meeting are:

  • Airbnb
  • adult basic high school courses
  • recycling
  • animal traps
  • marina lease rates

Approximately $15 million is collected every year on recycled containers. Some of this money could be put to use in local communities to further recycling efforts for items such as plastic bags.

Downtown Revitalization Fund

People have until March 31, 2017 to put forward applications for funding  events to be held in Downtown Nanaimo. Before the City would give approximately $250,000 to the DNBIA every year but now any group can apply for funding for their event.

Fire Plan

Every fiscal quarter the Fire Chief used to give a report to Council on the fire stats but no more. Also, there have been no reports to Council from the RCMP. Why don’t they come to council with these reports? The fire and police budget account for a large portion of Nanaimo’s taxes and people should know what’s new,  especially since we are having an opioid crisis.

There are four fully staffed fire stations in the City. The last fire station built was in 2010 at Chase River. There was a fire station planned for Hammond Bay Road but that station was cut from the budget.

There is a goal of a 6 minute response time but this is not possible for areas such as Hammond Bay, Westwood, Jingle Pot and Duke Point. No new staff additions are planned.

Ice Hockey Propaganda

This Nanaimo ice hockey rink fiasco brings back memories of the U.S.S.R. The Red Army Hockey Team was a propaganda machine run by the Soviet military. Of course it was 100% government funded.

Why would far right politicos want a $80 million dollar building to play ice hockey in that is 100% taxpayer funded?  Have they gone mad or is this a Russian plot?

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:


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
$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

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


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.

Top 13 news stories for 2016 – Nanaimo Theme Song

This is the second year of Nanaimo Council’s four year term. What was the biggest news story in 2016? It wasn’t the Nanaimo Theme Song.  It would have to be the $90 million Events Centre proposed for a downtown location. There is a mad rush on by Council to “get it done”.

Before people will get to decide if they want the Events Centre or not, Council will have spent over $1 million on consultants and reports. All in an early effort to sell it to the public. The big question will come in 2017. Will Nanaimo taxpayers vote yes or no to paying for the Events Centre?

In the meantime Nanaimo taxpayers can have fun on an outdoor rink at Maffeo Park in February 2017.

2016 Nanaimo Council gets 3.35% pay raise

In 2016 Nanaimo Council voted themselves a pay raise. Each councillor will get a 3.35% increase to their base pay. Nanaimo Council also voted to increase their expense budget from $75,000 to $118,000.

In 2016 Council approved:

  • closing Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation (NEDCorp)
  • closing Nanaimo Tourism
  • moving COW meetings from VICC to SARC boardroom, no Shaw TV
  • forgiving $97,000 in unpaid dog permits fees
  • eliminating Environmental Sustainability Committee
  • hiring two senior managers, COO and CSO
  • building a new roundabout on Rutherford Road $2.3 million
  • installing parking meters in downtown Nanaimo

Top 13 Nanaimo Council news stories for 2016

  1. Privatization of City Jail? Brechin Hill ravine, illegal suites
  2. Nanaimo hoteliers raise red flags over VICC report
  3. Legal expenses soar at Nanaimo Council
  4. Nanaimo Core Services Review Report highlights
  5. Nanaimo City Council’s spending for the first six months
  6. $2.3 Million roundabout for Rutherford Road; and last stand of trees
  7. Property Tax increases planned for the next five years
  8. Colliery Dam over budget; an $8 million project?
  9. Departure Bay Heritage lots disappear
  10. Newcastle Brechin Neighbourhood Association concerns
  11. Environment and Grant Committees Axed
  12. Harbour Complaints; Bike Park; Bastion Street Bridge
  13. Rogers HomeTown Hockey; Downtown Merchants Complain

2017 Nanaimo Property Tax increase 2%

Property taxes are estimated to increase by more than 2% in 2017. Also, residential user rates will increase as follows:

  • 5% increase for sewer
  • 7.5% increase for water
  • 2% increase for garbage collection

Looking back, 2016 was a memorable year for Nanaimo Council which even made national news with their drama “debates”.  Will there a category for municipal dramas at next year’s Canadian Screen Awards?

