Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Council Paves The Way For Another $700,000 Down The Drain!

City Council voted 6-3 (Kipp, Bestwick, McKay opposed) to grant a licence of use to a new group wanting to use the old building at 25 Victoria Rd. for their theatrical pursuits. The city taxpayer will pay the group $11,350/yr as an operating grant, except in the first year when it appears will be paying them $11.350 for the remainder of 2014 which is only six months. I am still waiting for a clarification on this, stay tuned.

This building with an assessed value of $280,000 has already cost Nanaimo taxpayers $802,876 and in order to satisfy the deficiencies outlined in an engineers report, we can expect to put out at least another $727,023 over the coming years.

Can You Believe Staff Reports?

At the June 16 COW meeting Suzanne Zamborski assured council the building would only require $50,000 in maintenance over the next three years. That claim was not supported by any studies which would seem to contradict the engineers report of a few years ago. Of course you can simply choose to ignore needed repairs and let the building fall into further disrepair, but that is hardly sound asset management.

This also contradicts a staff report in Dec. 2013 which recommends the building will require $160,000/yr. for  at least the next five years, to bring the building up to an acceptable standard.

A Little 'Spinning' To Fleece The Taxpayer?

It would seem that there is an appetite to get someone else to play 'little theatre' on Victoria Road and the reality of having to put another $700,000 into the building might make it a hard sell. But if you ignore the engineers reports and make the claim that only $50,000 over three years is needed as opposed to $160,000/yr. it makes the whole deal a bit more palatable.

In the end it is only tax dollars we are talking about, and hey, it is an election year, and I am sure there are some votes to be gained with this little misuse of YOUR tax dollars.

How much longer before the next election?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Nanaimo Taxes Did NOT Have To Increase!

Note: Email Subscribers may have to visit Nanaimo Info Blog to view video

The above is a video clip of my address to city council on May 12, 2014 just before they adopted the 2014 - 2018 Financial Plan which will see taxes go up a total of 16.8%.

If council had elected to use the $4million surplus from last year, our taxes would not have to go up for two more years. Yet, the 'Tax and Spend Brigade' chose to increase taxes anyway.

Councillors Bestwick, Kipp and McKay opposed the budget, the balance of Council (the tax and spend brigade) chose to pass it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Issues With Governance Documents

Why Needed At All??

The first issue with the three reports that have burned through nearly 100,000 TAX $$$$$ is why in the world after years and years the Mayor and City Manager don't know how they are supposed to do their jobs? The city of Nanaimo was incorporated in 1874, so guidelines as to  how a city is to be governed should be pretty much established by now, one would like to think.

Why does Nanaimo need a special document outlining the role of the Mayor and Council? The BC Community Charter ( Section115 & 116) already clearly establishes what the responsibilities of the mayor and members of council are with sec. 116 defining responsibilities of the mayor, and section 115 setting out the responsibilities of council members.

Our Mayor is in his sixth year of office, nearing the end of his second term, and the city manager has been employed by the city many years in senior levels of management. For those paying attention their joint salaries likely well exceed $300,000/yr. which as I stated elsewhere should allow the city to employ people who actually already know how to do their jobs.

The need to hire three outside consultants and blow off another $100,000 could be a testament to a level of competence being demonstrated by the Mayor and city manager that should be of some concern to the taxpayers picking up their paychecks. If the Mayor is not sure of his job, and the city manager seems in the same boat, it gives little comfort to realize the Mayor hires the city manager.

The Governance Framework Roles & Responsibilities Could Muzzle Councillors

If left unchanged this document could see councilors sanctioned if a majority of council wished to find their conduct inappropriate. The language around these provisions is so open it could be abused to the point where any councilors in disagreement with the rest of council could in effect become impotent as a councilor.

While the document lays out the basis for disciplining rogue councilors it uses language such as bullying and intimidation as cause to remove a councilor from a committee, limit their access to staff or to municipal resources.

Anyone who has paid attention to this council will realize this document can be misused by the majority of council to muzzle the opinion of councilors the balance do not agree with.

While the document outlines the reasons for sanctioning a councilor, which I presume needs a simple majority of council to enforce, there is no defined mechanism whereby a councilor can appeal his/her case if they disagree with the finding. As it stands it is the perfect mechanism to shut down a councilor who strongly disagrees with a council decision.

In recent years a couple of glaring examples where this process could be misused would be the $20 million 'shiny new staff office' and the $30 million to replace Colliery dams.  At a time when Nanaimo needs more transparent, open and public debate, there seems an unsettling move to more and more secrecy, and bigger and bigger tools to shut down dissenting voices on council.

Democracy --- Nanaimo Style

One of the premises for adopting the City of Nanaimo Procedure bylaw is to make city council meetings more productive by limiting the amount of time allowed for public input. The author of the bylaw Mr. Mina stated (and I paraphrase) that a city council meeting is a meeting of council to which the public may watch. Couple that with the comment of Mr. Swabey that the public is not meant to participate and you have the basis for my angst as to where city hall would now wish to lead us.

I have long since been of the opinion that staff see the councilors as children they have to put up with because they provide the shield that keeps staff not accountable for anything. Again, my opinion only, but I have often noticed what appears like patronizing attitudes from staff directed at councilors.

 One bit of rationale for limiting public engagement at council meetings is that there should have been ample time for public input prior to the actual meeting of council. That may apply in some jurisdictions, but is far from the norm in Nanaimo.

Many times, the first time the public is aware of an issue, is when it is published as an agenda item on the Thursday preceding the council meeting. Arguably many decisions are made with far too little time for a subject to be scrutinized before making the final decision. How the members of council have time to consider agenda items is cause enough for concern, let alone members of the public who may have no familiarity with an agenda item whatsoever prior to the Thursday before a Monday meeting.

There is far too much trust put in the recommendation of staff in my opinion, who seem to demand blind faith in their ability to provide the best advice. Public input seems only tolerated when it is required by legislation but is avoided under the veil of the in-camera process as often as possible. The opportunity for meaningful public input in the new annex ($20 million), the colliery dams ($2 million & counting) the Wellcox property $11 million and counting for a plot of land we don't control 80% of, are just a few examples of ZERO public input before being told what our masters have decided.

These three examples are all decisions that could have been made out in the open if council and staff placed any real value on doing the will of the people. They have turned democracy on it's ear, and we have allowed it through apathy, lethargy or just plain stupidity.

Get a copy of the Procedure Bylaw of the City of Nanaimo (revised March 18, 2014) and compare the changes to how they want to conduct YOUR business. If it doesn't trouble you, then roll over and go back to sleep.

