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October 27, 2017 11:37 pm

Infrastructure Priorities Weighed

Saturday, March 26, 2016 @ 6:57 AM
Mayor Lyn Hall and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet in Ottawa. Photo courtesy City of Prince George

Mayor Lyn Hall and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet in Ottawa. Photo courtesy City of Prince George

Prince George, B.C. – The Trudeau government’s first budget could provide Canadian municipalities with numerous avenues to venture down in searching out funding for infrastructure projects.

The budget announced $11.9 billion over 5 years for modernizing existing infrastructure like sewers and water mains as well as building new roads and bridges and mass transit ventures, $3.4 billion for parks, harbours, border points and contaminated sites, and $1.9 billion for the Arts and Culture sector including cultural infrastructure.

Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall earlier this week mentioned the Downtown Transit Exchange, Four Seasons Pool, relocation of the snow disposal site at 15th and Foothills and supplying high-speed internet to more rural areas as some of the projects for which the City might apply for funds from Ottawa.

Asked specifically if there might be an area of the budget to tap into for Performing Arts Centre funding Hall says “when I take a look at it, on the surface it looks like that cultural infrastructure piece may include that because they talk about looking at community organizations, non-profits to support improvements to existing community and cultural infrastructure.  So, if they go beyond existing and look at new infrastructure dollars for cultural improvements to the city then that may be the category that the Performing Arts Centre would fall under.”

The mayor adds “and when we met down in Ottawa (March 7th and 8th) a lot of the discussions were around infrastructure.  It was all-inclusive and the message was, wait until the budget comes down and so we’ve seen that.  Now what I’m really waiting for is the details within the announcement, so we’re waiting to see what they mean by that part of the infrastructure funding.”

Hall says, however, that much work would remain to be done before an application for possible funding might be made.  “It would have to be a lot of conversation yet with the Performing Arts Centre folks and with council obviously and I think we would want to know what the breakdown of investment is.  Is it still a third, a third, a third?  And how much of a third would we get from the federal government?”

“The other things is, early on in the announcement they talked about looking at providing 50% of a project.  That was a comment that was made within the budget as well, so would they look at funding 50% of a Performing Arts Centre or are we still looking at that one-third piece?”

“Still a lot of questions but we’re certainly in a better place today than we were, where in fact they’ve identified the cultural infrastructure as part of that infrastructure package of money that they’ve announced.  So that’s pretty good news.”

Mayor Hall says “what I found interesting was how they broke down the infrastructure dollars, so you’ve got the green infrastructure, social infrastructure and they take a look at cultural infrastructure.  I found that very interesting, and fairly specific about what falls under each category and that makes it a little easier for a city like Prince George and others to say, okay we’re specifically interested in looking at infrastructure for this project, what category does it fall under?”

“My other question is, is the application guidelines the same for every category of infrastructure?  That’s an important piece for us as well.”  Hall also wants to know “if we had a project under each of those three categories were we able to apply for all three or are we restricted to just one category per community, for example?  So if we had infrastructure issues and they fell under each one of the three, are we then to determine which one is most important?”

We asked the mayor whether there has been discussion recently with provincial government representatives regarding possible provincial funding for a PAC.  “No, nothing recent,” says Hall, “but we continue to let them know that the discussion we had before this council came in, when they talked about 5 to 8 years down the road before funding might be available, the MLAs and ministers still know that we’re talking about a Performing Arts Centre.”

“So we’re doing some legwork here about getting out into the community, letting people know what the PAC is all about, but we haven’t in recent times gone to the ministers saying look, we need X number of dollars.  We have not done that recently.”

The mayor’s attention was drawn to the coming provincial election in 2017 and the suggestion that elections can influence the actions of politicians.

Hall says “maybe the other piece of this, too, is that when we talk about any kind of infrastructure we’ll know soon too, what role does the provincial government play because the Build Canada Fund was a three-way partnership.  Are the feds expecting that the province will step up and be a partner in any of this infrastructure funding?”

Hall says one thing is certain, the people he met with in Ottawa are fully cognizant of this city’s desire to make improvements.  “Absolutely, every ministry, everybody that we spoke with we said we’re ready to go, we have projects and we walked away from there feeling real comfortable that we delivered the message that we’re ready.  And we’re ready today, so once we get clarification around the infrastructure process and that application process we’re ready to go.  We’ve come to council and administration with talk about priorities that they have and away we go.”

Besides the Four Seasons Pool, Transit Exchange and snow dump site Hall says “we’ve got some major highway intersection pieces that we’re looking at doing and if those intersections intersect a provincial or federal highway we certainly see a need for a partnership there with the province or the feds.  So there’s some samples of work that we need to have done.  And this assessment on all of our civic facilities is going to be a big piece of this council’s work this year, along with our underground infrastructure.”

