Decisions of the Prince George city council
Created by pgfreepress on Dec 7, 2011
Last updated: 10/21/13 at 09:57 AM
Tags: Prince George city council Mayor Shari Green
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DeLynda Pilon firstname.lastname@example.org Mayor Shari Green took the opportunity to congratulate Canada Winter Games CEO Stuart Ballantyne for being awarded the Queen Elizabeth ll Diamond Jubilee medal by the Canada Games Council when he visited council Monday evening to present the Games business plan highlights, which were extrapolated from a 34 page document available on-line. "Last January we started the process with the Canada Games Council," Ballantyne said. There were 41 separate plans to put together with 180 standards to deliver. Functional planning started in November. At the end of 2011 the games' vision was developed, then the mission. Core values include accountability, collaborative, inclusiveness, integrity, respect, transparency - and fun. "It takes a lot of volunteers to do this. It needs to be fun," he said. Among the seven pillars of the games, the report includes 'excellent community and regional engagement'. "We see this as northern B.C.'s games," Ballantyne said. "It will be 26 years before they come back to B.C." The games will likely go to Manitoba after B.C., then Alberta. "It's unique and something we need to treasure," Ballantyne said. The games include 13 provinces and territories, 2,400 athletes plus 950 team staff and coaches, more than 100,000 athlete alumni, 800 communities with athletes coming from across Canada, 4,500 volunteer hosts, 1,500 major and minor officials, more than 300 medical personnel, 1,000 VIP and sponsor reps, 180 media people and more than 5,000 family member and friends. The foundation documentation has all been signed. "It's all been completed and signed, and has been for a number of months," he said. Though athletes are coming in on charter flights, arrival and departure days are still likely to set the stage for some of the busiest days the airport has seen. Arrival day is Feb. 12, opening ceremonies are the 13th and turn-over day is Feb. 21. Closing ceremonies are March 1 with departures happening shortly thereafter. Partnerships, from funding parties to cultural groups are very important, Ballantyne said. "These are highly important to the games," he said. He added, for the first time, there will be a First Nations official games host. The Lheidli T'enneh's flag flies on the Canada Games building following a ceremony celebrating their partnership last month. Funding sources include the government, the province and the city. Corporate and private sector funding will include legacy funds, beginning at $750,000. Ticket revenue, licensed merchandise sales and asset sales after the games will add to what is earned along with other funding sources. The games includes 19 competitions plus special Olympics figure skating and paralympic sports competitions in para alpine skiing, para nordic skiing and wheelchair basketball. The games will also showcase performers, entertainers and artisans and tie in with other local celebrations. "We see the games as one of the many events happening that year," Ballantyne said. "We will be a busy busy city." He said it will be about writing a northern story on a national stage, giving the country the chance to share in the culture and spirit of the area. Social media, besides mainstream media, will help with that. All of the work will mean a large volunteer workforce with a minimum wage of 15. and a minimum 36 hours volunteer time. The volunteer force will require a volunteer centre, a meal and snack program during shifts, transportation and transit, a uniform package and about 4,500 bodies. Volunteer recruitment will be one of the challenges facing the games.
Written notice to start collective bargaining has been served to CUPE Locals 399 and 1048, a requirement under the Labour Relations Code. The parties collective agreement expired on Dec. 31. A statement in a press release says: “The City continues to face financial challenges as it works to balance the needs of our residents for services while maintaining modest tax increases. The significant challenge is meeting service level expectations; maintaining, repairing and replacing some of our aging assets; and, avoiding significant tax levy increases. As a result of these factors, we anticipate that collective bargaining could be challenging unless there is recognition of the complex and competing needs facing the City. “The City expects that with cooperation, creativity and an understanding of the competing demands, a collective agreement can be concluded which meets the needs of all of our taxpayers, including our employees.” Janet Bigelow, Local 399 president, said the press release disappointed and surprised her. First, she said, the city doesn’t know what its employees want since they haven’t yet sat down across the table from one another. She pointed out the release indicates there is no money, yet, for the first time the city has hired a labour lawyer to speak on its behalf. “They say there’s no money and the city is struggling, but in the past the city didn’t bring in a hired gun,” she said. “They found money for this.” She added the release, and hiring the spokesperson, sets a negative tone for negotiations. “That’s not what we want. It’s about being positive and working toward a reasonable and fair contract,” she said.
The mayor’s office has little to say about Coun. Brian Skakun’s notice of motion seeking detailed financial information on a handful expenditures. “The notice of motion provided will be received on Monday evening and Prince George city council will discuss the issue at our January 21 meeting,” said Mayor Shari Green in a statement issued through her executive assistant Beverley Smith. Acting city manager Kathleen Soltis said the statement of financial information, where Skakun found the expenditures he is querying, is readily available on the city’s website. However, details about those expenditures are not. “The information is not directly available, but what you can find is information concerning vendors the city has used where the vendor was paid more than $25,000 in the year,” she said. “There is a 22-page report by myself, signed off by the mayor and I. Starting on page 15 it has individual suppliers. The report gives the gross amount paid to the vendors over the year. “The information he’s asking for is what makes up each amount.” Though Soltis could direct any of the public to this report, available on-line, she reiterated the breakdown of what makes up each amount is not readily available. In his notice of motion, Skakun is asking: • Why Prince George has authorized the expenditures of $29,960.00 to Cressman Sakamoto Agency; • $32,979.40 to Picketts Consulting; • $33,341.00 to GAKJRW Inc. and disclose who the principals of the company are; • $43,883.90 to Anthem Kimco Shopping Center; • $631,980.31 to L&M Engineering; • $88,988.58 to BWP Consulting; • $85,322.33 to Number 188 Holdings and disclose who the principals of the company are. • That administration provide information to individual city councillors if requested by them to clarify why the city has spent funds from businesses listed in the annual City of Prince George Financial Information Statement of Individual Suppliers.
DeLynda Pilon email@example.com "In a province as rich as British Columbia there shouldn't be children and families living in poverty." Coun. Murry Krause repeated the statement made by Betty Beckering, a trustee with School District 57, after a presentation about child poverty was shared by Matt Pearce and Tina Cousins with the Prince George District Teachers Association (PGDTA) at Monday's council meeting. The presentation calls on the municipality to set up a plan to reduce child poverty. Beckering, Krause said, is part of the poverty reduction planning committee, a group made up of representatives from about 20 organizations. It has three priorities, safe and affordable housing, transportation and collaboration between service agencies. The committee works with 14 families in the city to get direct input on the issues they face. Co-ordinator, Wendy Flanagan, is a community poverty strategy consultant for the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and is the local consultant in the city. She is part of a poverty reduction pilot project, set up by the provincial government, which began in April, when seven cities, including Prince George, were chosen to take part. Mayor Shari Green is also concerned about the issue. She said she has been working with Chris Bone, who has been integral in setting up many of the social programs in the city, on the issue, and added their ideas, which may include a youth initiative or committee, will be before council in the near future. Many of the councillors were staggered by the facts presented by Pearce and Cousins. Pearce said about 1,800 children in the city live in poverty. To put the number in perspective he asked Green to remember the population of PGSS, the school they both attended in the 80's. "Their potential is enormous. It's a terrible waste," he said. Statistically, children in poverty don't do as well in school as their counterparts. As adults, they earn less, have a shorter life expectancy and experience more health issues. They are more likely to be involved in criminal activity. "They were born into these conditions," Pearce pointed out. Cousins talked about some of the things teachers do to help alleviate the hungry and under-clothed children they see on a daily basis. One of the sub-local schools in the city serves a daily breakfast and a monthly hot lunch and hot breakfast. In some classrooms teachers keep a basket of food on-hand, ready to provide it to children who either come without a lunch or have one made of sub-standard food, using, for example, mouldy bread. One larger elementary school collects coats and snow pants for needy children. Another smaller one collects mitts and toques. Donations are made by schools and the teachers association to St. Vincent de Paul. "We do it all the time, not just at Christmas," she said. "In the division these collective acts of charity just aren't enough. We see these children in our schools who come to school hungry, tires and worse." She added she learned it costs $876 to provide one month of nutritious food for a family of four. To buy milk, bread, five apples and 10 lbs. of potatoes costs just over $16. It is no surprise then, she said, that many families don't have enough money for food. "Day after day it's not getting any better," she said. Cousins said she attended the chilli blanket event, held annually on the court house steps each year. Free chilli and hot chocolate are given away along with warm winter clothing and blankets. "I saw several of my students there," she said. Coun. Dave Wilbur said the issue is one close to his heart, particularly because his wife is a retired teacher. "They give on a daily basis to the children and the school," he said. "But there's not enough in the envelope." He added he is keen to see what comes out of the hopper with so many focusing on the issue. Since there is no federal nor provincial poverty reduction strategy, he said one thing the municipal government can do act as a strong advocator. The municipal government might not have the resources to be the whole solution, he said, but it can provide a strong voice in favour of reducing poverty. "We have been challenged with downloading and off-loading from senior levels of government. They need to ante up as well," Coun. Brian Skakun said. "I support this though I don't know where it will go." "It is almost incomprehensible to hear this," Coun. Albert Koehler said. "What is the Minister of Education saying? Is he trying to fix this?" He added society has changed considerably through the decades, and the make-up of the family is much different with a lot more single parents. "Single parents are trying to make a living and the children are a sacrifice. I support doing something," he said. Coun. Lyn Hall, former School District #57 board president, said though he was aware of the issue, 1,800 was a staggering number. He thanked Pearce and Cousins for sharing the numbers as well as what is going on in schools, adding he is also in support of doing something.
Coun. Brian Skakun wants some answers. More specifically, he wants city administration to explain, publicly, a handful of expenditures totaling almost $1 million. In a notice of motion that will come before city council Monday, Skakun says he has for this information from city administration, but without any luck. “I have asked the city administration to clarify the reasons why we have spent city funds with a number of businesses,” he says in the notice of motion. “The response for my information request was that this extensive amount of work requested is not work required by city council and that I should prepare a notice of motion and bring it to council for support if I feel this is information the team needs for decision making. I do not feel that it is fair that as an elected official I need to provide a notice of motion at a city council meeting any time I want this type of information. I am also asking council to streamline the process so any councillor can access this type of information that in part has already been made public.” Specifically, Skakun is asking: • Why Prince George has authorized the expenditures of $29,960.00 to Cressman Sakamoto Agency; • $32,979.40 to Picketts Consulting; • $33,341.00 to GAKJRW Inc. and disclose who the principals of the company are; • $43,883.90 to Anthem Kimco Shopping Center; • $631,980.31 to L&M Engineering; • $88,988.58 to BWP Consulting; • $85,322.33 to Number 188 Holdings and disclose who the principals of the company are. • That administration provide information to individual city councillors if requested by them to clarify why the city has spent funds from businesses listed in the annual City of Prince George Financial Information Statement of Individual Supplyers “The reason I am asking for this information is to be able to respond to questions I have received from individuals in the community regarding how and why we spend our tax dollars with a number of businesses,” Skakun said. “I also feel that as an elected official I should be able to access this type of information upon request to help fulfill my oversight obligations I have to the residents of Prince George. “
DeLynda Pilon firstname.lastname@example.org During 2013 city council and the mayor will be busy with several issues and projects, working to decrease the tax levy, and finding a way to sustain road rehabilitation. “Budget time is coming again, so we are conscious of what costs look like,” Mayor Shari Green said. Green added there should be increased revenue in the budget for roads. “We will fund some increases for roads, which we did not do last year, she said. Last year, instead, money from one fund was used to plump the road rehabilitation fund, allowing the city to complete extra road rehab projects, a need expressed nearly universally by voters. However, council was clear that the money was a ‘one-off’ and not sustainable. A more long-term plan will be put in place. Council, Green added, is better educated on the roads and what it takes to fund the necessary infrastructure. “Council is in a better state, being informed in respect as what we should do as to roads,” she said. Another factor intrinsic to 2013 is that the union contract is up, and negotiations will set the new terms. “In 2013 we will be doing work around the contract being up with union employees,” Green said. The core service review outcomes will be more keenly felt in 2013 as well, Green said. “We will see the beginnings of decisions and impacts on choices we’ve made during the core review,” Green said. Developing and selling the land that is now home to the Pine Valley Golf course is one of the options within the core review, and an idea that has raised some controversy. “When it comes to Pine Valley, I get responses for and against the idea,” she said. “The public had tremendous input during the core review. Now it’s in the hands of council.” She added currently there is a third party operator under contract running Pine Valley, something to be taken into consideration when the final decision is made. However, the mayor believes the time for the golf course has passed. “I think the time has come. The golfing industry has changed since Pine Valley was in its heyday and thrived. Now there is not enough people golfing in the facility to support it as we have in the past.” Though selling the course will not impact the tax levy for next year, eroding away at an estimated seven per cent tax increase is another job council will take on in the new year. “Seven per cent was what was on the books in a very initial draft from staff. If all things being equal and we did nothing different, there would be over seven per cent in tax levy increase needed to pay the bills. That is not on with anyone in the community or anyone at the council table.” Staff, she said, has to make some adjustments. Plus the core service review has helped in this respect already, with an increase in development services fees - bringing the city on-line to what similar municipalities are charging, and putting what’s likely to be about $300,000 more in the city’s coffers. Green said during the core services review, it was discovered that development services was not charging enough in fees and services around building permits. The department had not had a critical look taken at its charges in several years, one of the jobs of local government, she said. “We weren’t charging enough in some of our fees and charges. There will be a significant increase, equalling $300,000 a year in new revenue. It had not been looked at in over nine years.” She said the new bylaw will take effect on Jan. 1. She added the core services review has been a good experience for the city as a whole. “It’s a 100 per cent a positive experience for this community to go through this process. We’re viewing our assets and services. It’s a normal practice in good governance. I think everyone appreciates we need to make sure we’re getting the best value for the tax dollars we collect,” she said, adding the core service review was one of her election platforms. “This is what I ran on. This is what they sent me to do. I’ve said all along it would not be easy. If it was easy it would be done by now. I appreciate there are a few people out there who don’t like change, or who don’t agree with process. There was six months of public input, and I’ve read every e-mail, and this is exactly where i thought we would be at this stage of the game.” It will take some time for the community understand the impact of the core services review. “From my perspective some of the things will have an immediate impact. At end of day, this community and staff needed to go through this process so we come out of the other side with a better understanding of where tax dollars are going. “I am very pleased with the work council has done this first year. We’ve been pretty aggressive, there’s no denying that, but we had a strong mandate and have delivered swiftly the changes we needed to make.” The message for everyone, she said, is clear. “Prince George is open for business and ready to grow, and we are positioning ourselves well as a community.” Green expects a lot of excitement in the city in 2013, with Wood Innovation and Design Centre promised, however the province re-jigging the bidding process, another hotel announced for a few blocks from city hall and the new RCMP building nearing completion. Though working through the core review is next on the list, other things need to happen as well, Green said. It’s time council took on crime reduction strategies. Though there has been a great improvement in statistics, she said it’s something that must always be top of the mind. She said working with Supt. Eric Stubbs at the local detachment and discussing best practices from other communities is on the agenda. “There is a lot of positive energy in the community. We are at right place at right time in this economy,” Green said.
