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October 28, 2017 2:21 am

Infrastructure moves out of the public eye

Monday, September 28, 2015 @ 3:45 AM
What ever happened to our infrastructure deficit?

A year ago we were mired in a different election campaign … the fight for city hall.
The previous council had, for some time, been inundated with dire warnings about the sorry state of the city’s water and sewer pipes, buildings, and streets. Then-councillor Cameron Stolz was leading the charge and pegged it is as one of the most important issues facing the city, if not the most important issue.
The  electorate tossed Stolz out, so we know how much it thought of his making the infrastructure deficit his main election plank. However, it is a real issue and it resonated with the candidates, most of whom made it part of their campaign as well.
Now, a year later and we don’t hear anything out of city hall about the sorry state of city’s infrastructure. Has it all been fixed? Hardly.
However, council has managed to move the discussion out of the public eye. We’ve been focused on bike lanes and park names. It’s understandable for council to move the discussion away from the sorry state of the city’s infrastructure because there is no easy solution. It’s simple, but not easy … it just takes money, lots of it. And that usually means cutting services and/or increasing taxes, which, as Stolz can testify to, the electorate isn’t keen on doing.
However, council is doing just that.
It is looking at borrowing close to $6 million to replace some of the city’s mobile equipment. Not technically infrastructure, but the sorry state of the city’s snow removal equipment became evident in the Great Snow Removal Debacle of a couple of years ago. That would be mobile equipment.
The upshot of all this? The loan will result in a $13.72/year tax increase for the average homeowner in Prince George, for the next 10 years.
Because the city has to borrow, it is going through an alternative approval process. It will be interesting to see if it’s an issue during Talktober, the city’s public input process next month.
Don’t see taxes headed south just yet.
Then there is the move to bring economic development in-house and close down Initiatives Prince George. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an idea whose time had definitely come. Mayor Lyn Hall has said the move will save the city $500,000 per year.
However, that was when the city was looking at creating a three-person economic development department under Ian Wells, the city’s general manager of planning and development. The city has hired IPG alum Melissa Barcelllos as the manager of economic development and has three more economic development positions posted … all paying more than $60,000 per year.
In addition, according to a report from Hall in tonight’s council agenda, they will be looking to hire a marketing person as well.
That will bring to five the number of people in the city’s new economic development department. IPG had a staff of six people.
Seems to me that we’re already eating into that $500,000 in savings.
And, once again, taxes aren’t heading south.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at billphillips1@mac.com


A 10% cut in the city’s “work” force would give us $5 million a year to put where it’s actually needed.

Give them the axe hey assman?

Posted on Monday, September 28, 2015 @ 7:52 AM by mos with a score of 0

Give them the axe hey assman?


Let me guess, you’re one of those people sucking at the taxpayer’s teat?

Perhaps the City put infrastructure spending intentionally on the back burner for now. The City may be waiting for the result of the federal election. If the party that plans to double infrastructure spending takes over, there is a real potential that the City will get a portion of future infrastructure money from Ottawa.

If not, then it is back to square one.

The Party that plans to double infrastructure spending is the same party that said it would get rid of the Free Trade Agreement, and the GST. So don’t expect anything spectacular from them.

The present Government already spends billions on infrastructure and will continue to do so if re-elected. The City has taken advantage of this infrastructure spending in the past, and I suspect are presently in the process of making application for more money. The latest infrastructure program is in effect for the next 10 years, and Prince George’s portion based on population would be in the area of $3 Million per year. We can borrow this money based on future payments, so in effect we could have $30 Million for infrastructure spending if we chose to.

Problem is we could also borrow the money for a PAC which has now been declared as a valid infrastructure expenditure. So watch out where this money is going to be spent.

Palopu:”The Party that plans to double infrastructure spending is the same party that said it would get rid of the Free Trade Agreement, and the GST. So don’t expect anything spectacular from them.”

Posted on Thursday, September 17, 2015 by Palopu: “Lets try and stick to issues concerning the year 2015 and forward, and quit trying to find problems in the past.”

So, let’s deal with the here and now, alright? This is – believe it or not – amazingly enough, the year 2015!

Whither its the marketing person or IPG.

They are only as good as the support they get from City Hall.

Which seems to be the where the issue is.

Do we after 2 years get to have Ian Wells & Melissa Barcellos

terminated from their jobs for non performance.

If they have no results. Along with that department shutdown?

Which of course would be an expensive buy out at tax payers expense.

Or was the demise of IPG, something to do with someone in City hall

wanting more power?

