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October 27, 2017 9:13 pm

Pool Needs ‘Tip of Iceberg’ In City’s Aging Infrastructure

Tuesday, September 13, 2016 @ 11:06 AM
Designs for potential Four Seasons replacement facility (at left) and major upgrades, including additional swim tank, at Aquatic Centre (at right) courtesy Dialog Design and Counsilman-Hunsaker (Aquatics for Life)

Designs for potential Four Seasons replacement facility (at left) and major upgrades, including additional swim tank, at Aquatic Centre (at right)        courtesy Dialog Design and Counsilman-Hunsaker (Aquatics for Life)

Prince George, BC – The consultants behind a comprehensive reporting looking at the city’s aging aquatic facilities and future needs are recommending both pools remain open, but the price tag attached to that proposal is an estimated 62.3-million dollars.

While Prince George City Council will not be taking ‘the plunge’ anytime soon, the report, once again, highlights serious aging issues with many of the city’s major facilities.

Mayor Lyn Hall noted that decisions will have to be made in the not-too-distant future to address more immediate needs – with a roof replacement at Four Seasons recommended by 2018 at a cost of $1.5-million, and repairs involving the roof and exterior of the Aquatic Centre coming in at an estimated $2-million dollars.

The consultants, Dialog Design and Counsilman-Hunsaker (Aquatics for Life), presented City Councillors with four options at last night’s meeting, but recommended replacing the Four Seasons pool with a new facility at an estimated cost of almost $33-million dollars and almost $30-million in major renovations at the Aquatic Centre, including: a new eight lane swim tank, the addition of spectator seating for 1500, additional family change room space, and an expanded fitness centre.

Dialog Design Associate Architect, Doug Wournell, said the consultants heard repeatedly from users and stakeholders that they wanted to keep the two pools.  In response to a question from Councillor Albert Koehler, Wournell said gauging the users’ appetite for a tax increase to pay for the upgrades was outside the report’s scope.  “The only thing I could add is at the public open house, the majority of the people…were seniors: typically, the least-likely people to want to take more money out of their pockets, and they were very much in support of the project to do both facilities.”

“What you’re (Koehler) suggesting is definitely your next step,” Wournell added.

Councillor Jillian Merrick said the report is timely with public input sessions set for next month. “Now, residents can come out to Talktober and tell us what they think, tell us what they think about spending this kind of money on these kind of valued facilities.”  Merrick pointed out that Vanderhoof just announced it will build a new pool for $12-million dollars. “So, where there’s a will, there’s a way,” she said.  “ I think the community just needs to come out and tell us what that will needs to be and there’s lots of opportunity between now and the next few years of capital planning to do that.”

Mayor Lyn Hall said there has been a lot of talk over the past several years about the city’s infrastructure needs both above and below the ground.  “I think that this is really the tip of the iceberg, you’ve (the consultants) sent the message tonight that will confirm that we do have some real problems with our major facilities in this community,” said the mayor.

Hall pointed to the main firehall which is 60-years-old, the Coliseum, which isn’t too far behind, and the Elks Centre.

Council referred the report to City staff for further review and recommendations on possible next steps and the costs associated.


It’s how the cities accounting department works. Take money from maintenance and upkeep contingency funding to prop up the here and now want expenses, and seem balanced in the short term, leaving huge financial holes for down the road to be financed with more borrowing by the next administration.

It all started under Colin Kinsley, followed by big tax cuts to major industrial properties. The tax cuts for major industry we were told at the time was going to bring more major industry to town, but the opposite has happened the last thirty years. Major industry has wound down somewhat and the city didn’t keep up on the quality of life investments while sticking tax payers with more and more debt to cover the bad accounting that didn’t factor in the contingency funding for infrastructure upgrades.

Just once I’d like to see a politician in a photo op with a set of accounting books and a contingency fund line item with the intent to invest in saving for a planned long term known expense.

    The City made a huge mistake when they did not follow up properly with the KPMG study.

    KPMG did not have the right people on the job. They could not and did not do a proper assessment of how well the city admin was working with respect to effectiveness and efficiency. They had very little information from other municipalities to do any comparative analysis.

    On top of that, the provincial auditor of municipalities was unable to do her job properly and was released of her duties. That did not help one bit.

