Tag Archives: nanaimo

Love or harassment at council; Big red flags; Fire Station; Angry neighbours

Monday’s COW (Committee of the Whole) meeting was held at the City Hall. It appears that one councillor enjoys the new smaller meeting room. So was it love or harassment at Council?

It was extremely difficult to understand what anyone was saying; the audio was so garbled it was like listening to an old wax recording (see video below). For a city that can easily find a way to borrow $80 million plus on an Event Centre why on earth can they not get proper audio visual equipment at City Hall? Port Alberni is a good example of what should be done – speakers can be seen and heard clearly.

On Monday night there were two delegations— one spoke on the Events Centre and the other on the fire plan.

Big red flags on Nanaimo Events Centre

Here is some of what the speaker had to say:

Big red flags on the technical report regarding the Nanaimo Events Centre.

  • Soil mitigation concerns
  • Depth of bedrock on the site is about 17 meters or about 55 feet
  • Coal mine under the project
  • Sink hole possible in this area
  • Further testing of the site would be needed to be done to determine risks of collapse of mine shafts
  • Concentrations of coal gas (methane) would leak into the building above and be carcinogenic to people working in the building
  • Would have to drill to depth of 20 meters
  • Groundwater can seep in on this site

This Events Centre can’t be built for the price you got. The cost of concrete, soil removal, etc. would be about $68 million, so about $105 to $120 million would be the total price of the project.

Over half the councillors had their eyes glued to their ipads rather than paying attention to the delegation.

Hammond Bay Fire Station

Another speaker addressed the lack of a fire station at Hammond Bay:

Residents outside a fire response zone have to pay the same amount of taxes as those who are within one. Those living in the Stephen Point area are still waiting for a fire station. The City said it didn’t have the money. Now the City claims a Hammond Bay Fire Station is not a priority yet the CFO has found $5.4 million a year that can be accessed that will not increase property taxes to pay for the Events Centre. Why then, can we not build the fire hall? It would cost $2.4 million and could be built in the area of Morningside. This could bring the area up to the required fire service levels. When council is looking to do something after March 11th, they can look at building a new fire hall.

The 3 year fire service plan was approved for $100,000 and no new resources were requested.

Vote:
All in favour. Councillor Brenan was absent from the meeting.

Question Period:

  • What kind of foundation would the Event Centre be built on?
  •  When are we going to ask for financial aid for first responders?
  • Could we be borrowing $190 million for the Events Centre?

The speakers at question period could be heard but not seen.

March 6th Council meeting topics

The next council meeting is on Monday, March 6th at the VICC. Two topics of interest are a new store at North Town Centre and an residential infill project.

Retail store at North Town Centre

There are plans to put a 1 storey retail store at the northeast corner parking lot of the Nanaimo North Town Centre near the Oliver Road and Uplands Drive intersection.

North Town Centre – X marks new retail store

There are no traffic lights on Uplands Drive so that people can to turn left into the mall. There are pedestrian flashing lights but will this be enough in the future?

Many people complain that there are near misses near the Tim Hortons drive thru.

The North Town Centre is largely empty so why would the City permit a new retail store in the parking lot? Why doesn’t the City mix commercial with residential on this site? This would make more sense.

The X should be the site of a condo, not another store. A transit hub could be restored and people could walk to the shops.

Residential infill – angry neighbours

The owners of 5800 Sunset Road are requesting to subdivide their lot into 3 lots. They are also asking for reduced setback from the street.

Many people are seeing their mature neighbourhoods ghettoized by high density infill. Why are we not demanding high density infill on commercial zones instead of neighbourhoods?

Trees equal wealth.

Residents consistently rank treed boulevards and treed lots as one of the most valuable characteristics of mature neighbourhoods. In Nanaimo, there will be no more beautiful treed mature neighbourhoods only clearcuts.