The biggest threat to democracy is not incompetent or crooked politicians, nor is it the fault of the bloated civil service with all their golden wages and benefit packages............... no dear reader, the biggest threat to democracy is a complacent, apathetic, disengaged, uninformed electorate.
Reduces Public Participation
Muzzles Councillors Who Don't Agree

Two alarming documents are currently being considered by this city council, which will affect how the city get's run for decades and they do nothing to comfort the average taxpayer. They will effectively reduce the opportunity for public input and can be used to control councilors who may be in strong disagreement with a council decision.

I have personally watched the committee meetings where both of these documents were considered in their draft form and as a big fan of democracy, the hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up! That is no exaggeration. My biggest fear, is that once again the average Nanaimo voter will simply continue to snooze as their ability to participate in the process is eroded further. The over use and mis-use of the in-camera process has been a hallmark of this council, and if implemented, these two new documents will pretty much shut out most of the public. In my opinion, based on different comments I heard at both of these meetings, there is a disturbing tone held by the majority of council as to how city governance should be conducted.

I urge anyone who wishes to hang onto the last shreds of public input in city affairs to visit the city website and download copies of 'Draft Procedure Bylaw of the City of Nanaimo, Revised March 18, 2014' and the 'City of Nanaimo Governance Framework Roles & Responsibilities".

If you think the public is being shut out of the decision making process now, with secret in-camera meetings, minutes of these meetings that are incomplete as to what was said and what advice was given by staff, then brother, if these two documents are adopted without revision ....... you ain't seen nothing yet.

These documents, if adopted will have affect on councilors elected this fall, and frankly, I think both should be put on the shelf until after the next election, and these documents need to be a hot item in the next civic election.

City Mayor & City Manager Not Qualified?

Between our Mayor and City Manager the taxpayers of Nanaimo are paying over $300,000 per year to govern the city of Nanaimo. The Mayor is in his sixth year in office, and I believe our city manager has over 20 years experience with the city, yet they had to hire three outside consultants to tell them how to do their jobs. Is it just me, or does anyone else think that people being paid that kind of money should be past the intern stage?

Listen Carefully to the opinions expressed by top city staff!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Is Annex Unsafe? Mr. Holmes Seems Confused!

The above screen grab for the local Daily quotes assistant city manager Mr. Doug Holmes as saying the old annex could not accurately be characterized as unsafe.

This statement would seem to contradict a press release issued over his name issued May 2, 2011.

This press release states:

"The exisitng City Hall Annex needs to be replaced because, in the event of an earhtquake, it is not safe for the public and for employees"

"The City needs to keep the building safe for the dozens of public who come into the current City Hall Annex each day. Further, as an employer, the City has an obligation to keep safe work premises. The current City Hall Annex is not safe"

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan - Wrong Information?

Daily News April 30, 2012

Thought Annex In Peril
With Even 'Slightest Shake'?

Mayor Ruttan is quoted in this article by Daily scribe Tamara Cunningham;

Mayor John Ruttan said there is risk and concern associated with the old annex, which is expected to crumble "with even the slightest quake."

This seems to represent a misunderstanding of the statement contained in the engineers report which refers to the seismic condition: "The assessment identified the City Hall Annex Building as at high risk for structural damage during a significant seismic event."

The same report says in summary:

"Upon review of the seismic condition of the building, we conclude that in a seismic event, there is a high risk of significant damage or partial collapse of this building occurring."

I have always been curious about the imprecise language used in this report one level of hazard is called a 'significant' seismic event, while another place gives no definition, simply refering to a 'seismic' event.

I have long wondered what building anywhere would not have a high risk of significant damage in a 'seismic' event, when you don't specify the magnitude of that event?

In either case there is nothing in this engineers report that indicate 'the slightest quake' would cause the old annex to crumble.

We now have the peculiar contradiction where Mr. Holmes is saying that characterizing the old annex as unsafe is not entirely accurate.

What is notable is the fact that under the current building code, this building did not require a seismic upgrade and Work Safe BC did not deem the building unsafe.

So, what is the unvarnished truth about this matter. Is the building truly so hazardous it had to be given away for $1 or was it perhaps worth the assessed value of $4,000,000.00?

Nanaimo Councilor Ted Greves

Not Interested In Looking For 5% Budget Reduction
"We don't have enough money now"

At the council meeting of January 28, 2013 during debate of the motion to ask staff to prepare a list of possible budget savings to a maximum of 5%, councilor Greves said he thought it was a pointless exercise as "we don't have enough money now".

To say I nearly fell off my chair would be an understatement to think a keeper of the public purse seems to think the only answer to the city's fiscal house is to raise more taxes. That of course being the only solution to not having enough money to spend.

He also had no problem giving third reading to the budget bill which council has not debated to this point.

Councilor George Anderson Nanaimo

Passes Third Reading of Budget Bylaw
Comfortable It Can Be Changed Later

At the council meeting of Jan. 28, 2013 the youngest member of Nanaimo City Council expressed his concern that some other members of council were taking issue with being asked to give third reading to the 2013 budget bylaw.

Apparently, the fact that council had not considered or debated any aspects of the document which over the next five years will have spent over $850,000,000.00 was of no reason of concern for Councilor Anderson.

He pointed out that for the past thirty years councils have always given third reading to what used to be called a conditional budget saying they have until final adoption in May to make changes. That of course is not true of the budget given third reading at this council meeting which will actually be adopted at the Feb. 18th council meeting, which demonstrates Anderson's lack of understanding of what he was voting for.

His views apparently were shared by the majority of council as third reading was given to this most important bylaw.

Al Kenning Wields Power At City Hall

Kenning #1 In City
Ruttan #9 In City

The local daily published it's 'Top 20 Most Powerful People List' and it seems they have finally figured out who really wields the power at city hall when it comes to running things and making policy.

Al Kenning, city manager has been moved from #7 last year to #1 this year and John Ruttan, city mayor has been demoted from #1 last year to #9 this year.

Readers of this blog will know this comes as no surprise, at it is obvious who makes policy and calls the shots when it comes to decision making at city hall. Readers of this blog, will also recognize the flaw in the structure as it allows Mr. Kenning to avoid accountability as all final decisions rest with city council. Of course, the way things are presented by city staff, is what determines the outcome of council decisions. Basically, council takes whatever staff says as being the gospel truth and simply rubber stamp whatever Mr. Kenning recommends.

Many of these major decisions are made behind closed doors far away from any form of public scrutiny, which further removes Kenning or Ruttan from being accountable for their decisions. The old annex as an example springs to mind as does the Colliery Dam decisions. Both are decisions which staff and council fear being brought out into the harsh glare of public scrutiny.

Even the very decision of when to go in-camera and keep the minutes in-camera is a decision based on the advice of Mr. Kenning. City Council just basically smile and nod, and rubber stamp whatever he says. This is why many decisions are still kept secret even though the need for privacy has long since passed.