Do those projects push a Performing Arts Centre further down the priority list then?  “No, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s down the list,” says Hall.  “The Performing Arts Centre is one of those things that we’ve had a plan in place where we go out into the community and talk about the Performing Arts Centre and then, sooner or later a budget down the road, council will have to have a conversation about it.  And I think that conversation will take place after we find out what’s happening with this recreation and cultural infrastructure category, and what’s eligible for it.”

Will the community as a whole be brought into the discussion about a Performing Arts Centre and if so, how will that pan out?  Mayor Hall says “There’s some work going on, but they’re still in the early stages of that.”  Asked to clarify whether the community will have a chance to bring forward their thoughts on the PAC, Hall says “I don’t know which council meeting it was, it was about the Performing Arts Centre and getting that information out to the community.  Like we did with Talktober.  Well, talk about a Performing Arts Centre and this is what it’s all about.”

The most recent estimates presented to City Council peg construction of the Pac at $51.05 million.  At this time the annual cost of operating the facility is estimated at $820,000.


We cannot afford the Pac. It would be a red herring like the police station. I say no to the pac. Waste not, want not.

A PAC should only be discussed when and if they have raised at least 30% of the dollars needed and have the clear support of the majority of PG residents. Roads, water & sewer, transit and recreation facilities are what the Council should be looking at not the special interests of PAC group.

    Make it 100% privately funded and I’m on board. Public money shouldn’t be spend to keep what? 200 people happy?

    You mean sort of like an ice arena, recreation centre at UNBC (neat the way UNBC got to get the City to ante up when a private developer/operator would not bite), a swimming pool, a Civic Centre, a golf course..

    I mean, they fund TNW to the tune of about $120,000/year instead of getting TNW to increase the ticket price by 10 to 20%. They fund the Playhouse to an amount I am too lazy to look up. The fund the coliseum and they fund the CN Centre, neither of which required a 30% share of the citizens of this town and still require over a million a year to supplement the operating costs.

    Interestingly when I read the above, the PAC is low priority compared to the others named. But there is the same commentators on 250NEWS that are attracted to the three letters of the alphabet like a bull to a red flowing cape.

    And, the Mayor knows how to handle that red cape every time he mentions it to entice those people to put their horns down and attack the cape while the Mayor steps aside like an experienced matador.

    Most of you know the rest of the bull fight scenario.

      A gus post that didn’t use his new favourite phrase, “ad hominem” :)

      Most of your comparisons are apples to oranges. Anything that benefits the children in our society I do not mind helping to pay for. This includes but is not limited to, ice rinks. ball fields and swimming pools. Healthy kids grow up to be healthy adults and healthy adults are a benefit to everyone.

      A PAC in this city will appeal to a few adults, usually those adults (like yourself) who seem to think they are somehow better then the masses and deserve their own little PAC jewel.

      UNBC was a political boondoggle, the Sports Center never should have happened with as much public money as it took. (And how that thing’s not making money is beyond me, they charge a fortune to use it; time to stop the subsidies). TNW is something else that should either sink or swim and paying for a golf course for a couple of hundred people is ridiculous. If it can’t make it, time for it to fold.

      Sometimes, the bull wins.

      Because facilities that we were against managed to get built is no reason to support more such frivolous spending.

We can’t afford it.. How many times do we have to say it. It’s a luxury that will cost us about $500,000 a year. We see our taxes go up every year..how about wait till we get our “house” in order before we start buying luxury items.

The PAC should be a election issue each and every time..

    At this time the annual cost of operating the facility is estimated at $820,000. Those who want it should be happy to pay for it themselves.

    P Val, weren’t you recently bragging that you are paid more than $52.00 per hour!

    I’m against the City pursuing a PAC! However, just in case that they do, I would think that you should be and would be more than willing and able to handle a few more taxes, for the social good of our community, of course, haha!

I’ve seen car salesmen with a more honest smile. Yep PAC before infrastructure, Hall wants his name on the brass plaque on the side of the PAC. Not as sexy hanging on a sewer pipe.

Great photo. JT looks like he’s ready but the Mayor needs to button his coat to look ready.

I have no doubts Hall and the city council cronies wants a PAC so we will get one like it or not. and yes everyone will pay for up to 800 people to have their little , what did they say? $54 million, fun spot.
they don’t use the assets they have now efficiently,
800 seats will not bring in the “big acts” as they claim and call them, the CN center will still host those…
where are they going to park between 200 and 800 more cars, (that is 1 to 4 persons per car) to attend a PAC?

yes a new PAC would be wonderful….
can they afford it…probably not…
another bill we will all pay for …

    Not to worry,Council will build a $15billion light rapid transit system that will shuttle people in from west and north of the city to see the shows so nobody has to drive.

      good option, but you still have to park cars somewhere….
      I can’t see door to door service…
      actually I can….