DeLynda Pilon email@example.com At the end of November Coun. Garth Frizzell, through his work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, had the opportunity to share his expertise at a international council held in Dakar, as well as take in some sessions at the Africities Summit, which happens once every three years. “At the end of November I was contacted by the FCM and asked if I could go to Dakar in two days to the World Council of Municipalities,” Frizzell said. He learned the chair of international relations was unable to make the conference. As the vice-chair Frizzell was invited to go. In addition to his official position, his background in economic development put him in a unique position to deliver a paper on policy advocacy to the assembly. At the same time the international council coincided with Africities Summit. “So on the one hand about 500 local government representatives from around the world met for the council, while councillors from Africa, who meet every three years, were there for the Africities Summit. I gave a presentation for the world council, but took in some of the summit as well,” Frizzell said. The two gatherings couldn’t have been more different, he said. “It was two worlds that we were watching,” Frizzell said. “At the world council it’s very formal, very diplomatic, very similar to the types of debates you see in the provincial government, the federal government or the United Nations. At the Africities people were very passionately talking about things that are affecting their lives. From a Prince George point-of-view, what they talked about seems remote and foreign to us like kids being taken away and put into the military, or Al Qaeda’s influence directly impacting villages. These things seem remote and off the page of an international paper, but these people are actually living these things. We get to see how the issues we face are different, but the goals we try to achieve are similar, like stability, having systems in place like roads, security, safety. These things allow us to do our work, feed our families and make sure our kids get an education.” A statement made by a man from Cameroon particularly stuck with Frizzell, that kids should be learning to use pens, not military guns. The paper Frizzell delivered was about policy advocacy, and not directly related with his city hall duties. Through his work with the FCM, on a related committee, members look at how municipalities from around world can better serve their citizens. “A lot of countries provide development aid,”Frizzell said. “What we looked at 25 years ago was how can that be best delivered by local government. Over the last four or five years, we looked at aid effectiveness. “When a disaster hits you want people who can put things like sanitation, sewage and water back into place, the experts,” he said. “If you are talking development, then you send someone who understands how some of services work, from a fully synced fire rescue service to economic development. We have found it’s most effective if can you can help them or set up or build the capacity of local governments to do the work themselves.” Frizzell said other countries take the position aid is something you fly in, then drop off and leave, “We found it was more effective if you get on the ground and help local government do it themselves,” Frizzell said. “My role was to take this policy work we’ve been talking about for years and introduce the ideas of local development to communities. We hope it will become formal policy for united cities for local governments world-wide.” For example, Frizzell said the Chinese approach to aid is to perhaps put in a mine for uranium, and give funds to the national government while taking the uranium. The French might put in an electrical power plant and set it up as a for-profit corporation. “Some of our work,” Frizzell said, “might be to find a local government that has people who want to set up connections to sell mangos, then find another local government where someone can’t find enough mangos for his juice factory. We set up a way for two the two governments to talk to each other and to set up a trade route. Then people are working, selling mangos and juice distribution is world wide. This way the local government can get tax revenue and get into a stabilizing situation. “Though it’s not part of official duty as councillor, it was a situation where I could see how some of our systems are so advanced and effective, we have things we can share - but things we can learn as well.” The trip, paid through FCM partners, didn’t cost the taxpayers anything.
DeLynda Pilon firstname.lastname@example.org The city’s snow removal budget has about $600,000 left in it, enough for another two significant snow falls. Mayor Shari Green said she hopes the $600,000 left in the snow removal budget will last until the end of 2012 so the city won’t have to dip into the general reserve fund to cover the difference. “I think we’ll be okay until the end of the year,” she said. but one more huge one or two big ones but we’re looking at exhausting all the funds we have.” Green added council will be taking a significant look at roads in 2013 during upcoming budget meetings. “As the snow melts we’re going to be wondering what our road and pothole situation is like,” Green said. “ We will be finding some increases for roads that we did not do last year.” Green explained that last year council took money from a fund that wasn’t being accessed and moved significant amount of money over into the road repair budget, allowing the city to complete a lot of work that wasn’t funded in the original plan. However, it is important to find a sustainable fund for continual road repair. “I think council is in a better state of being informed in respect as to what we should do as to roads,” Green said. She added that plan will be sound and financed.
Though most of the recommendations before council Monday night were more about housekeeping – setting the stage for another debate on whether or not a women’s recovery centre should be housed in the old Haldi Road school, more than 30 residents of the area showed up, quietly listening as council adjusted bylaws in preparation for a public debate sometime in January.
The bylaws, which passed the first two readings with Coun. Brian Skakun opposed, will rezone the specific land on which the Haldi Road school currently sits so a recovery centre can legally operate there and the second set of legalities deals with a change to the Official Community Plan, something which wasn’t done the first time the land was rezoned, and the chief reason a member of the Haldi Road neighbourhood was able to defeat the city in a court battle over the change, putting the project on hold until Monday night.
A letter sent to the media from the Haldi Road committee confirms their objections to the recovery centre being located in their neighbourhood have not changed.
“The Haldi Road Committee’s position on this proposal, for a therapeutic community to be established at 5877 Leslie Road, has not changed since the Supreme Court ruling. In fact, we are only more determined now that the proposal is requiring a change to the OCP that will affect every resident of Prince George.
“L & M (the proponent) is proposing ‘that policy in the OCP be amended to permit supportive housing within any residential designation’ but yet in his decision, the Honourable Mr. Justice Truscott questions, “how this institutional use can provide a stable residential home environment”.
“The cost to prepare and review the OCP is borne by taxpayers and we expect that it will be upheld and followed to support the identity and character of neighbourhoods. Amending this planning document for special interest groups should not be accepted. If this amendment to the OCP is permitted, this will change the blueprint for all neighbourhoods. The OCP is in place to give its citizens the peace of mind as well as a document we can study and use as a guideline to protect our investment when purchasing a home.
“The Haldi Road neighbourhood promotes a lifestyle of low density which is in character to a rural residential neighbourhood. We question how the institutional use of 30 residents on eight acres can continue to support this type of lifestyle.
“The Haldi Road Committee continues to question the actions and intentions of the proponents, city planners and City Council. If the OCP amendments continue, we feel that this will compromise the democratic process for all tax-paying citizens of Prince George.”
Coun. Murry Krause pointed out the proponent is obligated to host at least one public meeting stating their plans before the public hearing, likely to be hosted by the city around Jan. 9 or 10. Input will be gathered and a meeting including the Haldi Road issue on the agenda will likely be around Jan. 21.
The Little Prince had a short public run last year, but behind the scenes a lot was being accomplished to repair ongoing issues with the train as well as the track.
Tracy Calogheros and Tom Dielissen appeared before city council Wednesday to present next year’s budget and update council on the progress made last year with one of the more popular tourist attractions in the city.
Calogheros explained some of the challenges facing the Little Prince in 2012, from a need to certify new engineers to upgrading the tickets operators held to, probably most important to the public, the need to fix two steam injectors on the only narrow gauge track operational steam engine in the country, a need which left the train out of commission for most of the summer.
Operating the Little Prince is a task taken on by Exploration Place at the request of the City. The city supports the train each year with a grant of $13,500. Other sources of revenue include a donation well, the gift shop at Exploration Place which sells various memorabilia with the Little Prince logo on it, a corporate sponsor, Radloff and Associates, which donated $7,500 and in-kind services that totalled $2,500.
The fact the train was inoperable for passenger service for the summer was reflected in the budget shortfall with expenditures amounting to $48,285.
However, the popularity of the train cannot be disputed.
On Thanksgiving weekend, the organization hosted free rides for the public, from noon until 4 p.m., with public attendance topping 3,000 during the 12 hours of passenger service.
The shortfall, however, amounted to $21,421.
The 2013 budgeted revenues are projected at 58,600 with expenses at $58,551, showing little money to put towards last year’s shortfall, which Exploration Place absorbed for the moment.
“Essentially we budgeted to break even in 2013,” Calogheros said. “The museum absorbed the shortfall this year.”
Rides will commence on May 25 this year.
“I’m sure the public is looking forward to the train next year,” Dielissen said.
Calogheros said the report was brought before council so it could be forwarded to administration for a recommendation, considering this year they are looking for $15,000 from the city in monetary support, rather than $13,500.
Mayor Shari Green asked if Tourism Prince George was aiding with expenditures considering the importance of the Little Prince to Tourism as well as the fact the city supports that organization financially.
She was told right now Tourism is a supporter, however it mostly helps with marketing as a partner, adding its expertise in that area.
Calogheros explained the Little Prince is the shortest train in the world, turned 100 last year and was at the last spike.
“People who are really interested in Heritage Rail are really interested in Heritage Rail,” Calogheros said.
She has been working tentatively with CN to find if they have an interest in sponsoring it, as well as looking into grants because of the train’s rich heritage. However, finding a grant that matches the circumstance has been difficult.
Coun. Cameron Stolz mentioned that generally facilities like the pool find a corporate sponsor to cover the cost of a free swim day and asked why they had not done the same when offering free rides over Thanksgiving.
Calogheros said a new addition to the team, a fund development officer, will look into those opportunities, Meanwhile, this year she said she decided to go ahead with the action to mitigate the bad year the train had.
Coun. Albert Koehler suggested the solution lies with donation and sponsorships, especially from CN.
Although she agreed, Calogheros pointed out Exploration Place was approached by the city to operate the train, which belongs to the city.
She said they were not looking for a hand-out, and the $15,000 sum was quite modest considering it has been receiving $13,500 from the city since the 80’s. Inflation alone, she said, would raise that number.
A motion was made to pass the report to administration. Meanwhile Green said she would join Calogheros in a meeting with Tourism in an effort to help secure more funds.