The Daily points out that the unpopularity of the Colliery Dams decision are potential hazards for Mayor Ruttan, but fail to mention that Mr. Kenning was the architect of that whole decision including providing cost estimates to replace the dams, which were not provided by the city-hired engineer but Mr. Kenning himself. The decision to remove the dams rather than rehab appears to have been a policy decision made by Mr. Kenning long before it was presented to council.

Yes, it seems the daily has it right, but they fail to mention that the most powerful man in the city, can avoid responsibility and accountability as he can hide behind Mayor and Council as being the final decision makers.

If pay levels also reflect the levels of power at city hall then clearly Mr. Kenning is of much greater value than Mr. Ruttan. According to the 2011 SOFI reports Mr. Ruttan is paid $80,857.55 which pales by comparison to Mr. Kenning's $223,269.45.

Many Nanaimo taxpayers might argue that both men are being over paid, but that is a subject for another day.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In-Camera Meetings & Transparency

Do Council & City Staff 
Abuse This Tool?

The 'Three-L's" as they are called, Land, Labour and Litigation are the three topics which 'may' require city council and city staff to discuss some matters out of view of the public. While there is absolutely no doubt that certain matters need private deliberation, once a decision has been made is the need for secrecy still present?

One reason for an in-camera meeting covers the dealing with land, according to the community charter:

"the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements, if the council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality;"

Do 'all' discussions regarding land have the reasonable expectation that the interests of the city would be harmed if made public?

Why Do Councillors Want To Hide Their Vote? 

Regardless of the reason council chooses to make their deliberations and decisions in secret, once the reason for secrecy has passed why do they not release the meeting minutes?  It is reasonable to assume reasons for maintaining secrecy could include not wanting to be held accountable for their decisions, and a concern that public scrutiny might reveal a poor decision making process.

An Affront To Democracy!

What some councillors seem to fail to realize is the utter affront to democracy this policy of secrecy is to the whole democratic process. For example if a councilor is not prepared to tell you if they voted for the new city annex, how can you make an informed decision if you want to vote for them?

The abuse of the in-camera process is a far too convenient tool to avoid being accountable to the taxpayer they are supposedly representing.

They Say 'Transparency' But Practice 'Secrecy'! Then Still Ask For Your Vote!

If this is actually true, or just more political-speak, then there is no reason to not release the minutes of in-camera meetings once the legitimate reason for secrecy has passed if there is a true desire to be open, transparent and accountable.

This lack of true accountability may very well be the reason nealry 85% of Nanaimo voters said 'No Thanks' to any member of council during the last civic election. After all , how can you honestly give your support to a member of council if they are not willing to make their policies known to those they purport to represent?

Taking Responsibilty - Adopted By Strategic Plan

One of the guiding principles included in the $120,000 Strategic Plan (used to support spending on everything) was to accept responsibilty.

Question? How in hell, is city hall accepting responsibility, when they hide their decisions behind the over-worked, misused tool of the in-camera process?

Do you think there will ever be elected officials who actually put into practice the good-sounding buzz words or is it just so much hot air and horse feathers? Clearly, this city council has no intention of honoring their claim of desiring to be open and transparent.

Of course, there is no need to honor the principle of being responsible on the part of city managers, there is simply no incentive as there would seem to be little consequence even for demonstrated poor management.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Five Year Financial Plan Questions

A Few Points To Ponder
Taxes To Increase 23% In Next 5 Years

The current draft five year financial plan for 2013 - 2017 has some less than comforting projections as to the level of tax increases planned which will range from 18.7% to 23% depending upon which numbers you use in the plan.

The plan indicates revenue from property taxes in 2013 will be $89,685,666.00 which will increase by 2017 to $110,320,044.00 which is an increase of $20,634,378.00 or 23%. However elsewhere in the plan a increase of 18.7% is forecast, so I presume I am not understanding something, either that or Mr. Clemens is in error.

One disturbing number in the plan is the $21,093,617.00 increase in the operating budget, which of course does not include things such as buildings, infrastructure and the like. Things such as costs of wages, benefits and pensions would be included in the operating budget.

There will be lots of questions needing addressing before this budget gets adopted, I can only hope that council will put away the rubber stamp and start rolling up their sleeves and deciding just exactly where they are leading future generations in our fair city.

You can expect the usual 'everything is fine' mantra and there is no need to see how to hold the line on taxes from the tax and spend members of city council. You can also expect Councillors Brennan and Greves to continue to deflect any attention to the cost of wages and benefits at city hall.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Article Raises Serious Questions!

City Staff Proposing $100,000 Study

The Daily's scribe Tamara Cunningham reports in the Dec. 22nd issue of her paper that city hall staff are proposing spending $100,000 on an study to try and figure out how to extend the waterfront walkway.

The article states: The effort would be aimed at figuring out where the city should invest dollars for waterfront enhancement and how it can build an uninterrupted coastal link between Nanaimo River Estuary and Departure Bay."

The Question Raised

Considering the top ten managers at city hall are earning close to the $2,000,000.00 mark, is it really too much to expect them to be able to develop this plan all by themselves?

Here's an idea: let's put the $100,000.00 towards a core services review, which may tell us why all this high priced help seem to be challenged when it comes to developing plans. Like the $120,000 needed to develop a Strategic Plan.

Silly me, I thought these kind of challenges and levels of planning would have been well within the scope of the job skills $150,00.00+ staff bring to the job.

Wellcox Property The Best Deal??

Is CP Rail Pulling Another Fast One??

With much fanfare and hoopla' city hall has announced the potential acquisition of what sounds like a great piece of property on the waterfront. Note, I did say 'sounds' like as even at this early stage there are enough alarm bells ringing that everyone should be sitting up and taking notice.

First Alarm Bell: "Numerous parties have shown interest in the property, but all have declined to complete a deal due to the myriad of issues associated with the property including environmental issues, perpetual rights of way and the costs associated with the subdivision."

When the private sector doesn't think it is a good deal, why does the public sector think so? Who at city hall has demonstrated skills in property evaluation and development? The VICC raises enough alarm bells, to say no more. Giving away the old annex for $1 also needs to be pointed out.

Second Alarm Bell: Given that Mayor Ruttan pointed to the fact the plan for this property includes direct road access from Front Street, why is the city (that is you and I) assuming the risk and future costs associated with maintaining the trestle and that long ribbon of seemingly unrelated road?

Could it be that CP Rail is just trying to once again divest itself of responsibility for maintaining the assets they have pretty much bled dry and are now leaving for others to pick up. Shades of the E&N Railway seems to ring a loud bell here.