Prince George. If you read the rest of my post you would see that it dealt with infrastructure spending programs that are in effect from 2015 to 2025 you cant get much more into the present and future than that.

These are programs that are already on the books, which in my opinion are much better than an election promise from a wannabe Prime Minister.

The real question is. What are the Cities plans for infrastructure spending going forward. The present Council has three more years to the next election. We should not have to wait to hear their plans. They have had a year to get their feet wet, and now its time to hear some long term planning for infrastructure spending.

If in fact they plan to spend infrastructure money on a Performing Arts Centre, then they had better get that on the table so that it can be discussed in full by tax payers. If on the other hand they have a plan for spending money of water, sewer, roads, etc; then lets hear that plan also.

In fact a public meeting with the Mayor and Council outlining the plan for the next 3 years would be a good start.

I did read your entire comment. The previous and the present City mayors have classified a PAC as one priority amongst others. If they had not done that the PAC would not have any priority at all. It was also pointed out that it would be close to impossible to get the other two governments to step up to the cash register with matching funds.

If there is a doubling of infrastructure money available after the October 19th election the chances of getting some government funding will be much greater. It is quite hypothetical to assume that a PCA would get a higher priority than other much needed projects.

From the 2014 IPG Annual report.

The City provided $1,024, 904 for the year as it did in the two previous years. I have not checked how much was budgeted for 2015, but it was likely around the same.

If the City is to save $500,000 as the City Manager promised Council, then they would continue to fund some sort of economic development function by $524,904/year in 2016. Total revenues were $1,580,724. Let us say that they will continue to have $1,080,724 for 2016 if they can still get other public and private funding. That may change in a negative fashion once they are absorbed into the City administration.

The only info I have at the moment is that the total expenses for 2014 were $1,553,899. Those were divided into salary and contracts, operating and program delivery. Operating would have included space rental and associated costs in the City owned building on First Avenue. Once they move into City Hall, if that is where they are going, we are not likely to see an accounting of their space costs, even though they will be occupying a space which will no longer be available for other uses. It is an internal cost the City likely does not track since I doubt they have a true cost accounting system.

IPG spent $742,635 on program delivery. I am going to assume that none of the reported salaries went to program delivery. One thing is for sure, with a projected saving of $500,000/annum there will be a cutting of programs such as promotional videos, purchasing of advertising, creation and maintenance of web page, brochures, etc.

Let us take the matter of a web page specific to the promotion of the City. That will likely become the responsibility of the department which currently creates and maintains the City web page. They will have additional responsibilities which means additional time and effort to maintain that. The City is unlikely to attribute that to the economic development function.

The change in cost of the changeover will not be properly accounted for. The $500,000 figure is a stab in the dark at best. We will never know the actual saving, if any, nor the actual change in program delivery, if any. The only way we will get that if we get an external “value for money” auditing of the process. We have had experience with the KPMG fiasco and the lack of ability of the City administration and council to handle that in a proper fashion.

Palopu wrote: “They have had a year to get their feet wet, and now its time to hear some long term planning for infrastructure spending.”

There are 9 members of Council. 6 of them have been around on one more more previous Councils. It is not exactly a new group of individuals. They may have a different mindset, but most know the system and they are getting around to actually work in the old ways the more time passes.

The fact that there is no movement to be more transparent by making it easier for the average citizen to understand what is going on is a good indicator of that.

Where is van Adrichem? Perhaps that is going to be his role. If it is, then I would support that. In the meantime, I am looking for a proper definition of his function other than stickhandling stuff like “Talktober”.

From the City of Calgary which has a series of measurable objectives tied to its goals come these words:

“Over the four-year cycle, Departments will report regularly on the progress of achieving the four-year plans and budgets through mid-year and year-end accountability reports. The annual Business Plan and Budget Adjustment process also presents the opportunity for Departments to adjust their actions in response to unforeseen circumstances, such as an economic downtown or an environmental disaster.”

This is the closest I can get to a Strategic Plan for PG. There are no measurable inidcators to be seen. A financial plan for 2014-2018 is available. For those who are worried about a PAC, other than a commitment mentioned on the intro page, there is no mention of it in the financial plan. The faces of the previous Council are on it. I do not know where the current Council’s strategic plan and financial plans are. I doubt that there are any indicators of progress and info of how progress towards the goals is to be measured.

It goes without saying that such documents need to be current from current Councils, and such documents need to be public documents. Almost one year after being in office is unacceptable.

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