DeLynda Pilon email@example.com Selling the Pine Valley Golf course land has been discussed by various councils over the years, resulting in council deciding the land was worth more as a park and recreational facility than as a saleable asset. “It certainly has been talked about several times, about redevelopment in the context of looking at Highway 16 and recreational uses,” former mayor Dan Rogers said. “Each time council decided it was best to keep it, up to and including the most recent neighbourhood plan that was developed for the area, and that entrenched it within the neighbourhood plan to be used for recreational use only.”. He added Pine Valley, along with many of the properties held by the city, comes up for discussion among councillors from time to time. “Council reflects on the properties and consider if it is being put to the best use. This is not anything new,” he said. However, in the past, each time council rejected the idea of selling Pine Valley and kept the property for the recreational value it provided to the citizens of Prince George, he said. He added council decided some time ago it would not sell recreational property without providing users with an equal or better replacement facility. “Council entrenched that policy when it was looking at the ball diamonds. It said it wouldn’t sell off any recreational land unless the recreational users got equal or better facilities elsewhere, which is what led to moving the baseball and slow pitch diamonds,” Rogers said. “You have to look at the Pine Centre Golf Course Neighbourhood plan, recently approved by council, which mentions all recreational property, including the parkland that makes up Pine Valley, is not sold unless it is replaced by something of equal or better quality – but of course council has authority to change or break its own rules,” Rogers said. He added another point in the Pine Centre Golf Course Neighbourhood plan states the proceeds from the sale of park land have to go into a fund to enhance park land in the city. This means council would have to open the Pine Centre Golf Course Neighbourhood Plan and amend it, first to allow the sale of Pine Valley without replacing it with a facility of equal or greater value, then to allow the proceeds from the sale of the land to be used for a broader purpose than what it would currently be dedicated to. It would also have to open and amend the Official Community Plan. Changing these plans would likely include a consultation process with affected stakeholders as well as public hearings. Rogers said administration will likely inform council of these steps when it returns with further information regarding selling Pine Valley, as it was tasked to do. “The OCP must be followed, or it must be amended before the sale of the property,” Rogers said. “If the city is interested in selling, it likely has to go through the same steps that the Golf and Curling Club went through, which happens over a lengthy time period, to first determine what the best land use is, and be consistent with the OCP.” Rogers agreed that council is likely to be cautious while adhering to the OCP, especially after being taken to task, accused of not following the OCP, by a Haldi Rd. resident, forcing the city to reverse a land use change decision and virtually, at least for the time, stopping the development of a women’s rehabilitation centre in the rural area. When it comes to amending policies and changing bylaws, Rogers said council has the authority to make the decisions it believes is in the best interest of the citizens. “But I think in this case and on previous occasions council has always taken the approach that there is great value in providing recreation for youth and seniors in this community, which increases the quality of life,” he said. “We know inherently it is the quality of life that will keep people here. The risk is if you take away these quality of life opportunities you shoot yourself in the foot when trying to get the very development you need to get new tax dollars into the community.”
Council felt finding a third-party operator to run the Civic Centre, one of KPMG’s suggestions following the core service review, something they could visualize more easily. Council discussed the Civic Centre during Monday’s meeting, with one outstanding question being the effect of such an act, should it go forward, on the 2015 Canada Winter Games. Mayor Shari Green said administration is taking that factor under consideration with all the information it brings back. Coun. Albert Koehler said he viewed the opportunity much the same as the previous motion, which dealt with the Four Seasons Pool, adding there was nothing wrong with looking at the idea. Coun. Frank Everitt said the Civic Centre came to be at the request of the public as one of five buildings they said was needed for the city. He added now may be the time to look at third-party opportunities, perhaps with an entity like Tourism BC. The motion passed with Coun. Murry Krause opposed.
DeLynda Pilon firstname.lastname@example.org Prince George council will further explore finding a third-party operator for the Four Seasons Pool after discussing the recommendation, made by KPMG following the core services review. “Four Seasons is an excellent facility,” Coun. Frank Everitt said during the discussion about the pool and recommendation at Monday’s council meeting. Everitt said he would much rather explore other options, like building a new facility, partnering with the Regional District. He would also like to examine the expenses the pool incurs and try to find savings. He pointed out similarly sized communities enjoy two pools. Coun. Lyn Hall said he doubted there was a third-party operator out there who could make the pool float, adding he needed more information. Coun. Murry Krause said he would not support a third party operator. Coun. Albert Koehler pointed out just because you consider something doesn’t mean you intend to move forward on it. “It’s a waste of time,” Coun. Brian Skakun said. He added it would overload administration, which is already tasked with a great deal of work. Coun. Cameron Stolz pointed out the recommendation was one of 193 made by KPMG, who brought an extensive report back to council after consulting with a variety of people. “Not to look at a third-party opportunity flies in the face of the core services review,” he said. “Not to take that final step now is disrespectful of all those who took part.” “We are going through the process,” Hall disagreed. “This is it right here.” He added he would like the opinion of staff as they proceed. “I know what a third-party means to this boy,” Everitt said. “It means we don’t have any control over it.” “It is not showing disrespect by not supporting this,” Krause said. “This is the process. They identified opportunities, it is our job to debate them. That is what we are doing.” “This is the process, but we can’t shy away from firm decisions,” Koehler said. Mayor Shari Green pointed out no final decisions were being made regarding the pool at this time. They were simply exploring the possibilities surrounding a third-party operator. She added healthy debate is positive. Through administration council will explore third-party operator opportunities after the motion to do so passed, with councillors Krause, Skakun and Everitt opposed.
DeLynda Pilon email@example.com Prince George continues to lead Maclean’s Magazine’s annual crime ranking as the country’s most dangerous city even though only one homicide was reported in the city in 2011. Maclean’s uses data from Statistics Canada for municipal police services using the crime severity index (CSI) score for the country’s l00 largest cities of 10,000 people or more. They take into account the rates for six crimes – homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, vehicle theft, robbery, and breaking and entering – then compare them to the national average, calculating the percentage difference. Maclean’s then calculates the ratios by dividing the population by the raw number of crimes. The crime severity index complements the traditional crime rate statistic by ranking the severity of police-reported crimes in comparison to other crimes. The news that Prince George is, once again, leading the pack as Canada’s most dangerous city is surprising since a Statistics Canada report including the CSI rankings showed that the city dropped 20 points to 159 in 2011, the lowest overall the city had experienced. The rate of violent crimes dropped about 20 per cent as well, from 196 to 158. In a press conference this summer discussing the numbers, Supt. Eric Stubbs said several strategies were put in place to tackle the criminal activity giving the city its rather notorious reputation, thanks to Maclean’s annual report. The crime reduction team targeted prolific offenders, mid- to high-level gang members became the focus of investigators, and the downtown enforcement unit reduced crime in that area by 20 per cent. Two to three times every week search warrants helped remove everything from drugs and weapons from the streets while offenders were arrested. Challenges particular to the city, Stubbs explained during the conference, included the significant number of transients who travel through the city, property crimes, which were experiencing a spike and a continuing concern about gangs and guns. Compare this to 2010, when the city earned the most dangerous city title thanks in great part to seven murders that year. Cody Alan Legebokoff has been charged with two of those murders and a 2009 murder. Two others occurred in a grow-op outside the city and were drug-related and the other three were resolved or were in the process of moving through the court system. Yet going from seven murders in 2010 to one murder in 2011 doesn’t seem to have affected the city’s rating as most dangerous city in the country according to the way Maclean’s calculates its rankings. According to the magazine, the top 10 most dangerous cities are: Prince George, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Regina, Surrey, Saskatoon, Wood Buffalo, Victoria, Winnipeg and Kelowna, all in the west and in fact all the same cities that made the top 10 list last year, if in a slightly different order – with the exception of Prince George. Though the city didn’t rank at all in the top 15 cities with the highest homicide rates, it came in fourth in sexual assaults, eighth in aggravated assaults, 14th in robberies, third in breaking and entering, and ninth in motor vehicle thefts. Stubbs and Mayor Shari Green held a press conference yesterday afternoon to comment on the ranking, however, it was after our press time.
DeLynda Pilon newsroom@pgfreepress One downtown drinking establishment will be allowed to stay open later while a hotel will move forward with plans to open a liquor store following Monday night’s council meeting. Administration supported the Croft’s bid to change its liquor service hours to 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily. Doug Morrison, owner, said the request comes as an attempt to offer clients the same hours two other downtown bars do, the Generator and Heartbreakers. Though there have been small problems over the years, Morrison said the same is true of most bars. However the last police call he remembers happened after a patron had a heart attack. “To survive in this industry I must stay open until 3 a.m.,” he said. “If I wasn’t following the rules and regulations I’d be closed down.” Coun. Dave Wilbur asked if the establishment had a ride-home policy and was assured it does. Coun. Murry Krause asked what he’d done to mitigate the minor problems he spoke of earlier. Morrison said he had a camera in the alley resulting in less activity. Council, with the exception of Coun. Albert Koehler, supported the request for longer hours. Also during Monday’s meeting, the Coast Inn of the North looked for continued support from council to establish a liquor store in the hotel, one that not necessarily provide more expensive products than other similar establishments in the city, but perhaps a more exclusive selection and experience. Coun. Cameron Stolz asked why a temporary use permit, issued for that purpose in 2010, was never followed up on. The issue was several changes in leadership, he was told, but now the situation had stabilized. “If we continue to approve liquor stores we will have one on every corner. I do not see a liquor store at that location. It’s potential trouble,” Koehler said. “Liquor stores are not considered commercial growth. I do not see the need nor the demand for it.” A small food store downtown would be better, he said. Coun. Brian Skakun pointed out it isn’t a new licence. Because of that, Krause said he would support it as well. Stolz said that although he has faith in the staff at the Inn and he appreciated the new manager and his family moving to the community, he remained disappointed the company had a three-year opportunity to move the project forward and did nothing, so this time he would not support it. The application from the Inn passed council’s scrutiny, with Stolz and Koehler opposed.
Delynda Pilon firstname.lastname@example.org It will cost city taxpayers about $35,000 to send the mayor along with city councillors Lyn Hall and Dave Wilbur and the city’s acting manager, Kathleen Soltis, to China next month to continue to build a twinning relationship with the city of Jiangmen. Coun. Cameron Stolz, who voted in favour of the trip along with all the other councillors with the exceptions of Coun. Brian Skakun and Coun. Garth Frizzell, said there was a time about 10 years ago when he heard about all the trips to China being taken by Colin Kinsley, the mayor at the time, and didn’t understand why the trips were being made or the connection those journeys had to a local businessman. “In China things move slowly. It’s very much about building the relationship,” he said. He added that, to the Chinese, the important relationship is the one forged between municipal governments, mayor to mayor, rather than between businesses. He added the benefits of such a relationship are many and, as an example, talked about the students who attended the welcoming event for international students hosted by city hall. Each one pays about $22,000 to participate in studies at local institutions, he said. On top of that it is estimated each spends about the same amount in local business establishments. However, compared to other cities like Kamloops, which has three times the number of Chinese students, Prince George is falling behind and missing out on an opportunity. Cementing the relationship between the city and its proposed sister city in China will help to change that. “And that’s just a small piece of the market with China,” he said. “There are a huge number of possibilities.” “The timing is wrong,” Skakun disagreed. He pointed out the city is currently going through a core review, looking for a way to save money. City employees are concerned they might be laid off and not-for-profit organizations are struggling for funding while the city is forced to deny them the full tax exemption they enjoyed previously in a bid to hold the line when it comes to fiscal policy. “It’s a $35,000 trip. It’s too much at this point,” Skakun said. Hall said that UNBC and the college are very highly regarded in China. “We haven’t tapped into that as well as we should have,” he added. Wilbur added his endorsement of the plan and said he hoped to be part of creating great jobs for future generations in the city, and one of the ways to do that is to continue to create ties with China. “I don’t think there’s ever a great time to do something like this,” Mayor Shari Green said. “There is always a challenge. But it has taken years to get to this stage. This has to move forward no matter what is going on in this building.” Creating a solid government to government relationship is important to the Chinese, she added. Frizzell said that when the Prince George Exhibition delegation came to council and asked for more funding, it was told no extra money could be found and sent away. Since there was no funds available for that, he said, there was none available to send a delegation to China. Stolz explained there is money left in a fund used for a previous mayor to go to China, and dedicated to be used for the expenses that come with twinning with a Chinese city. And, he said, council had reduced its contingency fund and created a fund to be used for economic development only. The money necessary for the trip will be paid out of these two funds.
Local not-for-profit organizations used to a 100 per cent tax exemption will pay three per cent this year, though if funds can be found during the budgeting process, grants will be issued by the city to make up the difference in cost.
The decision came after a lengthy discussion pitting fiscal policy against concern over the struggles non-profits are facing when it comes to funding, especially with the changes to gaming grants.