It would seem far more sensible for CP Rail to continue to own the trestle and roadway and sever off the nearly rectangular portion of the lot separately to the city, absent the trestle and the roadway. Perhaps Mr. Dumas at the harbour authority would like to buy the other part of this parcel  so as to maintain continued access to the cruise ship terminal?

Consider This Alternate Proposal

Annex Sells For $1.00 !! Really!!

$4,000,000.00 Building Sold For $1.00

A recent announcement on the city website states in part:

"The decision to sell the building originally presented a number of challenges on account of its condition.  In a report prepared by Herold Engineering, the building was identified as being at high risk during a significant seismic event."

Having read the engineers report about this building I could not recall the use of the word 'high risk' in the report so asked city staff to clarify.

The response I received quoted the engineers report as actually saying:

“Upon review of the seismic condition of the building, we conclude that in a seismic event, there is a risk of significant damage or partial collapse of the building occurring.” 

The first time I read this report over a year ago I was amazed at how vague the language was considering I thought engineers were a very precise group of professionals. I did in fact phone the engineer who authored the report and asked what level of 'seismic event' was used in making the determination? I was told I could only get that information from the city as they had commissioned the report.

I have in fact asked the city for this information and am still waiting for a reply. I got a partial reply to my first query but nothing specific about what magnitude of seismic event was used in coming to the conclusion about what damage could result to the old annex.

Consider the exact language used in the engineers report:

"we conclude that in a seismic (unspecified) event there is a risk (unspecified) of significant damage or partial collapse of the building"

I suggest to you, dear taxpayer that you could say of any building on earth that a seismic event presents the risk of significant damage. Since you are neither quantifying the event or the risk or the damage, how can anyone make a properly informed conclusion?

Old Annex Could Have Been Upgraded For $4,000,000.00

According to the same engineers report the city uses to justify building a shiny new office for city staff the building could have been upgraded for just over $4,000,000.00, instead they chose to spend $12,000,000.00 on a new building which was never tendered and devalued the old annex (with an assessed value of just under $4,000,000.00).

They could have spent $4,000,000.00 upgrading a building assessed at $4,000,000.00 instead of giving it away for $1.00.

Is there any wonder those actually paying attention ( I exclude most of council) from just shaking their heads in disbelief when you see how assets are being managed by the city?

Asset Management City of Nanaimo Style

Asset Value Before Upgrade ............. $4,000,000.00 (assessed value)
Cost To Upgrade Asset ...................... $4,000,000.00 ( if really deemed necessary)
Minimum Asset Value
after upgrade.........................................$,4,000,000.00

Asset Value Before Upgrade .............$4,000,000.00
Sell Asset ..........................................$0,000,001.00
Asset Value
after sale .............................................$3,999,999.00 (Loss)

In addition to not throwing away the $4,000,000.00 it would then not have been necessary to blow off another $16,000,000.00 on a shiny new office with all that shiny new furniture.

We all know how the brain trust at city hall and our elected council thought was the right use of YOUR tax dollars! The scary part is they are spending nearly $1,000,000,000.00 (that's BILLION) of YOUR tax dollars in the next 5 years!

Risk Overblown All Along??

 Mayor & Legislative Services
Forced Into 'High Risk' Annex

The following statement is taken from an announcement on the city website with regards information about the opening of the new $16,000,000.00 annex:

"As part of the forthcoming renovations to the old City Hall Building, both the Mayor’s Office and staff belonging to the Legislative Services Department will be temporarily relocated to the City’s old Annex building at 238 Franklyn St."

In another statement from the city the following is offered as an explanation as to why the city had to give away the old annex for $1.00:

"In a report prepared by Herold Engineering, the building was identified as being at high risk during a significant seismic event."

So. let me get this straight a building which the city claims to be 'high risk during a seismic event' (even though that is not what the engineer said), was in such poor condition that not only did we have to build a new $16 million office for staff, but we had to make rules not contained in the building code, which resulted in this $4,000,000 building being worth nothing so we sold it for $1.00 ............... with me so far? But now we say it is OK for the Mayor and Legislative Services to use this HIGH RISK building while city hall is being renovated??

So. this presents us with several options when examining city hall logic:

  • the building never really was dangerous anyway, and the decision to spend $16,000,000.00 was based on the fact the building could be damaged in a seismic event (name a building which couldn't) as that sounds like a better reason than "staff wants a new playpen".
  • we can't let anyone else use the building as we have for years and years because then people might ask why we had to spend $16,000,000.00 for a new playpen
  • the building which is such a high risk so as we need a new $16,000,000.00 playpen and we could never allow anyone else use (in spite of it's $4 million value) is safe enough to house the Mayor and Legislative Services while we renovate city hall, which renovation was made necessary because the shiny new office didn't have enough room for all the city departments which had operated out of the 'high risk' annex for the past decades.

Really ............ You Can't Make This Stuff Up!
The Really Sad Part is That City Hall Thinks We Are Buying It!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

City of Nanaimo Wage Increases

City Employee Wage Increases

The following are the wage increases you city council have agreed to since 2007 for both CUPE and IAFF employees. The increases following are for wages only and do not include any 'hidden' increases such as benefits etc.

It is safe to say, your city council has been agreeing to some pretty generouus settlements given these employees were already making well in excess of the 'average' Nanaimo income. In most cases, individuals working for the city earn in excess of the average household income in Nanaimo.

CUPE Negotiated Wage Increases

+3.0% - 2007
+3.0% - 2008
+3.0% - 2009
+3.5% - 2010
+2.0% - 2011
+2.0% - 2012

IAFF Negotiated Wage Increases

+ 3.5% - 2007
+ 2.5% - 2008 Jan. 2
+ 2.5% - 2008 Oct.
+0.05% -2009 Jan 1
+ 2.5% - 2009 Jan 24
+ 2.5% - 2009 Nov 15

The source for these increases was the five year financial plan 2012 - 2016 on the city of Nanaimo website. I am waiting to hear what the IAFF increase is from 2009 onward, but I am assuming at the very least it will match the CUPE increase.

To sum up CUPE workers have been given a total 16.5% increase from 2007 - 2012 and IAFF workers have been given a 14% increase from 2007 to 2009.

It is unlikely that given the economic climate since 2008, few private sector employees have received anything approaching these levels of increase, as their employers have to compete in the market to simply stay in business. On the other hand municipaliies have no such constraints on their wage packages, as they simply raise taxes.

You could likely make the argument that given the increases enjoyed by these unions, it would not be unreasonable to have seen a 0% increase these past two years.

I would suspect such a suggestion might meet with strong resistance from the union sponsored councilors. The public sector is the last bastion of generous union wage and benefit increases, as they simply are not affected by the same pressures the economy brings to bear on the private sector.

