Tag Archives: nanaimo

Wellcox Lands Soil Contamination and Taxes

At this Monday night’s Nanaimo council meeting there are some interesting topics on the agenda for the public to follow:

1) council meeting times—do they stay the same or change?
2) 2015 property taxes
3) Wellcox Lands soil contamination study
4) 614 Lambert Ave from 1 lot to 10 lots

Nanaimo residential property taxes over next 5 years

20152016201720182019
1%1.5%4.5%2.5%1.8%

The taxes for 2015 have been reduced from 1.8% to 1%.  The suggested 2015 budget  items to cut are:

  • remove budget for 3 additional RCMP members · $326,000
  • reduce management consultant budget · $91,510
  • reduce staff training budget · $76, 490
  • reduce firefighters clothing budget · $25,000
  • increase aquatic centre fees · $75,000
  • eliminate parks recreation and environmental master plan · $75,000
  • reduce Linley Valley improvement project · $50,000
  • eliminate fire training reserve · $25,000

The total proposed budget cuts amount to $744,000.

If the fire hall on Hammond Bay Road goes ahead in 2015 then staffing costs will increase to $1 million per year.

Welllcox Lands
A detailed site investigation has been completed of the Wellcox Lands site contamination. A full presentaton will be given by the City’s real estate manager at the next council meeting.

Wellcox Lands Nanaimo
$200K in soil contamination studies planned for 2015 at Wellcox Lands Nanaimo

In March 2013, the City of Nanaimo purchased 26.7 acres (10.8 ha) of land at 1 Port Drive.

The area was originally filled in by the Vancouver Coal Mining Company. The coal mine stopped operation in 1953.  The land was sold to CP Rail who then developed the Wellcox  Yard for transportation and distribution of goods.

Seaspan Corporation occupies 15.5 acres, Island Corridor Foundation and Southern Rail occupy 2.53 acres.  The City terminated the lease to Island Pallet Solutions and demolished the buildings over the 1 acre site. Now the City has a tenative lease with Island Ferries for 2.35 acres. Also, 3  acres are set aside for a transportation hub.

Soil contamination
In 2009, a study was done by SNC Lavalin on the entire Wellcox Lands regarding the contamination hot spots. A budget of $210,000 has been set aside to continue soil testing and sampling groundwater for 2015.

Harewood Neighbourhood plan will gets some changes with the new subdivision at 614 Lambert Avenue. One lot is to be subdivided into ten small lots.  Many speakers have come to council before to express their concerns over small lot developments in Nanaimo with no provision made for boulevards or green spaces.


Update February 17, 2015: what happened at Nanaimo Council on Monday night:
Council and Committee of the Whole meetings will continue to be held on Monday nights. There was no motion to move the meetings to Thursdays during the day. Agendas for meetings are to be ready earlier at 12pm on Tuesday.

Vote on taxes is delayed until the next COW meeting. Councillors Kipp, Hong, Yoachim and Bestwick voted against the 1% tax increase this year as they wanted to see further tax cuts. The motion to pass the 1% tax increase failed as it was a tie vote 4 against and 4 supporting.

Councillor Kipp next put forward a motion for a 2% tax cut. This motion failed with a tie vote, 4 against and 4 supporting.

The Nanaimo Chamber representative gave a presentation to council and requested that they not raise commercial taxes from now until 2020.

In the City’s presentation to council on the Wellcox Lands it was mentioned site remediation could cost between $10 and $30 million to clean up the site depending on what was discovered. Council approved $210,000 for continued soil contamination studies.

Councillor Bestwick asked and received confirmation that a First Nations midden was found when the Island Pallet building and foundation was removed. Councillor Yoachim, a member of Snuneymuxw First Nation, made no comment regarding the discovery of the archaeological site.

Canadian Culture Nanaimo and Reading Town

Nanaimo Council passed the budget to fund culture in the city. The culture budget included $231,826 for operating culture events and $30,330 for festivals. This works out to a total of $262,156 or $3 per person in taxes.

Arts, culture, and heritage organizations in Nanaimo contribute $93 million in direct economic benefits to the local community, creating 880 direct jobs and $7 million in tax revenues.

This begs the question: Why don’t we give more funding to culture if it is such an excellent economic driver in our community?

Currently, the City spends $21.5 million a year on policing services. This pays for the 140 member station. Why isn’t a few million set aside for culture? Why not get youth off the streets and into arts and culture?

At the January  council meeting Councillor Kipp raised a point that 5 groups share approximately $170,000 and 19 groups share $54,000. Two groups taking the lions’ share are the Symphony and TheatreOne.

