Some thoughts on Monday’s FPCOW meeting – Part 1

Two issues were seriously debated at the Finance Policy Committee of the Whole (FPCOW) meeting on Monday, April 19, 2010.  This committee is made up of all Council members and, I believe I am correct is saying that they can perform virtually all of the actions available to Council except passing bylaws.  It is therefore a very significant committee even though it is relatively unknown. It is held in the old City Hall boardroom on off-Council Mondays at 4:30pm.  Agendas and minutes for this, as for all officially constituted city committees can be found at: http://www.nanaimo.ca/search-committee-agenda/nanaimo-committee-search.asp . (I must again, as always, take my hat off to the city and its staff in maintaining a very good web site for citizens.  It may not be perfect, but it is much better than most municipal sites.)

Two issues were debated at some length and both were finally set aside for further examination.  The first of these was the following item and recommendation:

“Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission – Beban Park Facilities Redevelopment Plan

Commission’s Recommendation: That Council approve the Beban Park Facilities Redevelopment Plan to guide future improvement to the facilities and that timing and funding of the improvements be included in the yearly capital plan review for consideration.”

The debate surrounded the approval of a plan which would not only guide the future improvements of the Beban Park Facilities but would embed the timing and the funding of the expenditure which amounts to approximately $20 million, in the annual capital plan for consideration.  There were two major elements to the discussion.  First was the nature of the commitment which would be made if the recommendation passed, and second whether the expenditure of such an amount took into account the total recreational needs of the city over the foreseeable future and was deemed to be the highest and best use of such funds.

The first question appears less important as Council can always change its mind, but there is still significance to making such a statement as it confirms a mindset which may lead to alternatives being overlooked.

And it was this last point which led to the most discussion.  There are some $4 million dollars worth of needed renovation currently being implemented at the Beban Park facilities.  A recently completed study of possibilities for further upgrading brought forward recommendations which vary between $16 million and $19.4  million.  Some Councillors felt that this additional expenditure needed further examination with regard to what other opportunities might exist for such a significant sum of money.  Councillor Bestwick made a cogent argument that some of this money might contribute to the development of a Multiplex, a complex still recognized on the city’s web site, though it appears never to have received more than passing consideration.  In the end a motion was accepted to modify the wording from approve to receive and the debate will, no doubt, continue.  In my mind, the most important point revolved around the city’s all too frequent focus on single projects without an adequate overall plan.  Nanaimo has not had a dedicated long range planner for some time and our approach to planning seems all to ad hoc from my point of view.  What do you think?

Ron Bolin

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