Nanaimo City Sick Leave Costs Nearly $2,000,000.00 Yearly

Sick Leave Per Employee Group For Year 2011

Employee Group
Average # of Days

The above chart shows by employee group just how many average sick days were paid for in the year 2011. The first group are CUPE unionized workers who averaged 13.42 sick days for the year (more than 1 each month) for a total number of 47,697 hours of pay costing taxpayers a total of $1,298,920.68. The average paid per hour to stay home = $27.23.

The second grouping is IAFF (firefighters) who averaged 10.32 sick days for the year (just less than one a month) for a total number of 11,428 hours at a cost of $410,664.69. The average paid per hour to stay home = $35.94.

The third grouping are the management and excluded employees who are clearly the healthiest of the lot who averaged 5.46 sick days (less than half a day per month) for a total of 3.739 hours at a cost of $172,711.52. The average paid per hour to stay home = $46.19.

Total Of 8381 Days Of Sick Time Paid For Costing $1,882,296.89

 If you consider paying for 8381 days of sick time, it is the equivalent of putting 32 people on the payroll for an entire year, and they never show up for work.

 According to union agreements employees can accrue 18 sick days per year and unused sick days can be 'banked' and 'cashed in' upon retirement up to a total of 60 days.

The City is concerned about sick leave usage and are taking a number of steps to reduce it.  

Comment: These are some of the questionable benefits that your tax dollars are going to support which add considerably to the taxes we all must pay. For example the total cost of sick leave represents a number equal to 2% of your total property tax bill.

At this point I have no comparative statistics to compare number of sick days in the private sector but from my close circle of friends can think of no one, who is sick one day each month. There does seem to be a wide range even within the city as to the number of sick days that are being taken. Clearly the management and excluded staff are much healthier than the CUPE employees. I was also surprised by the sick leave taken by firefighters, as I have always thought of them as being exceptionally fit individuals with rather strong constitutions.

Of course one of the flaws with the whole system is when sick pay becomes an entitlement and is used to extend a weekend or other occassion which does not actually mean the benefactor is truly sick. They are just picking up the phone and calling in sick, and then perhaps honing their golf game. There really is no incentive not to.

VICC Needs $234,000 Next Year

Budget Another $234,000 Subsidy For VICC

In spite of reporting the most number of delegate days since opening, and optimistic reports for future conventions it seems the conference centre is just the gift that keeps on giving.

One item highlighted in the Financial Plan presented by city Finance Director Brian Clemens itemizes an 'increased subsidy for VICC - ($234K)' as one reason for increases in the 2013 budget.

You would have been forgiven for thinking that the higher number of delegate days, may have resulted in the conference centre being more profitable and therefore might result in a reduced subsidy from city taxpayers. If that is what you think, you might want to ask Mr. Howat to explain to you just what kind of an operating agreement he negotiated for you when this contract was renewed with the current operators.

Frankly, I think the operators wrote it years ago, and Mr. Howat and Mr. Kenning just signed whatever was put in front of them, remember this is another one of those 'sole source' decisions made by the brain trust at city hall. Our shrewd business types at city hall, also gave the operators the option to renew for another 5 years which meant we still could not call for a tender to see if another operator would run the centre for less.

I sometimes wonder, if any of these fellows ever ran a lemonade stand as kids, or operated a paper route. I have my doubts.

If you want to know just what kind of a deal the operators have with the city, don't bother asking a city councillor as you will get that blank, doe in the headlights look. They can't figure it out either.

Nanaimo Taxes & Fees Up 4% In 2013

Nanaimo 2013 Taxes & User Fees Up 4%

Finance Director Mr. Clemens gave council and Nanaimo the first look at his financial plans for Nanaimo going forward. As could be expected taxes are once again increasing to meet the constantly increasing spending policies adopted by council and the city manager.

The residential tax increase is 3.3% and when combined with user fee increases the combined increase to a Nanaimo resident is a 4% increase, which does not include any school, hospital, library or regional district tax increases which may also be coming.

$350,000.00 House Will Pay $96.82 More Next Year

With the increases proposed for residential tax increases plus the increases for water, sewer and garbage a person living in a $350,000.00 home can expect to pay another $96.82 per year, plus any increases that may be assessed by the school district or the hospital.

Industrial Taxes Decrease 16.4%

In the final year of shifting the tax burden from the industrial tax base to the residential tax base (that is you and me brother) industrial taxes will be reducing this year by a further 16.4% which was a policy council and staff implemented  in an attempt to make Nanaimo attractive to industry. As of this report there is no data to measure whether this tax shift has had a positive impact on the industrial tax base in the city.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Money For Annex But Not Dams?

Money For New Annex
But Not To Upgrade Colliery Dams?

Anyone who has been down to city hall lately will see that the shiny new office for city staff is just about ready for all that shiny new furniture. It is with a sigh of relief I am sure that all those staffers will finally be able to leave that death trap they have been working in this past decade!. Sarcasm intended.

Looking at the timeline for hazard assessment studies of the Colliery Park Lakes Dams it is apparent that the fact these dams needed dealing with was evident to city staff during the same timeline they were angling for a shiny new office. Remember they could have chosen to stay put and live like the rest of us daredevils who walk and drive over old mine shafts all the time. They could have chosen to spend $4 million to upgrade the old building (if that really was the cost, they seem to take 'guesstimates' for quotes when making decisions).

Could diverting the $16,000,000.00 from the shiny new office, with shiny new furniture, combined  with the $7,000,000.00 they seem to have budgeted for demolition have been sufficient to build new dams, even if their 'guesstimates' are on the high side??

It would seem to this lowly scribe, that far more people would be served by using those funds to address the Colliery Park Lakes Dams, than providing shiny new offices for our highly paid city managers.

I realize I could be misjudging the intentions of how Mr. Kenning has managed these two issues, but the skeptic in me keeps growing the longer I observe the process at city hall.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Colliery Park Lakes Destruction Plan

Many Questions Need Answering About Process

The recent controversy over the city staff-led decision to destroy Colliery Parks Lakes has brought to light some serious questions about the whole process and how city hall staff handled this issue.


The whole timeline of this matter needs some consideration and the way in which city manager, Mr. Al Kenning chose to deal with this matter. The Dam Safety review conducted in 2003 recommended a seismic hazard assessment based on concerns about the dam. The city did not authorize this work until Feb. 2009 and that assessment was not issued for use until April 2010. There were serious concerns raised about these dams at this time. However, it was not until Sept. 2012 that the flood inundation study was released. Given the seriousness city staff now attaches to these dams, why have they seemingly dragged their feet so long on this file?

It was also during this timeline that city staff were busy convincing city council of the pressing need to provide them with a shiny new office.