The city has a policy that the tax exemptions offered not exceed 1.5 per cent of the municipal tax levy. In past years this hasn’t been an issue, but this year more organizations stepped forward requesting the exemption. Coun. Cameron Stolz, who chairs the finance and audit committee, said that rather than cherry-pick which organizations could have the grant, they suggested an across-the-board 97 per cent exemption this time, then take a more in-depth look at the issue for next time.
The bylaw for tax exemptions must be set by Oct. 31. If it isn’t, no exemptions can be offered at all, limiting council’s ability to mull over any other alternate solutions to the issue.
“A number of organizations will be affected by this,” Coun. Garth Frizzell said.
He pointed out the decision would also have an impact on the Regional District.
“This approach troubles me somewhat,” Coun. Dave Wilbur said. “We’ve spoken of the dilemma of not-for-profits.”
He added he has long been a proponent of multiple-year funding, otherwise such organizations are left vulnerable.
Wilbur added he’d rather see the increase come in incremental chunks with consultation with not-for-profit organizations so it wouldn’t be overwhelming.
However, it was pointed out, time constraints wouldn’t allow for any consultation.
“I’m concerned about what even a small amount might do to some of these organizations,” Coun. Brian Skakun said.
Funding cuts at other levels of government had caused not-for-profits to look to municipal governments for help, he added.
Coun. Murry Krause said the recommendation by finance and audit was a difficult choice to make, but a fair one that doesn’t cherry-pick and added council had set a 1.5 per cent ceiling which it should stick with.
Mayor Shari Green added council had set the percentage, and it should adhere to its own fiscal policy.
The majority of council passed the bylaw setting the tax exemption at 97 per cent. Councillors Wilbur and Frizzell opposed the vote.
Wilbur then moved grants be looked for during the budgeting process that offset the change.
The motion passed with Stolz and Green opposed.
“The challenge is this is potentially giving them false hope,” Stolz said.
There will be no extra meetings added to those already scheduled for further public consultation into the core review process, council decided Monday.
The initial contract put forward by KPMG was amended once by council to include more public consultation, adding to the cost of the service. Further review would not only add, once again, to the cost, but also set the timeline of the review back, something many councillors said would adversely affect the upcoming budgeting process.
The suggestion to add more public consultation time came from Janet Bigelow with CUPE during a presentation to council at Monday’s meeting.
“We’ve consulted with as many or more people than the KPMG team,” Bigelow said.
She said the public consultation process, in particular the on-line forms, were complex and difficult to understand.
Bigelow added she also gleaned many of the people she and her team, members of ‘I heart PG’ felt the outcome of the core review and the recommendations that would be put into place were predetermined.
“Many people gave up because of the complexity. People get frustrated and decide not to participate.”
She said one of her purposes in appearing before council was to invite them to a public forum on Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. where a guest speaker who went through the Toronto core review process will speak.
“Many people in the community without a voice will be impacted and need to be considered,” she said.
She said a strategy needs to be applied so they are heard, one that is broader in scope and more positive than the core review.
One of the major concerns she’s heard discussed revolves around who will run the Four Seasons pool.
“I would suggest at least one town hall meeting. The key to success with any change is communication and engagement.”
Mayor Shari Green said there was a core review public meeting scheduled for the following evening, and she planned on attending it.
After Oct. 8 there won’t be any more opportunities for input. KPMG have until the end of October to compile a list of “opportunities” for change. The list will go to the select committee, then possibly some will go to staff, then a committee as a whole meeting. Then the suggestions will come before council who will then decide which will be implemented.
Both Coun. Garth Frizzell and Coun. Brian Skakun said they believed more public consultation is in order.
“I don’t think we can get too much consultation,” Skakun said. “I know we need to make a decision but I think tacking another week on would be beneficial.”
“Consultation is important,” Coun. Lyn Hall agreed, adding he had a few issues with adding another public session. The first, he said, was the cost. The second was how another week could interfere with the timeline of the review.
“If we delay the discussions we’re really behind the eight-ball for getting the 2013 budget done. I’m really torn,” he said.
Coun. Murry Krause said he, too, was torn. He added his concern revolved around the mechanism that would be used to articulate the results of another public meeting and add them to what has already been gathered.
Coun. Frank Everitt said council has not yet made any decisions regarding the outcome of the core review.
“I want to assure you there are no pre-determined solutions,” he said.
He added it is time for council to get the information that has been gathered.
“We need to boil it down and make some strong hard decisions,” he said.
This, he said, will mean taking a stand and sometimes fighting for the results you want.
“It’s not just about cutting costs. It’s about bringing the focus back to do what we’re supposed to be doing, that the public wants us to do,” Everitt said.
“If we delay, that means a delay all the way through,” Greens said.
A motion made by Frizzell to add to the public consultation process was denied, with Frizzell and Skakun supporting the motion and all the other councillors opposed.
“Nothing is pre-determined,” Green said. “I’m interested in the final report.”
DeLynda Pilon email@example.com Mayor Shari Green, along with several councillors, will be meeting with two different ministries at the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention, intent on discussing specific city needs with provincial officials. Green explained the convention provides local government officials with an great learning opportunity. She said each councillor is provided a budget to cover such opportunities, and it is up to each individual how that budget is spent. “It’s a great opportunity for every member of council to go,” she said, pointing out it’s not only a chance to meet peers and find out how other municipalities might be overcoming issues the city faces. “It’s a long week. There’s a tremendous number of sessions, workshops and meetings.” Green said the city will have a meeting with the Ministry of Transportation to discuss issues like asphalt procurement, whether there is an opportunity to share paving contracts in the region, and those sorts of issues in an effort to find some savings locally. With the Minister of Finance, Green said, the city will be investigating the opportunity for a local PST office. “As the supply service hub I’d like to see one of some of those jobs created in Prince George, where the wealth is created,” she said. Another issue to discuss with the finance ministry surrounds the opportunity for municipalities to raise funds. She said they will look into the gas tax and find out if the city can collect a greater portion of it. Since the money the province collects is used across the books, this also means finding out what the city may have to forgo if the request is granted. Although such requests have always been rejected in the past, Green remains optimistic adding it will at least lead to a meaningful conversation. Both of the ministers they will meet with are new to their posts. This, Green said, will allow council to put a face to the names and ensure the needs of the city are on the table with the provincial leaders, new and old.
The process to find a new city manager is underway and will likely take about six months, according to Prince George Mayor Shari Green.
A firm is managing the process, Green said, to fill what she described as a critical leadership role within the city.
A handout documenting the results of a restricted council meeting on Aug. 20 reviewing the wages paid to the city manager confirmed her statement that Prince George is on the low end of the pay scale when it comes to what other city managers are earning within the province.
Green pointed out this may make the task of filling the position even more challenging.
City manager Derek Bates announced last month that he will be leaving at the end of the year.
According to the document released at Monday’s council meeting the 2011 salary for the position was $202,000.
Other cities listed paid their managers anywhere from $13,000 to nearly $82,000 per year more than Prince George. A subsequent vote led to an increase in salary in 2012 to $212,000 with a $10,000 annual car allowance (comparable to what is offered by other cities) and a one-time retroactive vacation leave of 10 days on top of the 35 days of annual paid vacation leave already received.
Green added the right person for the job will be aiding the city as it goes through many changes, incorporating recommendations resulting from the core review. The person will also need to be someone who can work well with council and integrate into the community.
“The city manager is as much of a leader as the mayor,” she said.
She added there will likely be internal as well as external applicants interested in the job.
Where the candidate comes from, she added, doesn’t matter, however the person’s ability and expertise does.
Phase three of the core service review has been completed, and now KPMG, the company contracted to undertake the job, will begin phase four. “They gathered a lot of feedback,” Mayor Shari Green said at Monday’s council meeting. “Now they are working through phase four, identifying and evaluating the opportunities around the information they gathered.” the information came via surveys and public workshops as well as interviews with city staff members. Coun. Garth Frizzell pointed out the analysis will come to council by Sept. 18. On Oct. 2 the next public meeting will be hosted, giving residents a chance to look over the analysis and let people know what recommendations they think is possible and appropriate.
A hotel condo complex planned for downtown earned a requested variance at Monday’s city council meeting. The complex will be 12 stories, host 151 rooms and offer 34 condo units. It will also have a restaurant, lounge and rental tenancies. The requested variance allows the developer to construct two rather than five loading spaces on the south elevation of the building, which will be situated at 1355 10th Ave., close to the Coast Inn, civic centre and current RCMP detachment. The proposed spaces will be sufficient according to the recommendation on the variance given by city staff, based on the large size of the spaces, the shared internal access for all tenancies and the convenient access and egress provided on-site. The presence of one of the project developers afforded Coun. Skakun the opportunity to clarify how a proposed walkway between the hotel and nearby facilities would work. Dan Milburn, who spoke on behalf of the developer, said the walkway will be a pedestrian connection between the hotel, the civic centre and the library.
DeLynda Pilon firstname.lastname@example.org Haldi Road residents won a court ruling recently that overturned a Prince George city council decision which rezoned the old Haldi Road school so proponents of the project could establish a women’s treatment centre in the building. The battle to stop the treatment centre from being established in the area tore through the neighbourhood and resonated through the city, with citizens lining up on either side of the heated issue. The opinion of city councillors mirrored residents, and though the vote to pass the rezoning went through, it was not a unanimous decision. Coun. Brian Skakun was one of the city’s elected officials who opposed the decision to rezone the area. “That ruling wasn’t unexpected at all in my opinion,” Skakun said. “The research I did on the BBK Bottle Depot was similar. At the end of the public presentation when we voted on this thing I was concerned if we passed it we would face a challenge, a court challenge, and we did.” Skakun said though compelling arguments were made by both sides he was particularly impressed with the concerted effort made by the Haldi Rd. residents, as well as the points made before council by their solicitor. He added he felt many of the residents were chastised for their opinion, one that wasn’t warranted. “It was so unfair some Haldi Road residents took a public beating. They just wanted to defend the integrity of their neighbourhood. They didn’t want changes. You can’t blame anybody for wanting to keep their neighbourhood the way it was. I think it’s unfortunate they had to put that money together and the amount of sleepless nights they had preparing to fight city hall – I think it was way too much.” Skakun added the advice supplied to council by staff regarding the rezoning was off target. “Their advice was wrong. They’re human – they make mistakes,” he said. “In my opinion an elected official can’t rely just on staff’s advice, especially for a controversial rezoning like this one. I have to do my own homework and listen to both sides. I have to research the issue and form my own opinion. “I respected the staff’s position, but I didn’t agree with it.” Skakun added he’s not sure what direction the treatment centre proponents will take now, but he hopes they will seek another location for the facility. “Administration has said if it ever comes back to council there will have to be a bylaw amendment and an OCP amendment. “In my opinion I don’t think there’s any appetite for that. This is a really controversial issue. I hope this group looks for another location. I can’t see there being any benefit in going through that battle again to put the residents and proponents through this type of stress. “I think it’s a big waste of time. They should never have tried to get it in Haldi Road. I supported the residents in this one, and what they said and their lawyer said.”
DeLynda Pilon email@example.com Choosing the next city manager will be a task that requires the input of all of council according to Coun. Brian Skakun. "From my perspective I think as we move forward with this we need to work together as an entire council," Skakun said. He added council will be looking for someone with a good municipal skill set who is outgoing. "The person needs to be willing to speak on a number of important public issues," Skakun said. "But you don't want someone that's political but someone that's willing to defend policies and the position of the city, someone who will be out there at public events. He should be a real spokesman of the city." Being the face of the city, along with council and the mayor, will help the public to better understand the people who are often behind the scenes, but who ensure things run smoothly. "You need to recognize the work that the bureaucrats do," Skakun said. The candidate will also need to work well with council. "We need a city manager willing to work with city council as a whole and individual councillors as needed, someone who wants to make Prince George a better place." Skakun added he would rather hire someone from without the community, rather within, perhaps even someone new to the city. "If we hire someone from outside the city who may even be new to community, we'll get a fresh start, a fresh perspective. But if someone from Prince George is the best candidate, that person will probably get the job." He added he believes council should get involved early in the process. "That way we'll get buy in, but remember I'm only one of nine making the decision," he said.
Prince George sits in the heart of the province, a hub city positioned to benefit considerably from the billions of dollars in investments coming to the north. However, in order to profit from the prosperity, the city needs more people to take on the jobs opening in the area.
Initiatives Prince George recently created a multi-pronged set of tools to aid in the recruitment and retention of people to the city. Heather Oland, CEO, discussed these tools in a presentation at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.