The City’s budget has grown from $171 million to $200 million in recent years. The City funds Nananimo Economic Development Corporation (NEDCOR) at approximately $2 million a year. Imagine if the same amount of money went directly to arts and culture.

A presentation was made to Nanaimo Council in January by the Nanaimo African Heritage Society who had asked for $7,500 and received $1,100.  They received the lowest amount of any group.

If the federal government diverted some of the $680 million dollars it spends a year on advertising  to local arts and culture imagine what a strong Canadian culture there would be.

Canadian Content
Reading and writing is critical to keeping culture alive. Could Nanaimo become the next Reading Town Canada?

In 2012 a National Reading Campaign was sponsored by TD Canada. “Reading Town Canada” aims to develop a coordinated national strategy to promote reading books with Canadian content.  This year from May 3rd to 10th Charlottetown, PEI will be the 2015 Reading Town.

Canadian content regulations were first drafted back in the 1970s. Back then people were very concerned about the Americanization of our Canadian culture. Ultimately, Canadian content boils down to what is local. It take time, money and effort to nurture and grow the Canadian cultural experience.

Canada gets a new flag
$24,000 to design Canada’s Flag: “Sheer genius! Bar and Leaf!.. like Hammer and Sickle! Crown and Anchor! Ham and Eggs! His and Hers! … cartoon by Norris (1970)

Fifty years ago  Canada raised its ‘new’ maple leaf flag.

On Feb. 15, 1965 the Canadian Red Ensign was lowered and the new Canadian Maple Leaf flag was raised for the first time on Parliament Hill.

What cultural investment has the current federal government made especially in smaller centers?

Flags of the times

Canadians are overwhelmed with American sports and culture. It is a sign of the times when government offices and BC Ferries hoist the 12th Man flag.

Will the next flag hoisted be the Stars & Stripes with a small 51 on the bottom? Have Americans ever hoisted a flag for Canadian sports or culture?

BC Ferries 12man flag
12th man flag hoisted by BC Ferries Jan 30, 2015

Closed Doors and Colliery Dams

Two important motions will be on the agenda at the Nanaimo Council meeting Monday, February 2nd:

  • COW meetings
  • Colliery Dams

Councillor Fuller has long been a proponent of keeping Council meetings and COW meetings public and televised. Preserving Colliery Dams is another topic Fuller is passionate about. It is an unfortunate coincidence that both of these topics are taking place when he won’t be there. Let’s hope that the remaining councillors pick up the torch in honour of Councillor Fuller.

All meetings should be recorded and available for viewing on the City’s website. $200 million of your tax dollars is being spent every year by the City of Nanaimo. One would think that the Mayor and Council would want to protect themselves from accusations of wrongdoing.

Colliery Dams
The Dam Safety Section (DSS) has lowered the failure consequence classification for both the middle and lower Colliery Dams.

  • Middle Chase River Dam – high
  • Lower Chase River Dam – very high

The City has been asked by DSS to prepare a revised remediation plan by  February 27, 2015. Two remediation options for the Colliery Dams are:

  • building a labyrinth spillway (~ $8.1 million)
  • overtopping (~ $7.3 million)

It looks like the City favours the labyrinth spillway option which would cost approximately $8.1 million.

The spillway entrance is proposed to be located about 10 meters to the south of the existing spillway. This would be an open channel spillway of 10 meters wide and 6 meters deep with 10 meter sides.

Has anyone given the heritage status of the Colliery Dams any consideration in the process?

Currently, the City spends approximately $250,000 a year monitoring nine city dams which include the middle and lower Colliery Dams. Recently, a  report was completed on water distribution, capacity of the spillway, and drainage to Harewood Creek. The report can be seen on the City’s website.

The DSS is located on Labieux Road in Nanaimo. Are they functioning at arms length from projects in Nanaimo?

Does the Colliery Dam remediation reek of a multi-million dollar public works project to benefit the concrete and consultant kings of the world? To date, consultants’ fees for the Colliery Dams reports have cost Nanaimo taxpayers approximately $2.5 million.


******** Update: February 3, 2015******

At last night’s Nanaimo council meeting a motion was made by Councillor Pratt to have the COW meetings remain on Monday nights and have the agendas available earlier so everyone could better prepare for the meetings. This voted passed.  Three Councillors opposed: Hong, Kipp, and Bestwick.

City staff to work out the details on how advanced agendas can be achieved.

Discussion on the topic:

Hong: …who watches Shaw TV… my parents couldn’t get the election results…they are so slow…people can go to Nanaimo Info Blog the next day and find out what went on….