Love or harassment

Was it love or harassment? During the COW meeting at City Hall, Councillor Fuller who was looking trim in snug denim pants and cotton t-shirt, moved his chair almost next to the CAO at the head of the table. At one point he stretched his bare arm under the CAO’s nose for her to smell his cologne(?) Maybe Councillor Fuller was impaired or in love as he seemed to be smiling and laughing at several intervals. Councillor Bestwick occasionally looked over with a frown and Councillor Kipp averted looking in that direction.

It is interesting to note that all the councillors took the same seating arrangement as in the Council chambers except Councillor Fuller who moved from his usual spot between Thorpe and Kipp.

At the beginning of this meeting, Councillor Yoachim complained about the attentions of a female resident who had accosted him at an Events Centre Open House. Mayor McKay nodded sympathetically. The COO commented that he would not stand for any harassment at the City; clearly the message was lost on Councillor Fuller.

Next week, Council will vote on the changes to the RDN regional growth bylaw. What is it? Will there be a full OCP review? Stay tuned.

Below is a behind-the-scenes look at the audio equipment at City Hall.

Wrestling with Nanaimo Events Centre numbers; SD68 Land swap; Old City Quarter festival money woes

This week’s Monday night Council meeting was like watching the 60s wrestler Édouard Carpentier do a back flip off the ropes (see video below).

The hot topic of the night was the NEC (Nanaimo Events Centre). There was a presentation by City staff and then the vote to spend an additional $500,000 on the NEC.

Also of interest was the land swamp between the City of Nanaimo and SD68 and Nanaimo census, and the Old City Quarter festival troubles. Two new poets laureate were introduced which started the meeting off on a pleasant note.

Councillors Pratt and Brennan were absent from the meeting.

Nanaimo Stats

City staff gave a report based on the Stats Canada 2016 census. Nanaimo has seen an 8% growth in population which translates into an increase of over 6,000 people.  In comparison, Kingston, Subdury and Thunder Bay had zero growth.

Who is moving to Nanaimo? People from China and those squeezed out of the Lower Mainland?  Yet the local Real Estate flyer is getting skinnier every week.  Something is happening.

Residential growth led the way in many areas of the City especially in the Hammond Bay area.

332 new single homes were built in 2016 and 56% of the new homes had secondary suites.
There were 22 development variance permits approved out of 25 in total. In 2016 $123,450 was collected as cash in lieu of parks. Less park space was created.

Questions from Council:

Hong: how many street lamps are LED?…people complaining about bright street lamps…

Thorpe:…the land set aside for new parks is down significantly and the money collected is up ….

SD68 and City of Nanaimo Land swap

The City of Nanaimo is going to purchase the Rotary Bowl and Serauxmen Stadium for $4.1 million and build an artificial turf field for $2.4 million. Construction of the new turf field (area in blue) will start in June and finish in September 2017.

City of Nanaimo to purchase Rotary Bowl and Serauxmen Stadium for $4.1 million

There are long term plans for the redevelopment of the Rotary Bowl and Serauxmen Stadium by the City of Nanaimo. What are the new plans?

The public can attend an open house on Thursday March 9th at the Nanaimo Ice Centre 4:30pm to 8:30pm.

Questions from Council:

Thorpe: …we need another artificial turf …have you sat down with groups affected… when will this happen?…good partners?…

McKay:…$2.4 million to build this new turf field… How long will this last? …less than 10 years?

City Promo for Nanaimo Events Centre (NEC)

A presentation on the benefits of the NEC was made by:

CFO (Chief Financial Officer)
CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer)
COO (Chief Operations Officer)

It appears that the CSO has the main job of promoting the NEC. It is unclear what role the COO plays— maybe to sign off on necessary paper work or possibly a handy ‘fall’ person for the CAO. The CFO is the number wizard.