"We don't grow the economy," Oland said. "You do - business does."
However, helping local businesses capitalize on the growth is part of their job. Currently there are 50,600 people employed in the city, the highest number ever recorded. The price of homes has risen 1.5 per cent, there has been a 46 per cent increase in housing starts, a 127 per cent increase in building permits and activity at the airport has increased as well. The result of all this is employment opportunities are surging.
The downside is more people are needed to fill those openings.
"Firms cannot take on more work from lack of people. We need to grow," Oland said.
To create a plan to meet that need IPG spoke to stakeholders, hosted informal consultations and elicited the help of Progress P.G. The result was a plan to put together a message about the city that was easy to remember and could be integrated by employers. The focus was placed on how the quality of life is different in Prince George than in other cities.
For example, Oland said, Prince George is a city where young families can afford to buy a high quality home at a price that would be considered low if compared to prices in other cities. Your commute won't take hours like it would in a bigger more congested place, but rather minutes.
IPG used the information to put together several resources to be utilized by employers looking to recruit workers. The first is a website which offers links to a variety of different pages.
"Come to this website and everything you need to know about living in Prince George is available," Oland said.
They also created simple business cards which list the website address on them.
"They're inexpensive and they travel well. We're all ambassadors of this community," Oland said, encouraging attendees to stock up on the cards and pass them out alongside their own cards.
Notepads were designed and put together which can be handed out at trade fairs, among other places.
IPG also made up cheat sheets so questions potential residents ask can be answered quickly and knowledgeably.
"These are fast facts you can say," she said.
For support resources, a logo was put together which Oland would like see used as much as possible. Companies can also download a web button for their own sites which has a link that leads to the website created by IPG. For those advertising for an employee, a job ad banner featuring Prince George is available.
"This is all free on the website under the employer section," Oland said. "Print materials are available at IPG on a cost recovery basis."
IPG, she said, will utilize all the materials to market the city at the numerous events they attend. She added others should do the same.
"Help IPG help you," she said. "Use these resources. Think of us as part of your sales team."
Allan Wishart Free Press Original Joe’s will be serving liquor longer, but under some self-imposed guidelines. The restaurant and bar, located on Domano Boulevard, had a public hearing at the council meeting Monday night, seeking to change its hours of liquor service from 11 a.m. to midnight seven days a week to 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week. There was one letter of opposition for council to consider, from local resident Brian Brownridge. “The addition of this restaurant/bar has increased the vehicle traffic as well as the noise level considerably in the neighbourhood,” he wrote. “We certainly don’t need to add to that problem by extending the operating hours on the weekend for the bar.” Brownridge also noted other problems at the location, including parking and debris still unremoved from construction. In making a presentation to the meeting, Jennifer Sauve mentioned several of the same points. She told council of concerns over the noise level late at night as well as traffic worries with vehicles exiting onto Domano Boulevard. She, like Brownridge, also mentioned the debris left over from construction, as well as the garbage bin at the side of the building being unscreened. In response to a question from Coun. Brian Skakun, Sauve said the noise level during the evening was usually not a problem. “It’s just at closing time we get the squealing tires and loud voices.” Original Joe’s manager Rick Devore attended the hearing and spoke to some of the concerns raised. He said a screen had been installed on the garbage bin about a month ago. The screen was not in the original plans, but concerns raised by residents prompted the restaurant to have it installed. As for the debris in the area, Devore said, it wasn’t on their property. “There is no debris on our property. Our landscaping is complete, and our staff and the mall crew sweep the parking lot daily.” Coun. Dave Wilbur asked Devore if the extended hours would also apply to the outdoor patio at the restaurant. Devore said they had already discussed that, and had decided to keep the patio closed during the extended hours. “Also,” he said, “even though the application is for the extended hours all week, we will only be extending them on Friday and Saturday.” Coun. Garth Frissell asked acting planning and development services director Ian Wells about the debris which had been mentioned by several people. “It’s not on city-owned property,” Wells said, “which some people seem to think it is.” In response to another question from Frissell, Wells said a traffic-volume study was done when the shopping centre was redeveloped, and staff found no reason for concerns over the volumes which were anticipated. The application for the extended hours was approved.
There were four amendments to the City of Prince George Zoning Bylaw brought before council on Monday, but only one of them drew any comments. Administration was proposing two changes to the section on secondary suites. One would see the maximum floor size increased; the other would remove the requirement that the owner of the residence live in either the principal dwelling or the secondary suite. It was the second proposal which elicited comments from councillors. Coun. Cameorn Stolz asked whether it was possible to attach a requirement for a fee or a business license to secondary suites, noting, “they’re now allowed right across the city, and there is no regulation.” Ian Wells, acting director of planning and development services, said while it would be difficult to do that with the amendment as presented, there were options. “You could consider that as a rate change in the fee structure we are working on and will be bringing to council shortly.” Coun. Brian Skakun, after being told by Wells there were no figures available on how many secondary suites had been registered with the city, expressed concerns with the non-occupancy requirement for owners. “People are already being challenged by living in unsuitable suites,” he said. “If the owner is not required to be a resident of the property, it could create even more problems in trying to get changes made.. “I know we need to have affordable housing, but I think we need to find a balance here.” City manager Derek Bates said administration was working, at council’s direction, on maintenance standards. “We are looking at property maintenance standards for both the interior and the exterior.” At the beginning of the discussion, Coun. Garth Frissell asked if the section on secondary suites could be separated from the others for discussion. When legislative services manager Walter Babicz said it would be difficult to do so, Frissell declared himself in a conflict of interest on the matter and retired from chambers. The amendments passed as presented.
Allan Wishart firstname.lastname@example.org Sometimes the easy numbers don’t tell the whole story. That’s the case when looking at the monthly building and development permit report given to city council. Looking at the June and July reports for this year is a case in point. The report for June 2012 showed the year-to-date building permits at $79.6 million, ahead of the same period for 2010 ($54.2 million) and 2011 ($35 million). In the report for July, 2010 ($105.3 million) had jumped ahead of 2012 ($89.4 million) and 2011 ($51.9 million) had closed the gap. So was July this year a bad year for the local construction industry? No, it was a question of a couple of big projects coming on line the two previous Julys. In July 2010, the $40-million building permit for the new cancer centre came on line, while in July 2011, the $11-million permit for Kordyban Lodge came in. “The bigger projects will have an impact on the numbers, but the total value of construction is still relevant,” said Donald Parent, the city’s manager of subdivision, infrastructure and building inspection. “It shows the investment being made in the community.” One area he suggests looking at to see how much development is taking place is in single-family detached homes (SFD), especially the new permits. “Those are the houses that are being built, and they show how the community is being seen.” So far this year, there have been 72 news SFD building permits issued, compared with 86 to the same date in 2010 and 63 in 2011. While the numbers appear to be picking up for Prince George, Parent says it isn’t as high as he’s seen it. “2007 was the busiest year we had in the development department. That whole period of 2005, 2006 and 2007 was busy. Then came the credit crunch and things slowed down everywhere. “It does look like we’re starting to get back to those levels.” Parent also made clear the difference between building permits and development permits. Significant permits in either group are listed on the report to council, but only the building permits show up in the numbers. “Not every building permit requires a development permit,” Parent says. “The Official Community Plan spells out what triggers the need for a development permit.” As well, he says, not every development permit ends up as a building permit. “There may be circumstances where someone gets a development permit, but then, maybe because of finances, is unable to get the building permit. “When they get the building permit, things are more likely to actually happen.”
Initiatives Prince George (IPG) received support from city council to apply for a grant from Northern Development Initiatives Trust (NDIT) for up to $15,680 so the organization can conduct a study into the feasibility of making the city airport a hub for transporting perishable goods, particularly to the Far East. Heather Oland, president of IPG, was on hand to answer questions regarding the request, presented during the Aug. 20 council meeting. A document provided to council previous to the meeting explained the reasons for requesting the study as well as the six components that will be examined. “IPG is completing an application to NDIT to conduct a Feasibility Analysis of Establishing Prince George Airport as the Centre of Regional Perishables Exports. The purpose of this study is to examine the feasibility of exporting perishable goods from northern B.C., the Okanagan and northern Alberta to Asia via the Prince George airport. In order to determine the feasibility of this economic diversification opportunity, the following will be examined: target markets for perishable goods to Asia, B.C. airfreight export activity, product availability, feasibility and strategies to attract freight forwarders to Prince George, approaches to developing this airport market opportunity and an overall analysis of the potential.” It goes on to say the proposed study is the first step toward growing and diversifying the agricultural sector in Prince George.
A judge overruling city council after it rezoned the Haldi Road school so a women’s treatment centre could utilize the facility has been a learning experience both for staff and councillors, according to Coun. Cameron Stolz. “When the rezoning for Haldi Road came before us, and during the public hearing stage, the proponents brought in a speaker for them, their solicitor,” Stolz said. “At that time he mentioned concerns he had that the rezoning was incongruent with the official community plan (OCP).” Stolz said Dan Milburn, who was the city’s director, planning and development at the time, and who teaches at the university, disagreed and recommended city council proceed with the rezoning. However, the proponents took the issue before a judge who ruled in their favour. “So the rezoning was rendered null and void, so it goes back to original zoning,” Stolz said. “For anything to happen at this stage, it would require for the proponent to bring this back to the city, and the OCP would have to be amended at the same time as the school is rezoned. Now we have to wait to see what the proponents want to do, whether they want to find a new location, or proceed with this.” Stolz said the issue did not result from bad advice from staff. “It was not bad advice. The staff are professionals who gave advice based on their experience and history. This was a groundbreaking ruling by the judge. This exact manner of the OCP being challenged in court like this is one of the first, and as such staff was giving advice to their best available knowledge.” However, he said, it is a learning experience. “It is very much a learning experience. Now we have clear direction on how this should be handled. Some of the judge’s comments in his decision included the wording of the OCP. I would suspect staff is going through the new OCP, which we just adopted this year, and are checking it to see if there’s any incongruities there.” The proponents of the Haldi Road women’s treatment centre, have not yet decided on how they will proceed. Dr. Michelle Sutter, spokesperson for the board of directors, said they will have to meet and make a decision on what they will do next. “We understand the decision has been handed down. It was a legal and technical review between the city and a resident. “We were not party to the case, and have not yet reviewed the decision. We do have to view the judgment, have a meeting and decide what we are going to do,” she said.
DeLynda Pilon email@example.com One Prince George resident says he’s tired of seeing the city watering public green areas daily while citizens are on an alternating water schedule. “They should have to stick to the same rules,” Jake Thiessen said. “Their motto seems to be do as we say, not as we do.” Thiessen, who works an evening security shift, said he’s seen watering along Fifth ave., at the Civic Centre and the library, to name a few places, continue all through the night, every night. “I do security, so I see it every single night, but if you do it, they turn around and nail you. One area they’re doing is mostly weeds.” Sean LeBrun, parks supervisor, said the city doesn’t water daily, but keeps to the schedule they ask taxpayers to. “The city’s irrigation system is complex,” he said. The computerized system, called the Sentinel, monitors rainfall and only turns on when necessary, avoiding irrigation sprinklers running while its pouring rain. If a measurable amount of rain comes down, the system will curb watering times from 12 to four minutes. “It’s very water-wise and eco-friendly,” he said. However, as with anything, he said there might be a glitch within the system, something that will be checked. Or it may be that a person is misreading what is being seen. LeBrun said some of the systems in question are very large. One portion of the yard might be watered one night while anther quadrant is watered on a subsequent evening. “If it’s the same zone, though, it shouldn’t be happening. We’re supposed to be following the normal bylaws.”
Prince George will be searching for a new city manager after mayor and council were notified Derek Bates is concluding his employment contract at the end of December.
A press release says, "Mr. Bates has been employed with the City since 2007 as city manager and under his administrative leadership, the city has benefitted from many successful initiatives, including gold level certification in the Excellence Canada PEP (Progressive Excellence Program) Quality program, leading staff and the community through the myPG process, delivering and a new OCP, a successful 2015 Canada Games bid, to name just a few."
"City council wishes to acknowledge the dedication of Mr. Bates to his staff, the council team and this community through his outstanding commitment to excellence in local government. We wish the absolute best for Mr. Bates and his family, in their future plans”, said Mayor Shari Green.
Bates has extended an invitation to assist city council in the coming months in their planning for a smooth transition to new management for the City of Prince George.
