What Milk is the COW giving on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013
Ron Bolin: Feb. 2, 2013
The purpose of these notes to the agenda of a Council or COW meeting is to provide a shortcut to the matters of general interest which I believe to impact on the community as a whole, without going to the level of asking for whom the bell tolls. Those who wish to read the entire agenda and attached reports can go to:
And I hope many will find the time to do so. In the meantime:
Major items which can splash upon us all include:
Item # 8(a): Delegations Pertaining to the 2013-2017 Financial Plan. Council now has an extra $18 million more to talk about than they had last week before they passed three readings of the 2013-2017 Plan. These approvals silently updated the 2013 Plan that was included in the 2012-2016 Plan which limited the 2013 budget to $157.5 million. After last Monday’s approvals it has become $175.5 million, the figure shown in the 2013-2017 budget. Want to know the sources of the balloon? Ask your favourite City Councillor? I certainly have not been made aware of any discussion of the basis for this increase which, as I understand it, even after a 1% per year property tax increase for “Asset Management” , i.e. paying to keep what we already have in repair, runs an average of some $8.3 million dollars short each year for the next 20 years. The figure rises considerably if we look at the lifetime costs of our existing assets.
It is time to give Council and Staff some help in finding ways to cut back on our so obviously flagrant City spending so as not to entirely impoverish our children and grandchildren, not to mention ourselves if we last a few years longer. We need to carefully monitor the costs of growth. Does anyone believe that we are still living in a world where things are continually getting better and better (at least in a material sense)?
The following Comments on the Budget/Plan were put forward:
- Several Council decisions of late have generated sufficient public interest to warrant reconsideration. I would suggest that this is, at least in part, due to insufficient time for due consideration of items coming before Council as the Agenda only precedes the meeting by 2 business days. Both Staff and Council time could be saved if it were required that all agenda items which are not immediate emergencies had to come out in an agenda at least one week in advance of the meeting, thus giving time for sober consideration by Council, the media and citizens. There are no costs to implement this suggestion.
- All recommendations for capital expenditures should include the “life” costs of the capital acquisition in the Staff report. For example, the Diana Krall public toilet would have included the capital cost of the biffy landed in Nanaimo, the cost of installation and the cost of maintenance and repair, not only for the first year, but for the life of the facility. This would follow the process needed to maintain our Asset Management program. There are no costs to implement this suggestion.
- All recommendations for capital expenditures should include some evidence of the effectiveness of the expenditure. After repeated requests I received information that the evidence for the success of the Diana Krall public toilet consisted of a comparison of the number of tickets issued for public urination before and after the installation of a port-a-potty, which showed a 20% reduction in those tickets. I don’t believe that this is sufficient to sustain an expenditure of $300,000 ($100,000 to purchase and install plus $10,000 per year for an estimated 20 year life.) There are no costs to implement this suggestion.
- When performing surveys requesting the public’s opinion about what new or improved services or facilities they would like, all such suggestions should also include the estimated costs of those improvements. The days of the “free candy” approach to City initiatives should be over. There are no costs to implement this suggestion.
There were no questions or comments from Council.
Item #9(b) 2013 Arts, Culture and Festival Events Grants: the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission recommends $27,573 dollars be distributed among some 21 groups, plus Passed
Item #9(c): 2013 Culture Operating Grants: the PRCC recommends $205,303 dollars in grants be distributed among some 22 groups.
Item 9(d): Cultural Plan Update and Emerging Cultural Issues: Chief among the issues raised here are the matters of the cost of:
- Expansion I consolidation of the Nanaimo Art Gallery into a Class A Gallery and potential impact on the Centre for the Arts Nanaimo, Nanaimo Centre Stage – 25 Victoria Road. (Centre Stage estimate: $160,000/year times 5 years, i.e. $800,000)
- Port Theatre Studio Theatre addition. (estimate $10 million)
- Continued requests for increases to the Cultural Operating Grants and Events Grants. (no estimates) Received
Item 9(e): Beban Park Artificial Turf Field Amenities: To recommend Some $135,000 in improvements to the Beban Park Artificial Turf Field Amenities to come from a sum of $150,400 obtained from a developer as part of the value created by the rezoning of 5220 Metral Drive.