Bestwick: …why don’t we put a table in the middle…we need to get back to a committee style meeting [sit around and whisper in each other’s ear]….this is too formal…it’s like having two council meetings… it is not working….

Kipp:…what is the big deal people can watch it later…people probably flip channels…[after Kipp’s motion didn’t pass at question period]… I will bring this back in 6 months….

Two presentations by the public in support of televised and recorded COW meetings.

Long time council watcher made a flip flop during question period and questioned what was the big deal about having the meetings broadcast live on Shaw TV.

Colliery Dams Vote:
Seven speakers on the topic. Three speakers from the civilian technical team. All spoke of inadequate information such as spillway size and drainage.

Councillor Yoachim raised a motion for work on the dams not to proceed, consult with stakeholders and amend the schedule for the Dam Safety Section.

Yoachim’s motion passed with all in favour but one, Councillor Brennan opposed.

No more live streaming Nanaimo council meetings?

Councillor Kipp made a motion earlier this year to have council meetings moved from Monday to Thursday nights.  Now there is a problem. A BIG problem.

To review, the motion was:

  • Move Council meetings to the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month.
  • Move Committee of the Whole (COW) Meetings to the  2nd and 4th Thursday of each Month.

The problem is Shaw Cable CAN’T broadcast live on Thursdays because they have other programming obligations.

The proposed change is to have the COW meetings on Thursdays at 1pm.

Mr. Swabey, the City Manager has made the following recommendations, that COW meetings:

  •  be held in Board Room in the City Hall
  •  NOT be televised or recorded
  •  become “committee” meetings and no longer like “council” meetings

If this motion passes on Monday, January 19, 2015  it will be terrible for transparency and democracy in Nanaimo civic politics.

The committee of the whole meetings are very important for all Nanaimo residents to watch. They cover all new “hot” items.  This is where people can reach out to the community and city hall when they are having problems. Everything must first go through the COW meetings. Some topics never make it to council meetings.

To rely on the minutes of the meetings is not good because these are not recorded verbatim, have little detail and are not always available.

If the COW meetings are moved to Thursdays at 1pm then who will be able to attend?

Why would the City Manager want to shut out the public? What is the City trying to hide?

These changes could come into effect early/mid March. It all depends on how Council votes on Monday.

Take Action now! Send an email to Mayor and council mayor&council@nanaimo.ca and ask that they keep all meetings recorded and televised as they are now.

Video thumbnail for kendall nanaimo
Chek News coverage of Nanaimo City manager recommendation: no tv or recording of council meetings

 

12.8% tax increases for Nanaimo

On Monday, January 19th the new Nanaimo Council will receive the Draft 2015 – 2019 Financial Plan.

If this budget is adopted it will mean 3.9% increase in taxes for 2015.

The proposed five year financial plan will increase Nanaimo property taxes by 12.8%.  This amount will be more because it doesn’t include the taxes for water, sewer, garbage, RDN, schools and local hospital.

City of Nanaimo tax increases 2015-2019

20152016201720182019
1.8%3%4.7%2.1%1.2%

In 2015 Nanaimo residents will pay 14.5% more for the following core services:

  • Water rates 7.5%
  • Sewer 5%
  • Garbage 2%

What is causing the tax increases? Staffing is the largest cost including wage and benefit increases for:

  • City of Nanaimo
  • Vancouver Island Regional Library
  • RCMP (3 additional members)
  • Fire Station staff (4 additonal staff in 2016)
  • (The City of Nanaimo eliminated 3 management positions savings $359,000) *price of settlements not included

Other reasons for tax increases are because of asset management, debt repayment and inflation.

For a single family home assessed at $350,000 that would mean an increase of $60.84 in taxes. This increase doesn’t include schools, hospital and RDN.

Also, don’t forget the other rate hikes for 2015 such as:

  • BC Ferries 3.9%
  • BC Hydro 6%
  • ICBC 5%
  • MSP 4%
  • CPP 1.8%
  • EI 1.2%

That would bring the total tax increases to approximately 50% for 2015.

Top 10 posts for 2014

This year has been very eventful. Local elections saw many new people elected to councils and school boards in Nanaimo and other mid island communities. The good news of 2014: part of Linley Valley West was set aside as a park after many years of hard work by local residents.

Here are the top 10 posts for 2014.

Looks like 2015 will be another eventful year. Will the…

  • bridge to Gabriola get approved and funded?
  • garbage incinerator be built at Duke Point?
  • Morden Mine get dug up again for coal?
  • Nanaimo have two new hotels downtown both over 25 storeys?
  • two-hour-free street parking in downtown Nanaimo be a memory from the past?

Everyone will have to wait and see what happens.