The City of Nanaimo held the first meeting of the Finance and Audit committee this month which was chaired by Councillor Bestwick.
The 2017 budget was presented and a 2.4% property tax increase is estimated.
The four main reasons for the tax increase are to pay for:
Fire Hall Upgrades $964,125
Welcox Lands $372,150
Public Relations position $77,145
Do we need to expand the Communications Department? There are already three people, why another position?
How many new senior management positions has the City of Nanaimo created in recent years?
CFO – Chief Financial Officer
COO – Chief Operations Officer
CSO – Chief Sustainability Officer
FOI and Records Supervisor
Director of Community Development
Director of Communications
Why does the city need all these new positions? Why not flatten the pyramid?
In the meantime the City has axed the Culture and Heritage department which was formed in 2013.
So far this year the City has spent over $1.5 million on consultants. Maybe some studies could be done in-house. If we cut out some of the spending on consultants could we then afford to keep our pool open and activity centre repaired?
The City of Nanaimo plans on spending $65,000 on a study to build a multiplex somewhere in Nanaimo. Why doesn’t the private sector pay for this study? Why the taxpayers?
A staff report from 2013 found almost all city-funded multiplex venues required annual operating subsidies.
The Abbotsford Centre recorded a deficit of $1.24-million in 2015. Langley’s mayor told the Vancouver Sun in May that their township continues to fund the Langley Events Centre to the tune of $1-2 million annually.
Construction costs keep rising. The 5,000-seat Prospera Centre in Chilliwack was built for $22-million in 2004. The Langley venue came with a $56-million price tag in 2009.
B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Jordan Bateman, who was a member of Langley council when they built their centre, says none of the different multiplex venues around the province make money.
So we know from other communities that we would be looking at a price tag of a minimum of $60 million for a multiplex.
Could we learn something from the conference centre which is costing taxpayers $2.5 million a year?
Councillor Bestwick was quoted in Nanaimo News Now as saying in the last five years he feels the city has “really come around” to the concept of spending money.
If you have a minute, please send an email to council and let them know what you think of the projected property tax increase.
The contract with Atlific, the company that manages the VICC, will not be renewed in April 2017. The City of Nanaimo will be looking for someone to operate the conference centre as well as provide tourism services.
Will that mean the end of Tourism Nanaimo? Do we need Nedcor anymore? Can’t the people in the City communication office do some tourism marketing?
There will be a Nanaimo council meeting on Monday, October 17th at 7pm. Council will be discussing the Tree Removal Bylaw and the Core Review Plan.
Nanaimo Tree Removal Bylaw
The Tree Removal Bylaw addresses the removal of trees on private property not under development. A tree removal permit is required for the removal of more than four trees and for any protected trees. The fine for not having a tree removal permit is a maximum of $10,000 per tree.
At last Monday’s Nanaimo council meeting councillors voted to get public feedback on non-park uses for the Nanaimo Lakes Road property next to Colliery Dam Park. The meeting was chaired by Councillor Fuller as Mayor McKay was absent along with councillors Thorpe and Pratt who were possibly attending the UBCM event in Victoria. A detailed report was presented by staff and some discussion followed. Here are some of the highlights from the evening:
The grey area shown on the map below is 97 hectares (240 acres) that became property of the City of Nanaimo in 2004 when the Greater Nanaimo Water District disbanded.
In 2010, Nanaimo council approved a 14 million liter water reservoir in the west corner of Colliery dam Park adjacent to Nanaimo Lakes Road and the Nanaimo Parkway.
At the same time Council approved consideration of the area as parkland to compensate for the loss of parkland in Colliery Dam Park.
There are some existing buildings on the site such as Parks Operations, an animal shelter, pump station and a non-functioning fish hatchery. Since 2011 a few groups have expressed interest in using the land.
In May 2016, the Search and Rescue asked if they could build a facility on the site near the Park Operations building.
In January 2014 a study was completed on the biophysical inventory and this included red and blue listed species such as the Townsend’s big-eared bat, Northern pygmy-owl, Northern red-legged frog, and the Northern alligator lizard.