So what will 2017 bring: a new Events Centre, an incinerator, a new Bastion Street Bridge?

Nanaimo Theme Song

Who remembers the Nanaimo Theme Song? It has been 30 years since “Harbour City Lights Nanaimo is the place for me” won the contest of song of the year. It was recorded in 1986. Note the vinyl record says “the fun starts when you stop in Nanaimo”.

Killing the COW; Nanaimo Tax increases; homeless youth

Nanaimo Council voted to hold future Committee of the Whole (COW) meetings at the SARC building rather than the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.  Why? To save some money and to avoid the public eye as much as they can. Who knows when they plan to shut down the videos. This is a step backwards for public engagement.

COW meetings will now take place in the Service and Resource Centre boardroom (SARC) located at 411 Dunsmuir Street.

Voting in favour of moving future COW meetings to the SARC boardroom were: Councillors Hong, Yoachim, Bestwick, Thorpe, Fuller, and Kipp.

Opposed to the move were: Councillors Brennan, Pratt and Mayor McKay.

Concerns from Council watcher

A regular council watcher gave a brief presentation regarding concerns with moving the COW meetings to SARC. Apart from the fact that VICC can accommodate 200 people compared to 25 in the SARC boardroom, other concerns with the new location include:

  • COW meetings will no longer be live streamed on Shaw TV
  • lack of adequate camera/recording equipment in SARC
  • difficult to hear councillors in the new room
  • poor sight lines in the new location

The delegation also questioned how much money is actually being saved by this move.

Council discussion

Fuller: …what about the other three cameras [for the boardroom]? …Are we doing that?

Staff: …we have not identified when they will be installed…

Fuller: …there is one camera now…we just have the backs of councillors shown…

Thorpe: …The structure of the COW meetings have changed from being a committee to actually dealing with Council issues. In fact they deal with all Council issues at COW meetings with the exception of bylaws …I’m not convinced that the savings is much…

Kipp: …half the time I don’t want to be recorded when my emotions get the best of me…the official record is the written record…the cost here [VICC] is expensive…we need to be informal…

Hong: …when we get presentations then we should just defer them to Council meetings so  they can get on TV…

Brennan: …I prefer this setting …it allows more people more to get involved…

Pratt: …We don’t use our COW meetings properly…will we get some changes to procedures?…not sure that we will…the public is going to become very frustrated…

Bestwick: ….I have been advocating that COW meetings be held in tighter locations for a long time…I prefer not to wear a suit and tie…the audio problems can be addressed …cost savings over the years could be $250,000…Parks and Rec is looking for a new venue to hold meetings…

Fuller:..We are subsidizing this place anyway. How much is actual savings? Should we remove the food portion and save $5,000? That would be a savings…to cut the food.

Staff: …this space could be used by someone else for rental…With regards to food…we can look at how we can streamline that…

Pratt: What are we spending to upgrade the SARC boardroom?

Staff: …$80,000 for the upgrades so far….$7,000 for another camera…for another angle

Bestwick: …public hearings could be heard at SARC…we are paying twice by meeting here [VICC]…

Yoachim: I agree with Councillor Bestwick. I support this move…looking forward to ’roundtable’ conversations….

Pratt: Are we paying twice by meeting here?

Staff: We rent this building…get invoiced by the operator…you could say you’re paying twice…but we own the building…

Kipp: At the RDN we never record anything and we never have for years or decades…we pay a huge percentage of their costs…I would like to see some analysis of both venues…

Thopre: … we might not need to record COW meetings in the future…I would love to see more informal meetings…

McKay: …I hate the boardroom at SARC —it’s very cool, very grey on grey…trying to hear councillors is impossible when the air conditioning kicks in…Public participation is growing…don’t support the move…

Kipp: …what about using the empty 3rd floor [in SARC] it cost us $14million to build and is horribly designed…

Fuller: …committee meetings could be recorded…

No homeless shelter for Nanaimo youth

Last week a brave young homeless youth spoke to council about concerns that over ten youths between the ages of 12 and 16 were living in the bush. They were being turned away from homeless shelters because of their age. The homeless shelters in Nanaimo are not permitted to take in youth because of regulations.