DeLynda Pilon firstname.lastname@example.org City council will support the Treasure Cove Casino’s application for a liquor licence that will allow it to serve alcohol to customers in the casino itself, rather than just the show room and restaurant. This will increase the amount of people they can serve liquor to from just over 250 to just over 1,200. When the matter came before council both Coun. Lyn Hall and Coun. Brin Skakun recused themselves from the proceedings, Hall because his company audits the casino and Skakun because his son will soon be working there. John Major, who owns the casino, took an opportunity to address council regarding his application during Monday’s council meeting. He spoke about the security that will be provided when alcohol sales increase as well as the fact there will not be an outdoor patio so increased noise should not be an issue. He added that, in the province, currently 13 out of 17 casinos offer alcohol to customers who utilize the slots, poker tables and gaming rooms. Coun. Albert Koehler said he would not support the request. “It will contribute to more gambling,” he said. Coun. Murry Krause said he believed people would make their own choices, but asked the casino continue to be vigilant, watching for those who have issues with controlling their gambling. Council approved the request with one opposed. The Treasure Cove was a campaign contributor to several members of council, including Mayor Shari Green, who received campaign contributions from the casino of $13,440 and $873 from the Treasure Cove Hotel. “Supporting candidates during an election is anyone’s choice,” Green said in a statement given to the Free Press. “My vote is based on the information in front of me, not who is in front of me. I vote what I believe is the right thing to do, and I don’t waiver in that. “I was supported by Treasure Cove and by Northern Steel during the last campaign. Last evening, I voted in favour of one application and against the other. “This issue of conflict has been raised in previous court cases. In essence, if candidates for local government office may be precluded from subsequently voting on matters, in which contributors have an interest, citizens may be discouraged from taking part in the democratic process by supporting the candidate or candidates of their choice. All contributions were fully disclosed as required by legislation, and do not amount to a conflict of interest.”
DeLynda Pilon email@example.com So far it’s been a good year for the city. Initiatives Prince George delivered some positive statistics during its biannual report to council at Monday’s meeting. The organization’s CEO, Heather Oland, said employment is up across all the sectors, there has been a 90 per cent increase in building permits with a healthy split between commercial and industrial, there was a 6.6 increase in airport passengers, housing starts are up 16.4 per cent and the average home price is up 1.2 per cent. This, Oland said, suggests a population increase, something she discussed with a local realty company. Oland said she posed several questions, among them asking whether or not the buyers are from out-of-town or are renters who’ve decided to purchase a home. If from another city, where? She added these question will help IPG target their markets better. For example, if people from a particular area are moving to the city, then perhaps IPG can spend its marketing dollars with even greater efficiency, encouraging more people to move here by selling the city aggressively in that area. She added plans are in place to gather that information and more from realtors so IPG can utilize the statistics. The presentation Oland presented included information regarding how best to show numerically the impact of the work IPG does to benefit the city. The request for IPG to work on finding a way to do so was made at a previous council meeting. After researching how it is done in several other organizations in Canada and the U.S., they found there is no standard template for economic development metrics. IPG will work toward setting up its own template for a reporting procedure. “We’ll report the numbers back at the end of the year and find out if it effectively tells you the story you need to hear,” Oland said. Oland also spoke about the progress being achieved within the organization’s five interlocking business plan strategies. Ensuring there is a focus on the needs of Prince George within the higher levels of government when it comes to dealing with the skilled labour shortage in the north is just one of the goals of IPG. Increasing the population, and therefore the city’s tax base was also discussed as was creating investor response packages in order to quickly provide all information potential investors need. One of the recent successes of IPG is a 12-page spread on the city in BC Business magazine. Prince George has also been profiled in Alberta Venture and has an upcoming feature in Western Investor.
DeLynda Pilon firstname.lastname@example.org The city wants residents to share their input in the core services review and are offering an online survey (www.princegeorge.ca) and a public workshop on July 25 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Civic Centre to gather feedback. The survey and workshop will gather opinions on service profiles that have been completed by KPMG. According to a press release from the city, service profiles include information that describes city services, defines associated services levels (below, at, or above standard) and type (internal, mandatory, essential, traditional or discretionary), provides a rationale for the service level assessment and type and includes any related performance measurement information. Pre-registration for the workshop is required and would be appreciated by July 18. Register by calling 250-561-7602 or by e-mailing email@example.com with your name and contact information. Members of the public are encouraged to review the online service profiles prior to attending the workshop.
Most people in Prince George do not want a return to paid parking downtown though they generally agree the current system is being abused.
Prince George Chamber of Commerce president Bill McGill presented the results of a survey conducted by the chamber at Monday’s council meeting. He reported that 25 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of the change, 9 per cent were unsure and 65 per cent were against it.
He added two themes were prevalent in the written comments of those who oppose the plan. First, now isn’t the appropriate time, and the second focused on abuse of the current situation. Issues include vehicles with parkade decals parked on streets, while parkades remain under-utilized, two hours is too short for some meetings, and downtown businesses are using the free space.
Meanwhile, pay parking supporters contend that it keeps parking spaces available, that paying is easier than moving every two hours, the system generates revenue, and the support for it is strongest if the money generated is used for road repair.
Opponents were concerned about downtown revitalization, vandalism, the cost and disruption of installing metres, and suggested if pay parking comes it should only be after a long-term critical mass of downtown users is established.
Mayor Shari Green said the information gathered by the chamber is helpful to the entire community.
She added removing pay parking was a project that didn’t work.
“The general taxpayer is losing money,” she said.
The Prince George RCMP now has a domestic violence unit. After soliciting information from a variety of major stake holders, the RCMP established six policing priorities for the city, including establishing a domestic violence unit. Supt. Eric Stubbs, officer in charge of the Prince George detachment, discussed the priorities during Monday’s regular council meeting. Reducing crime through targeting prolific offenders is the first priority. Stubbs said they want to take 22 prolific offenders, at a minimum, off the street this year. Changing the behaviour of such offenders by linking them with community resources if they suffer from addiction or mental health issues is a focus for police, however if the person continues to offend, he or she will face arrest. Stubbs pointed out traffic safety remains important, and within this category are prolific offenders as well, like those who continue to drive impaired, who will also find themselves the focus of RCMP. The second priority states the RCMP will target organized crime groups. The third states the RCMP will continue to be a presence in the downtown core. “I hear about this on a regular basis,” Stubbs said. “We’ve had success and the people in the core don’t want to give up those gains. We still have a lot of work to do in that area.” One action that will help with that work is establishing a bar watch, something the RCMP are in the process of doing. The fourth priority seeks to protect high-risk youth in the community. “The goal is to try to help youth,” Stubbs said. “We are fortunate to partner with the Ministry of Children and Families who’ve agreed to provide a social worker to work with youth-at-risk offenders Friday and Saturday nights.” He added having a constable specifically assigned to this unit, along with the social worker, will help relieve the burden on other sections of the force when an at-risk youth is reported missing, something that happens often. Establishing contacts with the youth in question and the community may make it faster and easier to locate the youth, since familiarity will help them suspect where and with who the youth might be. He said all missing reports are taken seriously though in most cases the youth isn’t missing at all. The fifth priority takes on the recruitment of youth into organized crime gangs. A grant for $175,000 will allow the police to deliver the Step In/Step Up Anti-Gang youth program. The last priority, the domestic violence unit, has a corporal assigned to it who will begin the process of building the unit next week. “I’m very pleased we got this off the ground,” Stubbs said. Mayor Shari Green said though she has no personal experience with domestic violence, when Stubbs presented at a committee of the whole meeting several weeks ago to consult about priorities. At the time, Stubbs discussed the ongoing issue of domestic violence in the community. “It was an eye opener,” Green said. “There was no question around the table that we need to be addressing those very things.”
Though the amount of money each councillor pays in expenses, which is reimbursed by the city, has long been available, now each expenditure will be listed and available as well, following Monday's council meeting. "It's summarized, but not deep in details," Coun. Garth Frizzell, who made the motion to add a detailed list, said. "The public can't see what the money is spent on. It's a simple feet to add what we did and how much we spent doing it," he said. Coun. Cameron Stolz said councillors account as an aggregate amount over the year. He added perhaps each expenditure should come with a cost benefit analysis so citizens know how much the city gained through the investments councillors do. "I support it," said Mayor Shari Green. "I'm happy to provide the information." She added the many trips she makes on behalf of the city, as with the rest of council, are not vacations. If given the choice she'd much rather be home with her family, but it's all part of the job. "It's time away from my family, but the community benefits in a number of ways," she said. Coun. Murry Krause said he didn't have a problem with it either, though he wondered aloud if someone might decide he didn't really need the hamburger he purchased. The motion passed with Coun. Albert Koehler opposed.
Almost $2 million will be added to the road rehabilitation budget this year after city staff, following a recommendation from council, researched reserve funds to find money to transfer so more of the worst of city streets can be repaired.
Council has been looking at both short- and long-term strategies to find money to put into road repair, an issue that has been of great concern to citizens. However, during a previous council meeting, it was agreed that something, if possible, must be done immediately to plump up a budget that is only half, at $3.5 million, of what it needs to be just to maintain city streets.
The money is coming from a local area service reserve fund in the 2012 capital expenditure plan called Fourth Ave. reconstruction.
The opening balance of the fund is $2,323,280. Since the city doesn’t have a funding source for its portion of the project’s cost, the project is unfunded.
Coun. Dave Wilbur, who expressed concern over taking money from a reserve fund and transferring it to road rehabilitation when the idea was brought up previously, since the money needs to be paid back or another project will go undone, said he was impressed by the work of administration.
“I was concerned about the consequences. With this fund there is just a loose attachment to some unfunded project,” he said.
However, though there is no requirement to pay the funds back, Coun. Cameron Stolz added it is prudent to do so.
“This is not sustainable. It is a one off,” he said, adding the finance and audit committee will continue to look into more permanent solutions to the funding issue.
Mayor Shari Green added the extra funding is a short-term solution for an emergency situation.
Coun. Lyn Hall, who made the motion to go forward with transferring the money, also expressed concern about the impact.
“This is unprecedented. We are borrowing from reserves,” he said.
The money will be used to fix Ospika Blvd. from Range to Davis ($453,000), Ospika Blvd from Davis to Tyner ($473,000), Foothills Blvd. from North Nechako to the Foothills bridge ($550,000) and Tabor Blvd. from First to Fifth ($417,000).
Due to the imminent flood risk, the City of Prince George has declared a state of local emergency encompassing the area of Farrell Street, Houston Lane and Lower Lansdowne Road. Evacuation orders have been issued to 17 residences on Farrell Street and Paddlewheel Park has been closed.
Prince George City Hall Annex has been designated as the reception centre. All residents in the affected flood areas are asked to register by calling 250-561-7600. If required, residents are eligible for short term emergency assistance of food and shelter.
These services are coordinated through the evacuation support program and require in-person registration at the City Hall Annex.
The reception centre opened at 8:30 a.m. Friday June 8.
The City of Prince George will also be installing 900 meters of temporary diking (gabion baskets) on Farrell Street to protect critical public infrastructure.
Gabion baskets are a quick-diking system that uses foldable wire-mesh containers five metres long, one metre deep and one metre wide. These can be rushed to trouble spots, unfolded and rapidly filled with sand by front-end loaders, creating new dikes much more quickly than traditional sandbagging.
The Provincial River Forecast Centre is predicting that elevated river levels on both the Fraser and Nechako will continue for the next several weeks.
As such, evacuation alert notices will be issued to residences and businesses considered vulnerable to flooding.
The city is continuing to monitor the situation and reminds residents and visitors to stay well back from the river banks due to the possibility of hidden erosion. Participation in recreational activities on the rivers is not recommended during the current hazardous conditions.