In April 2014 there was an archaeological study completed and the report included rock art, culturally modified trees, mining activity, lithic scatter and/or cache pits.
Dam reservoir Number One which currently holds over 30,000 cubic meters of water is in need of a flood study. The dam could be decommissioned and re-aligned with the Chase River.
The fish hatchery was closed in 2013 because there was no fresh water available. This hatchery was run by VIU as part of their aquaculture program.
Bestwick: …we do a lot of consulting [getting impatient]….
Brennan: …I share Bestwick’s concerns – where does Search and Rescue want to go? Inside the compound?…What about consulting with the public?…
CAO: …we can consult with the public now…
Brennan: Could that be next week?…What about the finished report?
Yoachim: This is exciting times…I have some concerns…about the reservoir…it is a provincial issue…and the dams…
Kipp: …I have concerns about the dams…and the river…water…down-stream flooding [remember?]…provincial dams…safety…SFN are they involved?…the Search and Rescue looked at the site in 2006…then there was the flood issue…We need to find them a good home [a better home]…
Hong: …don’t promise too much…dam safety branch…it’s up in the air…I have concerns…we have lots of stuff more important…What about other projects…we have several projects that we need SFN approval on…Are we bumping projects?…There is a process here…What about Newcastle Island and Maffeo Sutton Park…Where are we putting our resources…Let’s stay on track people!….
Bestwick: …Let us identify non park uses…new buildings…we have other options…I don’t want to be sitting here next September and talking about Search and Rescue…If we can’t find them a home now then let’s find another place…
Brennan: …We made a motion subject to SFN plan…let’s get our events right…give it a priority …Search and Rescue needs to be pushed forward…
CAO: In the spring we did a projects priority…There will be consequences to changing the land use to the surrounding area…
Fuller: I made a motion…share the building with the City …they are not talking about building a major building…that’s what I heard…they don’t want a facility for themselves…We are running out of time! …Their donors want the design in 2016…GIVE me a phone and I will call SFN and ask them…we are making this difficult…We promised to do something…
CAO: …What was the motion??
Fuller:…there was a motion at the August 8th meeting …by me…work with Search and Rescue…
Bestwick: …point of order…get back to business…
After the dust settled on what the original motion was everyone was back on the same page.
In the end, everyone on council voted in favour of spending $12,000 on a public consultation. It is possible a public hearing on Nanaimo Lakes Road land use could happen in October.
At Monday’s council meeting Nanaimo hoteliers contested the data in the VICC hotel feasibility study prepared by CBRE Hotels. The City of Nanaimo is using CBRE, an international hotel brokerage company, to sell 100 Gordon Street, the proposed site of a future conference centre hotel for VICC (Vancouver Island Conference Centre).
VICC is costing taxpayers approximately $2.5 million every year. It costs $1.5 million to run it and over $1 million to service its debt.
Should there be a conference centre hotel?
Most of the CBRE presentation was by telephone with accompanying slides. The presenter started off with a bit of background information about VICC including the fact that it is privately managed yet publicly owned. VICC is considered a tier 3 conference centre as compared to the Vancouver conference center which is a tier 1.
Here is a collection of points made by CBRE:
Most comparable Tier 3 conference centres in Canada cost taxpayers around $800,000 per year. VICC costs over $1 million per year.
It is going to take more than an adjacent hotel to realize the potential of VICC – CBRE Hotels
“We need to fill the sales manager position at the conference centre which has been vacant for some time.”
“There is no planning or connection between Nanaimo tourism and the VICC…To realize any potential that has to be addressed…”
According to VICC figures, in 2015 there were 21 conventions and 2 trade shows held over 53 days.
Revenue generated in 2015 was $1.9 million with costs of $1.2 million to operate VICC.
“If these convention centres were money makers then the private sector would be building them…they are like loss leaders… the upside is it brings people to the city…they spend on average $141 per person…”
Currently there are three proposed hotels for Nanaimo:
Insight Holdings Waterfront Hotel at 28 Front Street – 32 storey 303 rooms
Howard Johnson Hotels Multiplex at 1 Terminal Avenue – 6 storey hotel 160 rooms
VICC Hotel at 200 Gordon Street – 150 rooms
The VICC is hoping to have a conference hotel built by 2019.