What we need are two new pools, one on the Hart and one in College Hghts.
And, sewer and water to Haldi Road, replace existing mains before they break, another boat launch, park on the North Side of Foothills Bridge with off road parking. If our mayor likes being a mayor for a second term, he might want to consider funneling cultural money into these areas, and perhaps we might just give him a second term.
We have two locations for performing arts, why build a third?

    What we need is a cleaner City!!!!! This place looks like a pig sty in most locations. In general, both people and the City do not take care of the place. There is no pride in this community.

    As an example … bike lanes??? … forget about them. the streets are swept once so far but not the bike lanes. I do not bike, I do not ride a motorized wheelchair, but the bike lanes they use are not being maintained the same as the travelled roadways are.

      Then there are the people rake lawn debris onto the roads and leave it there, so classy.

      Perhaps bike riders need to step up to the plate and demand that they be charged a fee or taxes in some form or another, with the fees or taxes being used solely for sweeping and maintaining bike lanes! You know, a fee or tax not unlike the taxes built into the price of gas and diesel!

      My next door neighbour keeps her front lawn very neat. She checks when the street crew is scheduled to sweep the street and puts the debris in the gutter. This year he had perfect timing.

      Something to remember about land ownership in suburbia. The street right of way is 66 feet. The curb of paved streets is normally around 16 feet from the actual property line. The City plows the snow onto that public part of the right of way and will also pile up the snow from the driveway entrance on that part of the ROW.

      With that snow comes and grit – gravel and sand – which may have been put on the roads, especially at intersections. That get left on that part of the lawn. It makes for a very difficult cleanup for someone with a rake, especially for an older homeowner. It would be much simpler if the street would use some of its sweepers to go over that part of their ROW in the spring to remove much of the grit. The grass will stay intact.

      So, I view it as the resident doing the work of the City. The least they could do is to sweep up the grit and old grass raked over to the gutter.

Hall sure goes on and on about a PAC!

I guess that in his mind, infrastructure spending is spelled P A C !

    Please read the article carefully once more.

    The title says “Infrastructure priorities weighed”.

    The four line third paragraph identifies some of those priorities which, as it states, had already been mentioned earlier in the week.

    That is followed by about 12 paragraphs dealing specifically with the PAC. The reason is very simple. The reporter asked questions about the PAC and the Mayor responded to those questions even though he was steering onto other areas such as four season pool, snow dump, highway intersections, and underground infrastructure.

    The majority of the article is the Mayor’s response to four specific questions about the PAC

    1. “Asked specifically if there might be an area of the budget to tap into for Performing Arts Centre funding …..”

    2. We asked the mayor whether there has been discussion recently with provincial government representatives regarding possible provincial funding for a PAC

    3. Do those projects push a Performing Arts Centre further down the priority list then

    4. Will the community as a whole be brought into the discussion about a Performing Arts Centre and if so, how will that pan out?

    The reporter then wrote that the most recent estimates presented to City Council peg construction of the Pac at $51.05 million. At this time the annual cost of operating the facility is estimated at $820,000.

    Palopu has already responded to that figure by stating that he was under the impression that is was around $500,000.

    Again, poor choice of terminology. The operating cost is one thing, the subsidy required from the City is another. They are not the same.

    The net operating cost of the facility could be in the 800,000 range. What is missing is the revenue from operating the facility. As in virtually all theatres in Canada, there is a shortfall and the communities as well as the provincial and federal governments have various subsidies they provide to make up that shortfall. In the case of the City, it is expected that could be in the $300,000 to $500,000 range.

    Compare that to TNW’s 2015 taxation year as listed by Revenue Canada. That was $986,012. That included the cost of the 4 productions they put on. Management and Admin was $259,786, fundraising was $32,157 and political activities was $500. TNW received a total of $245,900 government funding.

I thought the operating costs for a PAC were to be around $500,000.00 per year. Even that is to much when you consider that over 10 years it would cost us $5 Million dollars.

I think that Hall is on the right track to determine just where the funding for this PAC will come from. That is, how much actual money from the Feds, how much from the Province, and how much from the City.

We then need to ensure that the money for the PAC is not the same money that we could use for a swimming pool, or a new fire hall. In other words we need to get the **real** infrastructure needs done first, and then and only then look at what can be done about a PAC.

I strongly suggest that they have a referendum on the PAC question and get it settled once and for all. We have approx. 52000 eligible voters in this city that would be more than happy to vote on this issue.

    Referendums are a waste of time and money. They don’t prevent any government that is bent on doing something from doing just that. A referendum was held in this city over a civic centre, swimming pool and arena complex. It was voted down. All that happened was that they split the thing into three separate projects and we ended up with everything the civic government and special interest groups wanted.

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