Most of the information was a recap of previous reports. Here is quick overview of what they had to say about the NEC:

  • 3 acre site at 1 Port Drive
  • 5200-5700 sports seats
  • $69 million to construct building
  • $11 million for site preparation
  • 20 year debt repayment of $5.4 million per year
  • annual operating costs $180,000

Money to support the NEC would come from:

  • hotel tax increase
  • strategic infrastructure reserve (gaming revenue and gas tax grant)
  • general revenue (taxes?)
  • community works funds
  • payments in lieu of taxes
  • Nanaimo Port Authority ($400,000)

The CFO and CAO seemed to hold back saying taxes wouldn’t go up. They qualified their answers by saying it depends if a WHL team signs on. The COO said no services will be affected by the increased debt.

However, the many complaints about pot holes and lack of snow plows could be a good barometer of things to come.

Two Public Delegations on the NEC report:

Speaker 1)
This project is being fast tracked. I sent 3 emails and 13 questions and didn’t receive a reply. Where is the executive summary for these reports? How can you say this [NEC project] will have no impact on taxes? What are the full risks? Where is the WHL? Why have all the reports not been released yet?

Speaker 2)
The Phase two reports are in draft and contain the same information as the December reports. The report is cut and pasted and full of errors. For example, the parking and traffic data is inconsistent. The numbers from the report don’t match those in the tables. The reports make broad statements. This is rushed. When will the business case report be ready? Still not ready? We haven’t seen the Ernst & Young report. You say here in the council chambers that taxes won’t go up but at the open houses you say the taxes COULD go up. What is it? This is a fail. The NEC will affect Nanaimo for years to come.

Council questions on report:

Fuller:…pretty pictures…two towers…one at port mall and a hotel at Gordon street…

Hong:…future taxes?…

Bestwick: …2026 debt retires?

McKay: …towers? [not built yet]…we are losing tax revenue on a 3 acre site…

Another $500,000 for Events Centre

There was a request from the City for another $500,000 for the NEC. The amount was changed and the motion passed.

In favour: Councillors Fuller, Hong, Yoachim, Bestwick, Kipp
Opposed: Councillor Thorpe & Mayor McKay
Absent: Councillors Pratt and Brennan

Why does the City needed more money before the March 11th referendum vote on the NEC?

There were 5 delegations; here is some of what they had to say:

Idle Garbage Trucks

Speaker 1)
I waited 30 minutes to get into the open house at Oliver Woods after parking a good distance away and finally gave up and went home.  You have forgotten the purpose of a local government. I curse the City every time I go through the Northfield and Island Highway intersection. Why is it not fixed? Most committees don’t meet. The City bought two automated garbage trucks for $1 million and they are sitting idle in a parking lot. This NEC has divided the City.

Speaker 2)
There has been no third party review of this project. Many academic studies show events centres don’t bring the promised results. U of T and UBC academics both say it is a poor choice for economic stimulation. Many better projects could be done.

Speaker 3)
Another $500,000 what for? Where is the WHL? How much is this going to cost in total? What is it going to look like? How is Ernst & Young an independent party when they do the report and they can also bid on the project? The same for the architect— they do the report and can also bid on the project? How is that not biased?

Speaker 4)
How can you approve this $500,000? Where is it to be spent and why?

Street Parking

Speaker 5)
The consultants’ report suggest that 100 VIP parking spots and on-street parking is enough to accommodate 1,500 guests. That means that 85% of the parking will come from street parking in the local neighbourhood. You need 1 parking stall for every 5 seats. So the NEC would need 1,460 parking spaces. Will there be a parkade on the waterfront?

Council questions:

Hong: $500,000…is a hard pill to swallow when I don’t know the breakdown of costs…What do you need now before the 11th, what do you need after? …

CFO: …we need $130,000 for the referendum…$75,000 for the project manager…need $32,000 for lawyers…$16,000 for Ernst & Young reports…We could wait to pay the architect…

Hong: I thought we approved $130,000 for the referendum?

CFO: Yes, you did.

Hong: $67,000 left over?

CFO: Ernst & Young worked with us on the third party review on Phases 1 and 3 and 4 …We stuck with Ernst & Young all the way because they know the project…

Bestwick: Do we need a new motion?