Nanaimo Hoteliers protest numbers
Following the CBRE presentation, three hotel operators/owners lined up to speak. One of their major concerns was why can’t the VICC release its numbers so they can be checked out. According to industry practice, when there is a conference, the VICC is supposed to put out an RFP to all interested hotels so they can put out a proposal.
…In 2015 we had 5 bids!…Most other hotels didn’t have any…We need to know the real numbers…We just can’t have this as a guessing game…No one has sat down and said we are going to lose a convention if we can’t get the rooms…You’re telling people our current hotels aren’t good enough yet you’re using our hotel stays in your report. It’s a bit of a slap! …How much of your business is local? How much did VICC take away from us? …I have the numbers if you want…You guys [want to undercut prices from other local hotels]
“I have been in the hotel business for 25 years…if these numbers of 14,000 hotel nights are right [I’ll eat my shirt]
Your convention centre is supposed to sell guest rooms NOT to take away business from local hoteliers. You’re not going to make money but…help the local enconomy…we have local hotels competing with the convention centre for meetings with 150 people and less…local meetings are not your business…
Delegate days are conferences that are multi-day events; not local one day meetings.
Feb 2016: there were 7 city functions, 24 local functions. You counted those local functions as delegate days in your calculations [in order to prop up revenue numbers so they were greater than 2 million]
Please don’t make us have a fifth meeting on this…we want to work with you and VICC…Please don’t embarrass us by saying we don’t have enough good hotel rooms when most of your business is NOT conventions.. I can’t wait for the first person to ask me, ‘are those numbers accurate?’ [me: I don’t think so.]
We have not received one RFP from the conference centre in years…and to tell business that conferences have been lost because of lack of available hotel rooms [is bullshit]. Our rooms are sitting empty; where are those delegates needing the rooms? Get us the truth behind these numbers.
…Show us some respect…We have made several attempts to make our concerns and this is our last attempt.
Councillor Pratt: …your hotel is a long way from here [VICC]
hotelier #3: 12 minutes
Pratt: Delegates are looking for something close to the conference centre…If there were more hotels on the level of the Coast Bastion then that would be better…
hotelier #2: …When was the last time you Councillors went to visit local hotels? They’ve done renovations [Buccaneer Inn, Best Western North Nanaimo, Inn on Long Lake…] Worried about transportation? Use your imagination…we have solutions..
hotelier #3: We haven’t had one RFP from VICC in years…several years ago we did a shuttle service to our hotel and it worked…
Pratt: I totally agree with you, if the numbers are wrong we shouldn’t be using this report…
Councillor Thorpe: …you don’t want another hotel?
hotelier #1: …We didn’t say that…we just want someone to look at the numbers. We don’t trust the numbers…
Thorpe: You don’t see a need for the conference centre hotel?
hotelier #1: …not based on those inflated numbers
Councillor Kipp: …What we spend is real…These projections are based on erroneous figures…a VICC hotel couldn’t make it. What are the barriers to collaboration between VICC, tourism and the hoteliers? I was under the impression we had spent $900,000 promoting the VICC…
Councillor Fuller: We’ve never reached more than 5% capacity for the VICC, that’s it.
Pratt: …if the 14,000 overnight stays aren’t accurate then…We need to find why the report is saying something grossly different.
hotelier #2: …more businesses are closing [so how can the delegate spends be accurate?]
