Nanaimo Mega Projects; cutting out local suppliers

Monday’s Nanaimo council meeting saw a packed house. The main focus of the meeting was a wishlist of mega projects and the Beban Park development.

Mega Projects and Public Consultation

A very brief presentation was made by the Communications Manager referring to one slide which had a list of major projects that Council identified as priorities to move forward:

  • sports and entertainment complex
  •  redevelopment of Beban Park
  •  connected waterfront walkway
  •  Georgia Avenue pedestrian bridge
  • south downtown waterfront development
  • property acquisition and affordable housing

There was no mention of the E&N trail project which the City has already spent approximately $50,000 in studies.

All the Councillors took turns heaping praise on staff and the CAO for their work on the strategic plan.

Councillor Brennan then opened a can of worms suggesting there should be more public consultation for these mega projects.

Brennan: I won’t support just having one town hall meeting, there are things on the list that people have not thought about much…all the information has to be available to all, some of the discussions are in small groups. I think having one very long meeting is not the best. Good community development involves getting proper feedback. We haven’t done that, we have yet to have community consultation on the core review. We have a lot that we haven’t talked to the community about, the community has to have their say…this is a tremendous amount of money. There are questions to be asked, I think arranging one town hall is not the way to go…

The CAO replied to Brennan that a volume of engagement has already happened.

Hong: …if it is a $100 million project we are not necessarily going to do it… we’ll tell staff go look at it…How much is a sport and entertainment centre going to cost?…I don’t know…and how can we do it…it’s a vision…forward it to the people…we are at the stage of picking projects…we are not going to build all this stuff…

Kipp commented that as an example, with Colliery Dams they had lots of public engagement and petitions and no one was listened to, so basically why bother wasting more time.

Bestwick: …we have had lots of time to get here…do it right, do it once, do it fast.

Hong: …let’s just do one – get her done.

Thorpe: …I want to see this move forward quickly – let’s get this going!

Yoachim: …I get hair on my back when someone says that we are not consulting people…everyone is working…if we need more town halls we will…

All voted in favour of one public town hall meeting except Brennan.

Beban Park development and art space

A presentation was made by VIEX (Vancouver Island Exhibition). They talked about their history in Nanaimo since 1894 with some interesting photos. They would like to have upgrades to the buildings and want to find new partners.

Island Roots Market Coop presentation to council proposed a permanent location at Beban Park near the VIEX buildings for their year round food market.

Another speaker spoke about the lack of affordable exhibition space for artists to display their works. They  suggested that Woodlands Secondary (closing June 30, 2016) be made a cultural centre, similar to the art centre in Qualicum Beach where they made use of an old school.

Killing a local supplier

The most painful part of the evening was watching a local water works supplier detail the slow death of his business since 2010. His troubles began when the City of Nanaimo decided to shut him out.

As soon as the supplier began his speech, the Mayor stepped out and was gone for the entire presentation.  One by the other councillors drifted in and out of the meeting.

Councillor Pratt, as acting Mayor, told the obviously distressed man he had one minute left. Councillor Bestwick commented that the speaker could have more time. At this point Pratt called for a show of hands. The legislation staff told Pratt this was not proper procedure, at which point Pratt laughed and said, “majority rules.”

Despite the distractions, the speaker carried on. He commented the waterworks industry was not invited to meetings and outlined how the City is switching back and forth from bronze to stainless steel; making no sense.

He stated that the City water audit shows that 9.83% of water is leaking and that 50% of commercial water users are under-reporting their water use. The City knows it is losing money.

With emotion he left council with parting words: “I have spent 6 years to get approval…6 years of my life…it is not a fair process…I feel I have been discriminated against…..Damn you all.”

Councillors’ comments:
Kipp:  …I am well aware of his problems…it started with back flow and the Oak Tree Manor…I sent out questions in 2015 and still don’t have answers…Do we have a back flow program started in Nanaimo?

Staff: we have started it..

Kipp: …it has taken 8 yrs…why would staff go to the USA and not local? It is not consistent..inconsistent purchasing process…using Wikipedia for info? …cross contamination….disappointed…changes to product approval process changes every day. I want us to have a standard…stainless steel then bronze?…Council needs to set policy…and we haven’t acted on this…

Yaochim: …I am not an expert …FOI’s are ridiculous…Tracy [CAO] is doing a great job…we have treated people wrong…how we treat people is not good enough…first year was hell…culture is changing…

Fuller: …culture of the past is hopefully changing…I am happy, I ran five times…triple deleting…I know how to triple delete…if you get an FOI …it is useless…people need to be respected.

Bestwick: …it takes a lot to come to council to speak openly about what is happening…we need more people like him…

Question Period

A question was asked of Mayor McKay why he and several Councillors walked out on the supplier’s presentation. McKay replied that they don’t take a set break so they come and go from the meeting as it suits them. The questioner suggested that they should establish set breaks for COW meetings so everyone is in their seats when there are presentations.

There was a question regarding the Colliery Dam audit and McKay argued the question was invalid as it didn’t pertain to an agenda item, to which the questioner (a seasoned council watcher) replied, “is this not a Committee of the Whole meeting?”

Quote of the night:
Fuller: “This is a great council.”