Clarification was sought regarding the targeting of funds obtained by this means and it was presented as fitting the requirements of the Community Charter. It was suggested that this might become more widespread. For my part, I would be interested to see what happened to any such money which came to the City from Cable Bay, for example. This is one to remember.
Item 9(f): Advice to Council of a Public tender call greater than $250,000: This tender will replace 1950’s vintage cast iron water and asbestos cement sanitary sewers along Beach Drive, Galiano Place, Ocean Terrace, Thetis Place and Cortez Place. These water and sewer mains are at the end of their service lives.
“The Beach Drive Water project is identified in the 2012-2016 Financial Plan; the other streets were part of the Unspecified Water and Sanitary Project budgets. All the projects included in this tender are listed in the 2013-2017 Financial Plan currently under Council’s review for a total budget of $797,000.” Passed
Here is where the Asset Management program comes into play. The identities, locations and estimated lifetimes of all the City’s assets which will require maintenance, repair or replacement are contained in the Asset Management Report which points out an average unfunded amount each year for the next 20 years of $8.3 million. That a lot for a municipality our size, in case you have become numbed by the talk of billions or trillions at the provincial, national or international levels. We can however, take some comfort in knowing that we are far from being the worst off in this area. Our biggest shortfalls lie after 2033.
Item 10: Correspondence (not related to a Report to Council): These include a Letter from the Port Theatre Society regarding a proposed addition to the Port Theatre (see 9(d)-2) and a letter from the Province regarding the Assessment appeal – BC Ferries Inc. Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal Properties (wait and see). The correspondence was received.
Item 11: Notice of Motion: Councillor Bestwick will be proposing the following motions regarding in-camera meetings:
That Council direct Staff to prepare a report with options that enables Council to release in camera minutes that are no longer sensitive or confidential. Passed
That Council direct Staff to prepare a report on the release of in camera minutes for 2010, 2011 and 2012 for consideration by Council. Passed
I will be interested to hear any comments against these motions which are long overdue. The Staff reports should be out next month.
Item 12: Other Business: No other Business was reported, but last minute items have a way of showing up. Councillor Bestwick’s notices of motions (or notice of motions?) was moved, to item 12 and will presumably show up in the Minutes at this location. I believe this is a procedural matter.
Item 13. Delegations (not related to a Report to Council: The chamber will speak to the matter of “mobile business licenses. Three delegations will speak to the matter of the Nanaimo Centre Stage and, presumably, its place in the budget and the Financial Plan.
The Chamber presented a request that the City consider the implementation of a “mobile business license which, along with agreements with surrounding communities, would provide for continuation of Nanaimo Business Licenses, but would open up a mobile business license for those who do business over a broader area of the island which would not require them to obtain a different license for every community or rda. Seems like a winning idea to me.
The three delegations which spoke to the issues surrounding the Centre Stage represented, as might be expected from the ranks of our talented arts and theatre folks, moving support for retaining the Centre Stage Theatre despite the high costs which have been presented as necessary for the continued occupation of the building. There was some debate about the amount of money actually required for safety purposes and is to be followed up in meeting(s) between the Theatre people and the City people involved. This has been proven to be a useful strategy in the case of the Colliery Dam situation and one suspects that it will also be useful here. This form of direct contact between major interest groups and City Staff rather than through the medium of the City’s Committees or Commissions may prove more effective in handling the larger such problems which our community faces.
Item 14: Question Period: The floor is open for Questions regarding any items that were on the Agenda. This includes any questions dealing with the Budget or the Financial Plan until the final acceptance of the 2013-2017 Plan in May. Like the entire meeting, questions arising from the public may be seen at: http://www.nanaimo.ca/meetings/VideoPlayer/Index/COW130204V
In Summary, the theme of the meeting was the expenditure of public money on arts and culture, and this naturally led into a comparison of these expenditures with those spent on competitive or recreational sports in both their capital and the operating aspects. I am not aware of any document which gives a clear overview of these aspects, but perhaps more discussion will be forthcoming during the upcoming budget presentations from City Departments.
It was useful to learn that the amount of money available for grants to arts and culture groups and events is currently set at $2.25 per capita. I am not aware of a comparable figure for sports/recreation groups or grants.
The motions dealing with in-camera matters sailed by with minimal discussion, and that which did take place concerned the years which were selected. It was decided that Staff would approach the problem first from the standpoint of 2012 and then assess for Council the effort involved in going back in time.