hotelier #1: If the VICC shared their numbers with us… we could build a database…
Pratt: …there should be a motion – refer this study back to staff and see whether we should actively pursue a hotel for the VICC…
Fuller: …you have two groups saying two different things…we need a stronger motion…
CAO: …we’ll tell the CBRE consultant to simplify the report so the layperson can understand…
Thorpe: I’m a fan of a new hotel…get the report revised…
Councillor Hong: I could poke holes through this report all day long… We’re stuck with this place (VICC)…we’re losing money on it…break this report up… A projection of 1.7 million profit? This is nuts. Give them the facts not the fluff. I want to see something on 100 Gordon Street…if I’m going to build a $30 million hotel, I’m not going to listen to the crap in this report…
Fuller: …have this report revised to clarify data sources, with discussion from the Nanaimo Hotel Association and the CBRE consultant…
Kipp: …we spent $100,000 a month trying to market the Millennium Project and the people who were going to build a hotel there…we gave out condo sites and air space…I want verification with the industry. Nobody wants to work together… send the report back…I’m tiring of reports like this…
Mayor McKay: …This was a report to present to purchasers of 100 Gordon Street… I want to make sure we won’t be liable for misinformation. I can’t support Fuller’s motion… maybe all the delegates stayed at the Living Forest (campground)…
Fuller: makes another attempt at motion…scribble scribble
Councillor Brennan: [like I said before] clarify and verify!! [this report]…
Councillor Fuller withdrew his motion and Councillor Brennan made up a new one which basically meant to send it back to CBRE to get some verification on where they got their numbers. The motion was passed unanimously. (Councillors Yoachim and Bestwick were absent from the meeting).
Mayor McKay’s joke about the convention delegates staying at the Living Forest Campground raises a relevant point.
If there were in fact 12,000 overnight stays which weren’t in any of Nanaimo’s hotel rooms, then did they stay at Airbnbs? Or did the VICC submit those numbers just to entice a potential hotel builder?
Who would consider putting a hotel right next to a two mile hole which is the Number One mine shaft? Why is the City of Nanaimo not concerned about liability over this site?
At the Monday Council meeting this week there was some discussion during the E-town hall about staff wages, the plan to cut the number of prisoner guard positions, and the proposal to close Beban Pool for 3 months.
It is a big step forward for the City of Nanaimo to share the expense reports for the executive staff. Below is the City of Nanaimo Executive Staff expenses from January to June 30, 2016.
Parks & Rec
The expenses for the Director of Parks and Recreation are impressively low. Could other executives try harder to tighten their belts?
At the council meeting it was mentioned that money could be saved by eliminating banking sick days. According to the News Bulletin former Nanaimo CAO Al Kenning was still on the City’s payroll in 2015 with $155,521 paid out for banked sick and vacation time.
There will be a council meeting at 7pm on Monday, September 12th. Here are some of the topics on the agenda:
The public will have an opportunity to comment on the Core Review. What do you think? Any ideas for the conference centre? Any suggestions on the proposed Beban Park pool closure? 479 people have signed a petition and submitted it to City Hall asking that Beban Pool not to be closed for 3 months in 2017. You can give your thoughts by calling 250-754-4521 on Monday evening.
The grants committee has recommended six groups be given tax exemptions (Boys and Girls club; Recycling Exchange; Bethlehem Centre; NRGH Auxiliary; Disability Centre) and three refused (Enchanted Woodland Society; Community Futures; Malaspina Theatre).
244 Selby Street
A 26-unit multi-family rental building with requests to reduce parking from 13 to 9 spaces and reduce front and side setbacks.
1847 Dufferin Crescent
Add 5 units to the second storey and request a reduction in parking spaces from 52 to 48.
4535 Uplands Drive
A two storey commercial building with 8 units on the second floor with reduced parking from 40 to 35 and only one loading space instead of two.
982 Douglas Avenue
One lot will be divided into eight small lots.
615 – 699 Harewood Road
Single family residential to an 11-unit row housing.
Councillor Kipp will put forward a motion to have town hall sessions regularly.
Financial Numbers at Nanaimo City Hall
Revenues for City of Nanaimo for 2016:
Property taxes: $96,793,560
Parcel taxes: $234,042
Fees & Charges: $38,290,552
Other sources $32,885,806
Expenses for City of Nanaimo for 2016:
Interest payments: $2,575,375
Goodbye to Nanaimo blogger
Jim Taylor announced this week he is hanging up his hat and will no longer be reporting on local council news. His blog, Nanaimo Info Blog, will be up for a while for any of those who would like reference material. Who will pick up where Jim has left off? Ron Bolin seems to have retired from Nanaimo City Hall blog. There is another blogger who has started up in town, Dominic Jones, at News Nanaimo. Maybe Dominic is Jim’s replacement? Politics is a dangerous business. Especially so in a government town and when the City has a budget of $200 million.