CFO: I need a motion requesting up to March 11th a total of $291,000 … $130,000 for the referendum and $160,000 for the project manager and $210,000 for the architect…

McKay:…so…$427,000 on first phase plus $130,000 equals $657,000 plus another $292,000… so a total of $949,000?

Thorpe: …I cannot support the motion…I supported Phases 1 and 2 because it got us to the referendum…I thought the funding was included in Phase 2 but I guess I was mistaken…We have spent over $400,000 and I have heard from a lot of people that we have spent too much and now we are looking to spend another $500,000?! …I am not interested in spending more money now until we have a vote on March 11th…

Fuller: … I support the motion…

Hong:….did we do this for VICC back then?

Geotechnical Studies

CAO: …No geotechnical study was done for the VICC…so the cost was $50 million with $20 million in cost overruns…40% higher cost than they thought it would be…They had major geo tech issues with the VICC…there was no geo tech study done for the Howard Johnston site…

Kipp: …we have some written things from SFN (Snuneymuxw First Nation) and some good negotiations…water treatment plant cost overruns…private companies don’t  build swimming pools and …conference centres because they don’t make money…it’s a little big for people…parking can go anywhere…I got 285 emails…don’t hate each other…

Bestwick: …People complain…can’t get island ferry done…can’t get hotel done…CAN get this done…

Downtown Events and Funds

There is a fund available to any groups which would like to hold events in downtown Nanaimo. There is approximately $120,000 available. Groups can apply for 30% of the total. Applications are available online at the City’s website until March 31st.

One delegation from the Old City Quarter came to council to ask for money to hold three festivals which were previously sponsored by the DNBIA. The Multi-Cultural Festival coming up soon has no money to operate as the DNBIA is now basically finished.

Council Questions:

Hong: …how much money was collected [by the DNBIA from Old City Quarter]?

Speaker: $40,000

Hong: has the money been allocated?

Speaker: Some items are missing…back in 1993 there was no way for people to find us…we put signage down at the wharf…[Recently] we received calls from the Nanaimo Port Authority of unpaid bills…planters in the area are empty and ugly…we need control back to get changes and action now…this DNBIA model is not working….

Fuller: …planters? …

Speaker:…something has to be done…festivals are being cancelled…we have the resources but we don’t have control of the money…

Thorpe: …your request is to change the bylaw which looks after funding?…Do you plan to apply for event funding?…

Kipp: …we spend less than $60,000 on community plans…

Speaker: …when we looked after things we only spent 12% of the budget on administration…We did a lot…co-op advertising…info boards…parking…

Kipp: (frowns) We are the only city in Canada to give money directly to a business association…

Hong: Is this a motion?

There was no motion. There was no vote called. Strange?

Question Period

Lots of questions from the gallery. The meeting almost went to midnight. Here are some of the questions:

  • Is the City aware that the WHL has a history of broken agreements?
  •  How many of you Council members are going to the last Clippers game?
  • What happened with the VICC? The City had a $30 million referendum question yet they borrowed $50 million for the VICC.  Will this happen for the NEC?
  • What about the SFN?
  • Do you need permission from the SFN? What if they say no? Will you say no?
  • Is it moral to put a huge Events Centre on top of an old village site?
  • Was it made up that the Disney on Ice could come to Nanaimo? They don’t play to an audience of less than 9,000.
  • Why are things like “Disney on Ice” just made up? Did you get their permission?
  • How are we going to collect taxes on the hotel on Gordon Street when they get 10 years tax free?

Conflict of Interest

It is unclear what advice councillors have been given, but if, for example Councillor Hong has business interests downtown, should he participating in these downtown funding topics? Also, if Councillor Yoachim is a SFN member should he be voting on the Events Centre if the City is in talks with the SFN? As well, if Councillor Bestwick is a professional hockey scout could he be in conflict of interest when voting on the NEC?

Some legs might be caught in the limelight.

An old school wrestling match featuring the acrobatic Édouard Carpentier and Jim Eskew which took place in the late 60s.

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.

YESNO
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.

AVICC

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:

Delegations:

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
Adult
$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”.