Council decided to strike up a committee to look at the youth homeless issue.

At the December 12th council meeting, Council agreed to commit a maximum of $75, 000 for additional staff and beds. Staff said it would take approximately two weeks to get something up and running for the homeless youth in Nanaimo.

Let’s hope no young people die on our streets this holiday season. It is extremely cold outside at night and there needs to be action taken immediately. These young people cannot wait two weeks for staff to get their act together.  Listening to this homeless crisis were three senior staff  who are collectively earning over half a million dollars. Let’s see some action for our money.

Question Period

Some good questions were raised:

Will Nanaimo take over ownership of the Island Highway that runs through town?

Why is the City hiring a new communication specialist? What is the purpose of this and the costs? Who is going to be hired, Mark McDonald? Is his role expanding?

Will police and fire services, which were excluded from the Core Services Review, be looked at next year?

The $200,000 for an affordable housing strategy – is that going to be another consultant job?

Staff was short on answers as the CAO was away. Maybe next meeting the person will try asking questions again.

More than 2% tax increase

Get ready to dig deeper into your wallet. Overall taxes are to increase more than 2% in 2017, when you include the increased user rates:

  •  5 % increase for sewer
  • 7.5% increase for water
  • 2% increase for garbage collection

These increased rates are effective January 2017. The average homeowner will have user rates of over $700.

Quote of the night

The Good Ol’ Days: In 1951 Nanaimo’s population was 8,000 and they held council meetings in a backroom of City Hall and there was no video recording. [Kinda like present day RDN meetings].

Future COW meetings at SARC

No More Nanaimo Council COW meetings at VICC?

Nanaimo council will vote Monday, December 12th to stop holding COW (Committee of the Whole) meetings at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. Instead, Council wants to hold COW meetings in a board room at City Hall.

The PROBLEM with this move is the boardroom at City Hall is too small – it only seats 25. By the time all the council and staff get seated there is very little room left for the public. In comparison, Vancouver Island Conference Centre (VICC) has a public gallery that seats 200.

New hot topics are first heard at COW meetings. These meetings can attract a large number of people.

If Council really wants to be helpful then why not change the start time of the COW meetings to 6:00 pm?  COW meetings start at 4:30pm. This is too early for most working folks.

Why move?

The two main reasons given as to why Council wants to move the COW meetings to a small board room are:

  • councillors would like a less formal place to meet
  • to save money

Council wants to sit around and have a ‘fireside chat’ about how to spend our tax dollars without the public being able to watch. Keep in mind those mind bending decisions are made long before councillors come to the council table. No one is fool enough to think that any COW meeting will generate novel new ideas.

How much money can be saved by moving COW meetings? The City has reported that $21,000 a year could be saved.

Council spends approximately $20,000 a year on catered meals for their meetings. Can they not pack a snack? Many would do well to go on a diet.

User Rates Increase 7.5%

This week Council approved a 7.5% increase in user rates for garbage, water and sewer. That will be about $480 extra a year in taxes for the average taxpayer. The rate hike does not include the cost of the new automated garbage trucks coming soon. Be ready, because more rate hikes will be coming again.

Council just voted to spend $325,000 for the Rogers Hometown Hockey Event. They are still looking for sponsors.

We are paying over $1.2 million a year for the VICC whether we use it or not.

If Council was really serious about saving money they should look at the millions spent every year on consultants.

Is this COW move really about saving money?

$118,000 expenses

Council has a total of $118,000 available to spend on expenses. This is up from $75,000 from previous years. Council needs to reduce their expenses by half; $50,000 maximum for the entire Council. It’s time to tighten their own belts.

According to the News Bulletin, Councillor Hong is leading the pack with $8,010 in expenses this year. Last year the Mayor was once the highest spender on Council, with $28,000.

Save $83 million

Just before Christmas when most of Nanaimo is drunk on eggnog, do you think Council will approve the Events Centre / Multiplex for $83 million?