Though council voted unanimously to support Coun. Garth Frizzell when he sought election to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities board, Coun. Cameron Stolz chose to endorse Raymond Louie, a councillor from city of Vancouver, at the FCM meeting. Louie won the position of third vice-chair. “Council endorsed Coun. Garth Frizzell running for board of FCM, and I supported that motion, and council supported my participation on FCM committees,” Stolz said. This year’s endorsement, he added, was the same as other years with the slight modification that Frizzell asked and received endorsement for the duration of his term on council. However, Stolz said he felt Louie was better able to take on the duties of third vice-president, an executive position, because he has experience lobbying the federal government especially regarding the massive issue of crumbling infrastructure most Canadian municipalities are facing. “Coun. Louie has been the chair or co-chair of the municipal infrastructure committee for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for the last three years. In running for third vice president, the person who’s doing that needs to be looking at it from a national point of view. They lobby the federal government on a number of issues and do so on behalf of municipalities all across Canada,” Stolz said. “It is the executive that will be working with federal government on helping draft the new infrastructure agreement that will be coming into place in 2015. Crumbling infrastructure is the single biggest challenge municipalities across Canada are facing. The next agreement with the federal government will be key in moving forward to repair that issue. From my perspective we must have the best person for the job talking to the feds, and Louie has experience already. Frizzell’s experience is in the international wing. He represented the city well, and did lots of good work there, but in looking at the executive I felt it important to have somebody who has been leading the message with the federal government already, and that’s Raymond Louie.” Stolz added he’s had the opportunity to see Louie in action. “My committee work has included working on the committee he co-chairs,” he said. “I’ve seen him work first-hand and sit down with cabinet ministers, explain the issue, then get a positive response.” Stolz, who has taken some heat for his decision to back Louie rather than Frizzell, said sometimes the right decision isn’t the popular one. “When making decisions you feel are in the best interest of everyone, they are not necessarily the most popular decision,” he said. “I met with most of my council colleagues and let them know I would support someone other than Coun. Frizzell.” However, he hasn’t yet had the chance to speak with Frizzell regarding the matter. “We have not talked about this,” he said. “We haven’t had much of an opportunity to get together.” He added he’s happy to explain why he voted the way he did and understands every decision a councillor makes will be unpopular with someone. “With every decision there are people you please and people that are upset by that decision . I’ve always tried to vote in a way that’s in the best interest of the community, or for the best person possible to fill a position.”
When it comes to potholes and crumbling roads, Prince George isn’t alone in its plight.
In fact, of the 1,800 municipalities represented at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) annual meeting, the overwhelming majority listed roads as a major concern.
Coun. Cameron Stolz, the chair of the finance and audit committee and one of the four councillors who attended the conference, said a solution is to stand united in sending a message to the federal government that urgent help is needed.
“I think the solution is a common message to the federal government that we have a challenge to address,” Stolz said. “Whether it was the big city mayor caucus, individual committees or members at large, the message is ‘we need a sustainable infrastructure fund’.”
Locally, he said the finance and audit committee is working on finding a long-term strategy to address the crumbling infrastructure in the city, which includes water and sewer lines. He added they will be making a presentation with recommendations to council this fall. However, including roads about $12.3 million is needed, and though Stolz expects money will be found through the core review, other funding sources may be pinpointed as well, and the finance and audit committee will have innovative ideas, there will still be a gap.
“We just can’t do it on our own. We would have to raise taxes with a 16 per cent tax increase. Take $12.3 million and divide it by 770,000, and that’s how much you’d have to raise taxes just to meet the infrastructure deficit. Obviously that’s not an option. We just can’t raise taxes,” he said.
Currently he said the federal government provides infrastructure funding through Build Canada, however the program expires in 2014, and even now all the money available within it has been allocated. A new agreement, Stolz said, will likely be announced next fall, in time for the 2014 construction season.
Mayor Shari Green, who also attended the conference, said the FCM has been working with the federal government on this new plan.
“Two billion dollars in infrastructure funding will end if this program ends. But the government said it is prepared to work with us. I’m optimistic, but this needs to happen soon. People need certainty sooner rather than later so they can plan,” she said.
During the meeting, delegates representing the 1,800 municipalities had the opportunity to provide feedback on exactly how they want to see this new program work. Questions included whether it should be project or plan based, and asked what sort of flexibility it should include. All of that information will be taken to the Ministry of Transportation to be considered while details of the program are hammered out.
The program will be a step forward in dealing with what turned out to be the most pressing issue among those at the FCM conference.
“It was definitely the most talked-about issue and concern from people across the country,” Green said. “It was the subject of the most well-attended tracks of the session. It’s good to hear we’re not the only ones in this boat, but unfortunately it’s evidence of an overwhelming and underlying issue across the country. Local government cannot manage its infrastructure with only eight cents on the dollar from upper levels of government.”
In an unprecedented move, the City of Prince George will be taking a long look at its reserve funds in an effort to discover if there is money that can be transferred into road rehabilitation projects this year.
At the same time, a list of critical areas that need attending to will be put together, above and beyond projects already scheduled for the season.
Though council agreed the move was more of a Band-Aid than a long-term solution, especially considering the money will have to be made up somehow, both public and personal concerns about the state of the city’s roads prompted the recommendation.
The proposal came about during a lengthy discussion at Monday’s council meeting while councillors talked about a series of recommendations brought forward as a notice of motion by Coun. Brian Skakun.
“People are not happy about the roads,” he said. “You can’t blame them. Some roads are in horrendous shape. I know we are fixing 600 potholes a day, but that’s not enough.”
The first recommendation, that a list of city real estate holdings be prepared and evaluated with a mind to sell some properties to off-set road repair costs will be left with the core review considering it’s a piece of the work they are taking on. Likewise the third recommendation, dealing with funds from the Terasen gas lease, was dropped from the list.
The second recommendation, requesting the city lobby the province to allow the city a portion of the provincial fuel tax for local road rehabilitation projects, will be sent to the government resolutions committee.
“I support this,” Coun. Dave Wilbur said. “We create wealth then get a portion back. All we want is our fair share.”
Recommendation four suggested the city contact the province and find out the process for municipalities to collect a local gas tax.
Skakun explained he envisioned it as a dedicated fund, a user pay tax that would shift the tax burden and include funds from regional district residents who drive the roads every day but who don’t pay to rehabilitate them.
Wilbur said he felt there was no way a gas tax would completely shift the tax levy off off property owners, especially considering the current deficit, and to promise it would was irresponsible.
“I am shocked and annoyed,” Wilbur said. “A promise to replace a levy is irresponsible. Where is the realism in that?”
Coun. Cameron Stolz pointed out that the recommendation assumes there are no gas stations outside city limits available for customers that would not be charging a gas tax.
However, the point became moot when city manager, Derek Bates, pointed out in order to make recommendation four a reality, a provincial act would need to be changed. This, he explained, meant there needed to be political will to change the legislation.
Mayor Shari Green agreed to contact the province with an inquiry into the matter.
Number five suggested a public poll be conducted in order to gauge whether or not people wanted a gas tax. Stolz said the idea was premature since council had no idea whether or not it could move forward with the plan even if people wanted it.
“It’s irresponsible. We don’t have the authority to implement this yet.”
He added city staff have a heavy work load, particularly now with the core review in process.
Recommendation six dealt with a cost analysis of extended warranties on major asphalt contracts. During the next council meeting, there will be a presentation about the city road rehabilitation program for council and the public’s benefit, and the information will be included then.
Number seven suggests the city create a two- to five-year financial plan for meeting the estimated shortfall on road rehabilitation.
“Finance and Audit has a work plan discussing the linear infrastructure deficit,” Stolz said.
He added the total deficit, when you consider all the underground infrastructure which is also crumbling, is much greater than $3.5 million, sitting around $12.3 million. The best hope of finding a long term solution rests, he said, with the core review.
“Essentially this work is underway,” Green said.
“There are a couple of lists I want the city off of,”Coun. Lyn Hall said.
The first was the Mcleans list, making Prince George notorious for its per capita murder rate in years past. The second, he said, was the BCAA list regarding poor roads.
“We have huge issues with roads. It’s literally taken over anything we’ve done in the past. That’s why I’m hoping tonight administration finds funds to draw from now.”
A motion to refer the issue to senior staff to see if they could identify funds that could be moved to road rehabilitation this year passed.
“One bit at a time has not worked for us,” Wilbur cautioned. “The sky is not falling only on the City of Prince George. The crisis is across the country. The infrastructure deficit is much the consequence of downloading. Local governments can’t climb out of the hole,” he said, pointing out municipalities now get just a few percentage of each tax dollar. “Where do we go? Approaching the provincial and federal government to give us a better share has fallen on deaf ears. The chorus needs to be louder, and maybe they will listen.”
The problem is becoming such that it is an issue of public safety, he added.
“It is impossible to solve this without our partners, but we shoulder what we can and carry on.”
The hope, he said, lies in the core review. Even then there won’t be an extra $12 million plus to spend on repairing and maintaining crumbling local infrastructure.
Tuesday night Mayor Shari Green introduced the team of specialists who have begun the city’s core review during a public meeting in council chambers. City staff and some council members joined a bout a dozen residents, with technical problems preventing Internet coverage. Alistair Nimmons with KPMG presented an overview of the project’s objectives and approach. He said the process is actually three parts and includes the core services review, a look into service efficiency and an analysis of the revenue side of city business, including a look into what lands and properties it owns and whether or not it would serve the city better to sell some of them. The approach will be five part. The initial step, one already in progress, includes introducing the team to the select committee and the worker’s groups from city staff who are taking part. Then they will gather information on the services at the city, the way departments are organized as well as revenue streams. Services will be looked at and analysed. They will identify opportunities to be more efficient and then provide recommendations to council based on those opportunities. The process started Apr. 25 and the completed report, along with recommendations, will presented on Oct. 26. Brian Bourns, also with KPMG, spoke about the community engagement component of the process, something council discussed at length during several meetings. It was one of the items the select committee, headed by the mayor, took back to KPMG before signing a contract with the company, intent on ensuring the public engagement component was extensive. “The engagement strategy is starting tonight,” he said, adding the purpose of the meeting was to advise the public and city staff about the review, how people might be involved and find out what people think they should take a closer look at. He said they will have a description of services in place by the end of June which will include costs, the rationale behind what services are provided in the way they are provided, the legislative framework governing the city and the service levels which have been set, comparing them to other similar cities as well as industry norms. The results will be posted on the city website, giving interested members of the public time to mull them over before a series of workshops, set to take place in July, occur. At the workshops people will be invited to discuss the findings and give input identifying possible changes. There will also be an online survey for comments and feedback. Then they will spend July and August sorting through the ideas presented, choose those that make sense and are worth doing while sifting through those which do more harm than good. The results will go on-line, then in mid-September more workshops will offer a chance for more feedback. Simultaneously, KPMG will be going through a very similar process will city staff following the same time period. The results will be reflected in a report to council in October. One of the handful of members of the general public who attended brought up the road repair issue, asking how deep the core review’s analysis will go and whether or not it will include bringing in an expert. Bourns explained the core review approach must look at everything, not focus only on road repair. However they will look into whether or not there is any discrepancy between the service level that has been set and what is actually being accomplished. They will look at other similar cities and compare what is being spent there on roads in comparison to Prince George, and they will meet with the staff and public who have the opportunity to identify road repair as a real problem. The recommendations given to council, as part of the report, may be very specific. Many times they can suggest a way to re-engineer the way things are being done. Besides the workshops the public can submit comments and suggestions regarding aspects of the core review by contacting the mayor or e-mailing KPMG at CPGCSR@kpmg.ca.
DeLynda Pilon firstname.lastname@example.org It’s kind of a good news/bad news thing. The good news is Prince George doesn’t have the worst road in the province, according to the results of an annual poll conducted by the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), however the city has the second worst, Domano Blvd., and the third, Tabor Blvd., the sixth, Massey Dr., and the seventh, 15th Ave. “I’ve provided the BCAA my feedback on the survey from last year,” Mayor Shari Green said. She added there are factors that affect the outcome of the survey, particularly when it comes to northern communities. “They do it in spring when roads are in the worst shape in northern communities,” she said. “This is the most populated northern community, so it’s not a surprise to me we’ve got a lot of people focused on the roads. They are in bad shape. There’s no question, but it’s not the level playing field with the south.” Southern communities, she said, have the opportunity to pave all winter long. In the north, paving cannot begin until May. “So if the survey was done in the fall would it be the same results?” she asked. She sees the annual survey more as a good way to drive people to the BCAA web site and improve their membership, a savvy business move. However, the BCAA have said they do the survey in order to make municipal politicians aware of the state of the roads in their communities. “We’re acutely aware of the state of our roads. We would like some provincial and federal awareness about the state of our roads. The BCAA could really help us by lobbying for some other revenue opportunities, or revenue structure around municipal governments because we can’t continue on this unsustainable financial path so many municipalities find themselves on.” Green pointed out the notice of motion put forward by Coun. Brian Skakun, which offers several recommendations to deal with road repair. “What Coun. Skakun brought forward isn’t a new concept. Those concepts are all things that have been talked about many times in many venues by all of us, contains ideas discussed by council several times in the past.” However, she said, there are roadblocks going forward. “We have hit a wall in terms of tolerance in this community. We are as frustrated as everyone else,” she said. “I know what its going to take. Three and a half million dollars, and I don’t have it. That’s why we are doing a core review. That’s why we’re making tough decisions. We’ve got to pick what the priorities are, and if paving roads are the priority then some other stuff has to come off the table, and if its mowing roads and parks people have to decide what is important to them. We are at the end of taxpayers ability to pay, and we know that.” Worst roads in B.C. 1. Westside Road in Kelowna for crumbling potholes and pavement. 2. Domano Boulevard in Prince George for potholes and crumbling pavement. 3. Tabor Boulevard in Prince George for potholes and crumbling pavement. 4. Station Street in Vancouver for potholes and crumbling pavement. 5. Cosens Bay Road in Cold Stream for potholes and crumbling pavement. 6. Massey Drive in Prince George for potholes and crumbling pavement. 7. Fifteenth Avenue in Prince George for potholes and crumbling pavement. 8. George Massey Tunnel in Richmond for traffic congestion. 9. Island Highway in Malahat for traffic congestion. 10. Pacific Rim Highway in Port Alberni for potholes and crumbling pavement.