Costs To Destroy Dams Not A Firm Price:

At the COW meeting of Nov. 26, 2012 it was revealed by Mr. Sims, the head of the water department that the publicized price of $7 million to remove the dams is no better than an educated guesstimate, as is the price of $20 - $30 million to upgrade these dams. If nothing else, you really have to question just how seriously this matter has been considered by Mr. Kenning, if getting nothing better than guesstimates when making buying decisions you have to wonder about those best practices we hear about from time to time.

You may recall when it came to awarding the $12 million contract to build the new Annex, which decision was also based on 'seismic assessment', there never was a tendering process used. Rather it seems that once again guesstimates were the order of the day, for example when deciding against buying an existing building and upgrading it, it was said to cost between $1 million and $8 million to upgrade. That's a pretty wide guesstimate, but was enough for city staff to abandon buying an existing building in favour of spending $16 million on a shiny new office.

Just Leading To A Foregone Conclusion?

You have to wonder if there ever was any genuine desire on the part of Mr. Kenning to retain the Colliery Park Lakes or if their removal was the plan from the beginning. Of course there has to be the appearance of doing the city's business in a proper manner following best practices. But you would be forgiven for concluding Mr. Kenning believed destroying the dams was the best option and set about to convince city council that was what had to be done and based his persuasion on questionable guesstimates at best.

The Process:

The process was clearly handled in such a manner as to completely eliminate any possible feedback from the public or any time given for any input from the public with what is proving to be possibly viable, and cost saving alternatives. Some councilors would have you believe they were given very little time to agree with staff's decision to destroy the lakes. There is no doubt the public was denied any opportunity to put forward their concerns or ideas about a safe, agreeable resolution.

On the surface it appears that staff, once again are simply operating in a high-handed manner designed to push this decision through without due consideration from council or the public.

Openness, Transparency, Participatory Democracy, Accountability, Communicate:

Do these principles actually describe goals this city staff and city council really believe in, or are they just buzz words of the day designed for that famous 15 second sound bite we all think passes for news these days?

Based on the current Colliery Park Lakes fiasco, I think it appears these are just the buzz words of the day rather than being truly reflective of anything meaningful coming from city hall.

Friends Of Collery Dam Will Have Input

 Councillor Pattje's Motion Opens Door To Discussion

After hearing credible representation from the society to save Colliery Parks Lake, Councillor Pattje's motion to have city staff meet with society members to discuss options to removing the dams was passed by the majority of council. Councilor Bestwick was the only dissenting vote.

The wide range of price tags associated with upgrading the dams simply can not be ignored. For example retired, life long resident Mr. Heathcote who has worked in the construction business and on such projects as the Elsie Lake Dam believes the figures quoted by city staff of $20 - $30 million are grossly over estimated. The probability of a dam failure of 1.6% in 50 years is in sharp contrast to the figure of 40% used by staff to justify their recommendation to remove the dams.

One after another delegates made compelling cases to city council which could only result in revisiting this decision if there is to be any confidence the city has made the right choice. Pointing out the complete lack of public input on the matter, to the fact it seems the decision to remove the dams was made by one or two city staff, to unreliable estimates to upgrade the dams, the delegates raised more than enough unanswered questions which means listening to this group's input is the only viable option.

The motion which was successful requires staff to meet with the friends of Colliery Park Lakes and report back to council with other options which should be considered.

Colliery Park Lakes Delegation At City Council

 Delegation Appeals To City Council

There are three delegates listed on the Monday Committee of the Whole meeting who will be presenting to council regards the Colliery Lakes Dam removal decision.

Unfortunately these delegates will not necessarily gain the public attention they deserve due to the fact they are not allowed to make their presentations before a regular city council meeting. A regular city council meeting starts at 7:00pm whereas a COW meeting starts at 4:30pm which seriously limits the number of people who can attend. The lack of being broadcast, and the usual lack of local media coverage (this blog excluded) means most issues presented at a COW meeting get about as little attention as possible. A cynic would say that is by design by staff and council so they may reduce the publicity some issues might otherwise gain.

If the three presenters on behalf of the save the Colliery Lakes group are as articulate as they were with their arguments at the meeting held at Barsby last week it should make for an interesting alternative to the view already presented by city staff.

From the information I have gained from city staff it is fair to say there never has been an accurate cost estimate of what upgrading the dams might be, as the decision to remove the dams was considered the only viable option given the seismic hazard assessment report followed by the inundation report.

To support their decision the city refers to the finding that there 'could be' a 15% - 40% chance the dams would fail in the next 50 years due to a seismic event. I'm not sure how the rest of Nanaimo will fair if the same criteria is applied to a hazard assessment of other structures in Nanaimo.

The engineer speaking on behalf of those opposed to the decision to remove the lakes, claims a 1.6% chance in 50 years based on the same studies.

It will be interesting to see how convincing this delegation is and how receptive city council may be to the differing viewpoint of this delegation. I suspect the majority will dig in their heels and defend their decision.

Regardless the outcome, it is always refreshing to see members of the community actually participate in the decisions being made by a handful of elected and non-elected officials.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How Probable Is A 'Seismic' Event?

Singing The Public Safety Song
Used To Build New Annex

It is now quoted in the Bulletin that the city claims there is a 40% chance the Colliery dams will fail in the next 50 years! Says who? In supporting the decision to remove the dams and thereby destroy the lakes you will find different language ranging from seismic event (unspecified) to significant earthquake (still unspecified) to justify the opinion there could be an unacceptable loss of life should the dams fail. The fact of the matter is that NO ONE can predict with any degree of accuracy when or even if such an event would occur. But it makes for a good fall back reason to fund another study and spend more tax dollars.

The same slippery language was used to justify the expending of at least $16,000,000.00 to build and furnish a shiny new office for city staff. An undertaking which was done without going to public tender, you may recall. The same practice employed to construct a conference centre we were told was going to cost $51,000,000.00, which the management at city hall saw balloon to at least $75,000,000.00 under their capable management. It has never been explained why the city didn't accept the offer to build the new annex for $9 million instead of $12 million as they could have, or for that matter bought a much larger building for $7 million or for that matter stayed where they were for nothing!

We are told by a couple of VIHA employees that perhaps, just maybe our city water supply which has provided enviable drinking water for 150 years is not adequately protected from beaver fever. A few (questionably qualified) city employees decide to agree with the order from a few VIHA employees and ba da bing ...... we need to spend $72,000,000.00 on a new water filtration plant. Never mind we are forcing people to drink this potentially dangerous water from the taps at civic facilities all across the city!

Anyone who has been paying attention to the decisions and performance coming from city hall this past decade are justified in questioning what kind of management city taxpayers have been buying.

Policy Needs To Be Made By City Council
Just What Is The Policy Regards Seismic Standard?

Every time some study indicates a structure may not withstand a 'seismic event' and therefore must be either upgraded or torn down is a policy that needs to be discussed by those paying the freight for such a policy. Cherry picking which project will have this safety standard applied is simply inconsistent and needs serious discussion. If we are going to insist that Nanaimo be 'earthquake proof' we should start with schools. If we really think we live in such day to day peril we need to make absolutely certain that our kids are safe first! Let the city hall staff take their chances with the rest of us dare devils who live and work in seismically challenged structures.

Nanaimo apparently lives in a zone which may be shaken to it's very core some day, perhaps, maybe when the BIG ONE (unspecified) finally hits. No one can predict with any degree of accuracy if this event will ever happen and whether it would have the feared effect dragged out by 'experts' to support their latest projects. If you want to be guaranteed you will be unaffected by the dreaded BIG ONE, you need to move.

In the meantime City Council, not city staff, need to establish a very clear and unambiguous policy with regards the application of current seismic standards to all structures within the city. If the conclusion is to tear everything down and rebuild, fine, but first let's determine just how exactly we are going to pay for it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Save Colliery Dams Meeting Nov. 20, 2012

Over 500 Attend Public Meeting
To Save Colliery Dam

One thing is certain and that is if city staff and city council think that the Colliery Dams have come to the end of their useful life, they have not read the public very well and may be victims of just listening to their own opinions.

It was a packed out meeting in the gymnasium at John Barsby School on Tuesday night where organizer Jeff Solomon with the aid of many organizers were able to send a message loud and clear to city hall. The message? Colliery Dam and the lakes they create are worth saving and no one is convinced the city gave any other options enough serious consideration.

For a grass roots organization flying by the seat of their pants with little over two weeks to organize they have done a remarkable job of getting the area sitting up and paying attention to what I suspect city hall figured would be just another slam dunk.

City hall has been taught for the most part they can get away with just about anything with little to no public push back. A $72 million water plant and $16 million annex comes quickly to mind. These two projects for the most part barely caused a ripple on the pond but the loss of Colliery Dam and the lakes they create were not going to go unnoticed, even if the local press started playing the official city tune from the get-go.

A retired engineer who is a part of this grass roots group was able to explain what the studies the city commissioned say and don't say about the condition of the dams and the alternatives to improve the level of safety. Needless to say they disagree with the conclusions of city staff who ultimately are the ones who have swayed council in their decision.

If city council can't figure out that in-camera meetings and not engaging the public is the best way to get things done they really haven't learned a thing since the low barrier housing fiasco. You can't keep making decisions in secret and then just think you can ramrod it through without ruffling a few feathers.

You can expect to hear much more from this group as they get themselves organized and focused in their fight with city hall to save the Colliery Dams. Tactics to apply political pressure were discussed as well as the possibility of a full on occupation similar to the Friends fo the Clayquot action were not ruled out.

City councilors and city staff will always tell you how keen they are for participatory democracy. We'll see!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Who Planned The New Annex?

$12,000,000.00 Building Already Outgrown!

I'm not sure how far down the rabbit hole you would have to go to find material like this, but in Nanaimo it seems to present itself with great frequency.

Unless you have been living in a cave, or simply ignore what goes on at city hall in order to preseve your sanity, you must be aware of the controversial $16 million decision council and staff made behind closed doors last year, to build a shiny new office for city staff.

It seems that spending $4 million to upgrade the existing annex where all city staff are currently housed during working hours was not considered to be a sound expenditure of your tax dollars, so they opted for a $16 million option complete with a $12 million contract to build a new building without going to tender.

As it turns out, the staff at city hall have already outgrown their new $12 million shiny new office before they have even moved in. It seems a portion of the $800,000 renovation at city hall is to make room for the city manager's office, human resources and payroll who will not be housed in the new city hall annex.

You might be forgiven if you would have thought that after spending $12 million on a shiny new office, it would at least have enough space to accommodate the staff currently working out of the old city hall annex. But, then again this is the city we are talking about here.

Had they bought the Dunsmuir Building for less than $7 million they would have had room for everyone as it came with over 70,000 square feet whereas the new annex is around 45,000 square feet for $12 million.

Summing Up Options For City Hall Staff Office

1. Stay put in old annex and roll the dice on the 'big one' like everyone else in town.
2. Spend $4 million to upgrade to newer seismic standard.
3. Spend $7 million on 70,000 square foot office complete with parking lots etc. giving enough room to house all existing staff and have room for expansion and also surplus space to rent out.
4. Spend $12 million (without a tender, no telling what the building is really worth) to build a shiny new office which does not have enough space to accommodate all staff in the old annex.
5. Spend another million or so, fixing up the existing city hall so the city manager can have a shiny new office in the perfectly good, but old city hall. Which was good enough for everyone else until the city manager discovered there was no room for him in the shiny new office.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Another Waste Of Tax Dollars

If You Chose $170,000.00
You Know The Folk At City Hall

In spite of all the sound bites about wanting to save taxes at every opportunity and knowing how pressed many Nanaimo residents are financially these days, city hall staff keep coming up with more innovative ways to spend YOUR tax dollars, and the majority of city council just keeps right on spending.

The decision to spend $170,000 on an electric Zamboni rather than $80,000 on a propane model is the most recent example of how easily staff can spend your money, and how willing city council is to oblige their every whim.

During the discussion at the COW meeting on Aug. 27 PRC staff were seeking council approval to purchase an electric Zamboni for the low, low price of only $170,000.00. Follows are some of the comments from city councillors during discussion of this matter. Pay attention to whom you think might actually want to try and save you some tax dollars. It isn't all of them, for sure.

Councillor McKay raised the issue of cost comparison between the electric Zamboni and the propane version of the same machine. He noted that in Sarnia they bought the propane model for $79,000 and got a $12,000 trade in for their old one.

Councillor Anderson thought the expense of an electric model was warranted as it tied in with the city's decision to ban bottled water.

Councillor Johnstone couldn't understand why council was even being asked to approve the expense, thinking it was already in the budget for PRC. Apparently reviewing and looking for savings opportunities are not on her radar.

Councillor Bestwick who arguably should be the council 'expert' when it comes to Zambonis quizzed PRC staff as to the decision process and findings that led to this decision. Some of the answers were less than satisfactory as staff was unable to say what the life cycle was for the battery in the electric Zamboni. The cost per use of .25 for the electric as opposed $2.00 for the propane were unsupported comparisons.

One of Bestwick's main concerns was the idea that staff may be wanting to replace all 5 Zambonis with the $170,000 version over time.