DeLynda Pilon email@example.com Potholes and road defects on city streets that devour cars are unacceptable, but acquiring the money to repair and maintain this crumbling infrastructure without spiking property taxes will take some innovative thinking. “People are upset and rightfully so,” said Coun. Brian Skakun, who delivered a report to council at Monday’s meeting outlining several options for council to scrutinize in an effort to find a solution to the problem. “There are roads that need repaving that just won’t get done this year. This issue is not going to die down like it traditionally has.” Skakun said the issue has been on his mind for a long time. “In the last couple of years everything has just been accumulating when it comes to the destruction of roads. I’ve talked to so many people about it.” The city, he said, is continuing a game of catch-up, doing the best it can while understanding there is a $3.5 million deficit in the road rehabilitation budget. “We started in 2002,” Skakun, who is on his fourth term in council, said, “putting a little over $1 million a year in road repaving. Now we’re up to $3.5 million, and now we’ve been told by administration we need to put in at least $7 million per year. This year is the first time administration has come to us and said we picked a set of roads to be repaved this winter during the budget process but we realized this spring there are words worse off than one’s chosen.” This discovery initiated a change in priorities over which roads will be resurfaced first this year, with some being postponed indefinitely. Skakun’s report offers seven recommendations council will consider, likely during the next regular meeting on May 28. First, Skakun want a list of city owned real estate holdings. “I want a total value from our administration,” he said. “My understanding is we own a number of properties downtown and I want to know do we have to sit on those or can we sell some of them and generate some revenue, and get more tax dollars from those properties.” He wants the the city to lobby the province for a share of the provincial tax rebate. For the most part, he said, people have been supportive of the idea of having a local gas tax, with revenues dedicated to road rehabilitation, however they also want the province to share more of the rebate it gets from the federal government. Skakun’s third recommendation asks that the city use some proceeds of the Terasen Gas lease fund for road rehabilitation. The city, he points out, needs to contact the province and find out how to levy a local gas tax, and he wants the city to survey locals about whether or not they support such a tax. Administration, he said, should also find out the cost difference in procuring extended warranties on paving. His last recommendation is the city creates a two to five-year-plan to meet the estimated $3.5 million shortfall. “I looked at a bunch of options to try to meet the deficit of $3.5 million without raising property taxes,” he said. “We’re going to deal with this notice of motion in three weeks, and we’ll see how it goes. I hope I get support from a majority of the council members to deal with these issues.” His concern, he said, is things have come to the point where the issue is not only aesthetic, which does affect attracting new people to the community, but also a matter of safety. “Some of these potholes and the damage they are causing to vehicles is unacceptable. I went up to Hart Highway today and some of the roads up there are unbelievable. There was one pothole I saw that was 20 feet long, 10 feet wide and a foot and a half deep. There were several of those in a row, and it was absolutely dreadful.” If the city moves forward on the recommendations, some will likely be sent through to the finance and audit committee while others will go to the resolutions committee. Currently, he added, finance and audit is working on a similar plan, though their’s takes a more long-term approach. “Finance and audit are dealing with a motion we made during budget to create a long term plan. This kind of fits with that. I’m talking about a three to five year plan Lets do what we can now then tie in with finance and audit.” Skakun added his goal is to double the amount of road repaving the city does this year.
A reduction in $125,000 to the parks division at the city, the equivalent of two full-time positions, has forced council to revamp the maintenance standards for that division. Flavio Violan, manager parks and solid waste, presented a report at Monday's council meeting which explained the need for the revamp as well as showcased three options council could choose from though he recommended the first. The option recommended, and the one chosen, will reduce the service levels of boulevard and turf maintenance, effecting primarily sports groups. It will also allow the division to form another mobile crew so high priority areas can be maintained once every 10 working days, medium priority can be maintained once ever 20 to 23 working days and low priority will be serviced when the time permits. "I think we are feeling the effects of the decisions we made a couple of months ago," Coun. Lyn Hall said. Mayor Shari Green agreed some hard decisions had to be made.
Over 9,000 Prince George residents made it clear they are not okay with the city borrowing over $3.5 million to pay its portion of the River Road dike project.
The city was approved for a federal grant of about $5.4 million and the remainder of the cost-shared project was to be paid for out of a reserve fund.
However, in order to borrow that kind of money, a municipality must get a green light from taxpayers, either by calling a referendum, an action likely to cost the city about $70,000, or through the alternate approval process (AAP).
An AAP requires residents not in favour of the proposed action to fill out a ballot stating as much. If 10 per cent vote, which in this case is about 5,300 people, then the requested action can not be taken.
By the time the window of opportunity for people to make their wishes known closed at 5 p.m. April 24, there were 9,653 response forms in. Of those, 382 were determined to be invalid, leaving 9,271 received, and the River Road dike project circling the drain.
Eric Allen has been at the forefront of a grass-roots movement to gain enough votes to force the city to either hold a referendum on the issue or cancel the project as proposed.
"I am elated with the number of people who signed the petition," Allen said. "There was almost twice as many signatures as required."
He added he is hoping the city does not go forward with a referendum, but rather backs away from the project.
"It would be a waste of $70,000," he said. "A lot of people out there have this issue on their mind, and many of them just didn't get around to signing the petition."
Allen said he isn't sure if the federal grant money is earmarked specifically for the River Road dike project, or if it can be used for flood mitigation in general. If so, he said perhaps the city can find another legitimate use for it. However, he maintains that municipalities should not be in the 'flood business' anyway.
"We are not in the flood business. It is a provincial responsibility," Allen said.
Allen delivered about 4,500 ballots to city hall the day before deadline, putting him in a position to speak to a lot of people about their concerns about the project going forward.
He said people had two main issues which were reiterated nearly across the board.
"People are really tired of the city spending money on mega projects. They are incensed about the roads. Basically they want more fiscal responsibility. They want money spent on something tangible. They are not happy with how their money is being spent," he said.
Allen intends to be at the next council meeting since the issue is on the agenda. During the meeting staff will present the results of the AAP as well as the two options council has moving forward, either to proceed to a referendum or to discontinue the project as it is currently proposed.
DeLynda Pilon firstname.lastname@example.org If you had a dog licensed in the city, and still have your pet but never renewed the licence, you can expect a visit this year from one of two people the city is in the process of recruiting to come to your door and make sure you get that bit of business done. Guy Gusdal, the manager of bylaw services for the City of Prince George, said the two new employees will focus on collecting unpaid dues, with less of an emphasis on new licences. The city is taking the step following a pilot project last year. During the project a part-time animal control person was commissioned for the job, and the revenue earned was in excess of the cost incurred. Gusdal pointed out that currently the funds earned by the city in dog licensing fees do not cover the cost of animal control. “Having users pay for those services will reduce the demand on the general tax list, then dollars can go to other things. Council can use it elsewhere and not have to increase taxes to the general public,” he said. “It’s also a question of fairness. There are those who abide by the laws, do their due diligence and civic duty and purchase a licence while some take prodding. Others refuse to do it until brought up for charges - or it takes an extreme amount of effort to get those people to compliance.” He pointed out the need for animal control people is dictated by a few factors, including responsible dog ownership. And if everyone who owned a dog paid the licensing fee, then much less money, if any at all, would have to come out of the general tax fund to pay for animal control. “With this, frankly, if everybody would just pay for the licence, and we didn’t have to do it, that would be the ideal situation. Then you’d have the users that have the dogs in city demanding the animal control services paying for them. Or if all people were 100 per cent responsible with dog ownership, then we wouldn’t need as many animal control people.” He added getting your pet licensed may lead to its return if it ever goes missing. “Frankly tattoos change over time. After a few years they can often not be legible at all. As for chips, there’s lots of different kinds of chip technology out there, and not all are read by every reader,” he said. “A dog licence is really your best bet for getting your dog back. Typically, though it is not written in bylaw, though we may look at putting it in future amendments, past practice is if you have a dog licence we return the dog. “If the dog gets out, and it’s a first offence, we will make every effort to contact the owner directly and get the dog back. It will not go to the pound. There is no cost, though you may get a warning. Once it goes to the pound, we have a contract with the SPCA who does pound services for us. Then the impound fees and things would apply. So a dog licence is kind of a get out of jail free card.” If there are multiple offences, then animal control will take whatever enforcement action is necessary. “People can treat it as insurance, and fairly cheap insurance, to get their pet back.” Taking a proactive approach to bylaw enforcement means targeting an infraction that can put at least as much money back into city coffers as it takes to enforce it. “There’s lots of things any city can be more proactive about when it comes to bylaw enforcement. What it comes down to is the availability of staff and resources,” he said. “There’s any variety of offences occurring out there. We have to look at the tools and resources we have for dealing with those offences, and what kind of effective action we can take versus the staff time we can allocate to that. Any city out there, or even the Supreme Court, has to be selective in enforcement. You will bankrupt cityies if you try to enforce everything. Just like a crown prosecution for criminal offences, you have to look at the situations that are the most in the public interest.” This means prioritizing complaints. and those priorities are set by council, he said. Complaints that can be enforced in a way that allows the city to recoup funds are often at the top of the list. “If we were going to start to look at being proactive, those are the things we would start looking at first. Those things that are cost effective.”
A city resident involved in a case pending with the City of Prince George went public with his concerns after he filed a complaint against senior management at the city, resulting in a threat of legal action against him.
Laurie MacIntosh says the city is at fault for a blocked culvert that caused flooding on his property and damaged his home, and he wants them to pay for the repairs. His complaint spurred an investigation by the city, which concluded the city was not the cause of the problem.
During the municipal election, MacIntosh set up a website, challenging contenders for mayor and council positions to look at the evidence he’d amassed and state how they would deal with the issue.
The problem remained unresolved, and with a court case pending in July, he wanted to gather documentation from the city regarding the issue, but says he met with strong resistance.
“During the election I was going through the process of gathering documents for the legal proceedings. The city would not give them to me,” he said.
In particular, he wanted a copy of everything pertaining to the investigation they conducted into his complaint.
Frustrated over what he felt was stone-walling on the city’s part, MacIntosh sent a four-page cover letter along with a 41-page document to the mayor’s office, complaining about the way administration handled the issue.
In return, he got a letter from another lawyer, this one out of Vancouver.
The letter, he said, distorted every action he’d taken. MacIntosh sent a letter back, debunking the information within the letter he received.
“They said ‘our position hasn’t changed’. They said if you go public with this, we’ll sue you,” he said. “That’s when I knew it wasn’t about whether or not I was right or wrong. They know I can’t compete with a whole bunch more legal action.”
MacIntosh pointed out the lawyer from Vancouver is the third who has been involved in the process by the city. The first is the city lawyer and the second will deal with the upcoming litigation.
MacIntosh contacted the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, who responded the same day, asking for copies of the complaint and subsequent correspondence. Two weeks later they called him and said they were deeply concerned about the situation.
“They said they were deeply concerned about silencing complaints, particularly a government.”
Doing so, he was told, is very unusual, except in extreme circumstances.
“I don’t think my complaint about how the city handled documents was extreme,” he said. “Not giving investigation results in a timely fashion is not open or honest, and it deprives citizens of the right to see the information.”
Robert Holmes, president of the BCCLA, responded with a letter to the Vancouver counsel involved.
“The BC Civil Liberties Association is deeply concerned by the strategic use of the threat of defamation lawsuits by government against their citizens.”
He went on to say “such lawsuits are tantamount to an attack on a person’s fundamental well being.”
Holmes’s letter also provided numerous examples of case law demonstrating the limited capacity to which a government has to bring defamation action against citizens.
To date, the city has not responded to the letter.
“In my opinion it was a scare tactic. Maybe I’m wrong about that and maybe they will come after me with legal action,” he said. “But should I cower in a corner and hide from these guys? Is that what you do in a free and democratic society?”
By press time, the city did not respond to the Free Press for comment on the issue.