The decision to spend $170,000.00 instead of $80,000.00 was passed by council with Councillors Bestwick, Kipp and McKay opposed and Councillors Brennan, Grieves, Johnstone, Pattje, Anderson and Mayor Ruttan in favour.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The City of Nanaimo recently released the results of an Ipsos Reid Citizen Satisfaction Survey. Not surprisingly the results say that the city is doing a good job of managing your money and while some changes might be indicated it pretty much supports the status quo.

Nanaimo Info Blog has posted a Taxpayer Satisfaction Survey of our own which may offer some questions to guage Taxpayer Satisfaction which Ipsos might have overlooked. If you want to add your voice to the 'Satisfaction Survey' just click HERE or the image above to complete a brief, 10 question survey.

After 300 surveys have been complete the results will be published here and sent to city council also.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Office Furniture To Cost $550,000.00

Furnishing 'Shiny New Office' ... $550,000
Boost To Staff Ego ------ Priceless

Staff wisely chose to ask council to approve an RFP for the purchase of new office furniture at a non-regular city council meeting. Wisely? Well, there is less chance of public scrutiny if these matters are dealt with at a COW meeting away from the glare of Shaw TV broadcasts and meetings often not attended by the local mainstream media.

Not wishing to draw too much public scrutiny is consistent with the methods employed by city staff and approved by our complacent council in all matters relating to the expending of nearly $16 million to provide themselves with a shiny new office. Remember it would have cost less than $4 million to upgrade the existing annex, but then of course staff would have had to endure another decade or so of operating out of the old annex. That just wouldn't do.

Remember, the public still has no idea what the alternate costs would have been to provide staff a new office (providing upgrading the existing was rejected) as they refuse to make those alternate costs public. A quick comparison however, is the fact they are building a new office for $13 million for 45,000 square feet, and the nearby Dunsmuir building with over 70,000 square feet, on three city lots, recently sold for around $7,000,000.00.

Staff would have us believe the taxpayer is getting good value for the money, but given the fear of public scrutiny demonstrated by city staff and city council, one has to wonder.

It will be interesting to see if city staff will release the results of the furniture RFP or will we be asked to 'just trust them' as we are being asked to trust them when they say spending $13 million on a shiny new office without going to public tender is sound fiscal management.

Friday, May 4, 2012

City Hall Annex Choices!!

Option # 1 Cost to Taxpayer Either $0.00 or $4,000,000.00
Option # 2 Buy Existing Building Cost $7,500,000.00
Option # 3 Build New Cost 'All-in' $16,000,000.00
Guess Which One YOUR City Staff Chose?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Annex 'Spin' Just Gearing Up!

'Brittle' Walls Won't Stand......

After deciding last year to spend $16,000,000.00 in secret, behind closed doors, city hall is now stepping up the 'sales' pitch to make sure Nanaimo taxpayers feel they are getting a good bang for their buck.

Reference to 'brittle' walls and the 'slightest' shake suggesting the annex is not able to withstand even a mild tremor are touted as the reason for spending $16 million rather than $4 million to make the building 'life safe'. They keep talking about the seriously dangerous state of this building, yet had no problem subjecting staff to this extreme danger since 2008 when an engineers report pointed out the dire condition of this building.

There also seems to be little will to examine all other buildings in town, both civic and private to protect the rest of the citizenry from this clear and present danger. Wonder why???

The local Daily (that Bastion of defending democracy) is doing it's bit, making sure taxpayers believe their money is being well spent with yet another front page story supporting this $16 million expense that never did go to public tender.

They also don't seem to question how this extremely dangerous building withstood the largest onshore earthquake to ever occur in Canada with it's centre, not 200 miles offshore, but in the Forbidden Plateau region of Vancouver Island. That quake was 7.3 on the Richter scale by the way.

Has anyone ever stopped to ask just what level of 'shake' this shiny new building is engineered to withstand? Remember the 'big one' is not the same as the 4.4 over the past few days or even the 6.3 of last Sept.(which incidentally did not cause those Brittle walls to crumble). The 'BIG ONE' everyone lives in fear of would be in the magntiude of 8 or 9 on the Richter scale.

Just call me a skeptic, but in my humble opinion, city staff and city council simply wanted a shiny new office, and I must agree the 'basement' of the old Annex could stand improving. To that end they 'discovered' the extremely dangerous state of the existing Annex which has only stood since 1937.

The fact it would have cost $4 million to make the building 'life safe' (if safety is the issue) simply would not provide staff with a shiny new office and so they went behind closed doors and engaged a very questionable purchasing practice to ensure they would end up with a new $16 million facility.

Austerity be damned..............Live within the taxpayers means, be damned........ We want a shiny new office and by golly we're going to get one.

Now the Daily is making sure YOU think you are getting good value for spending $16,000,000.00 instead of $4,000,000.00. Oh, and did I mention they spent that without going to a public tender??

Monday, April 16, 2012

Council Throws Away $3.5 Million!

Councilors Brennan, Greves, Johnstone, Pattje 
and Mayor Ruttan Make Building Worthless

City Staff recommended to city council that they attach a covenant to the sale of the old city Annex building requiring a new purchaser to either demolish the building or do a seismic upgrade. The skeptic in me sees this whole move as a bit of political gamesmanship designed to demonstrate that building staff a shiny new $16,000,000.00 office really was all about safety and not about satisfying the egos of the 'kings' at city hall.

By applying a standard that they don't apply to any other building in Nanaimo to this one building, insures that the building would have no commercial value, when in fact it does have a value of about $3.5 million.

Hypocrisy and Bad Precedent

The hypocrisy of this policy is the fact this standard is not being applied to the other existing civic buildings in Nanaimo. In fact even the Province does not apply this same standard to the Parliament Buildings in Victoria. This policy does not apply to all other buildings in Nanaimo either, so saying this is all about safety and concern for the public does not even pass the smirk test.

To be legitimate at all, this city council needs to pass a bylaw mandating this same level of seismic standard be applied to all civic buildings and at the very least all office buildings and any other place where more than 10 people assemble at one time.

What Is The Concern??

Again that skeptic in me can't help but wondering if city staff really wants to discourage the sale of this building for fear someone might come along and do an engineer report and cost estimate that shows it would not cost anywhere near as much as the $4 million they claim it to cost.

Remember, this is the same bunch that chose to decide behind closed doors last year, to spend $16 million on a new building rather than spending $4 million on a building they have now basically made useless.

When asked if the city's lawyer had recommended putting the convenant on as a condition of sale, the staff member answered in one of those slippery fashions, saying that yes, they had a lawyer help them write the convenant. When asked again later, if the lawyer had recommeded the convenant be put on title, the same staffer fessed up an said, no, the lawyer had not suggested putting the covenant on, but rather staff had initiated that idea.

This whole Annex deal, smelled right from the start, and to this day, it still stinks.