    So the previous Council and Mayor ticked off staff and the new Council and Mayor had to mend those fences. It looks like they have accomplished that.

    In the meantime, we need to have another serious look at the state of the union of the City’s ability to run an efficient and effective service for its taxpayers.

    I see none of that happening.

    So, we will get some other reports of the state of the union of our infrastructure. The pool is just the first one in a series.

    And we will get an opportunity to talktober about it. BUT, will we get an opportunity to talk about the bigger picture or just check which choices we want?

      Completely agree that the KPMG was money well wasted, any efficiency expert that is hired and does a proper job will get some noses out of joint. I think it is wrong for the new mayor and council to come in and try to placate those employees. It is obvious that city hall is far from a smooth running operation and some people may have to be let go to change the culture there.

      As for the municipal auditor I do recall the first one was let go, with good reason. But a also remember that the office did not fold after she was let go. A little digging and found this:


      The new guy seems to want to keep a pretty low profile but must be still plugging along as there are news releases from mid 2016. There are some reports that I will look through later this evening.


      Suggest a mail in campaign to invite him to our fair city.

      From the executive summary of the Cranbrook audit. We are not alone.

      “We also observed that the City did
      not have strong links between asset
      management and capital planning, lacking a
      standardized and risk-based process to guide
      staff in identifying, prioritizing and selecting
      projects for inclusion in its proposed Five-Year
      Capital Plan.”

      Failed to paste this part?

      “Finally, we found that the City
      approached its funding of capital projects on a
      case-by-case basis reflected in a Five-Year
      Financial Plan, lacking a long-term financial
      plan to support its capital asset investments.”

Water lines ,sewer lines ,roads all crumbling as we speak and here we are wanting bicycle lanes and new pools and performing arts centers and giving away money to sport clubs . I don’t have the answer to fix it but I’m fairly certain spending all the money on wants instead of needs is going to hurt later.


    They are way ahead of you on sewer and water lines having already implemented big increases to utility bills in order to build a nest egg for future needs in those departments.

      You have to remember that the population of Prince George is a little over 70k but the city is over 300 square kms. In comparison, Manhattan is only 87 square kms but has a population of 1.6 million. We are paying for infrastructure to cover an enormous area with a fraction of the tax base and nowhere near the private investment of most large cities. Yes this city also provides services for a lot of neighbouring communities who come and spend money here, but they don’t pay property taxes to support it.

      Geography, climate, etc… All these also contribute to both the initial investment and ongoing maintenance of our utilities and roads.

      Unfortunately, things are only going to get more expensive from here…

It is time for the City to do some financial housekeeping:

-Far too many 6 figure salaries on the payroll. Why do they need all these people as Managers, Planners and Engineers when they continue to contract outside firms to make all their decisions for them? They have to pay private consultants and engineering firms for just about everything. What are the people on payroll there for?

-Implement a mandary wage review for all positions. Starting with Mayor and Council and going right down to the labourer.

-The City can liquidate some of the valuable unused (or under utilized) properties.

-Quit pumping money into failed experiments..Cottonwood Island Park..District Energy..

-Start pursuing some “positive revenue” ideas. This could offset some long standing debt servicing. A partnership with regional district should be an option on Rec facilities and waste management too.

I can agree that the Four Seasons pool is in dire need of TLC. However, the Aquatic Centre surely does not require an expansion if the 4 Seasons is to be rebuilt.

Maybe try looking at selling naming rights of the pools to KPMG or one of their favoured engineering firms. These companies drain tons of cash from the City with very negligable return on investment… they can help subsidize repair and replacement.

Last point here. Bury the PAC once and for all. There is perfectly good space at the Playhouse, Vanier Hall and even the Civic Centre.

You want 2 pools? Figure out a way too fund it without taking it to the taxpayer..

    “Why do they need all these people as Managers, Planners and Engineers when they continue to contract outside firms to make all their decisions for them? They have to pay private consultants and engineering firms for just about everything. What are the people on payroll there for?”

    It appears to be an enigma concealed within a mystery! If a project does not meet expectations after completion one can always blame it on those outsiders who were paid big bucks to not let that happen…other than that I am just plain puzzled!

    In what world is the district energy system a “failed” experiment. From all indications it seems to be a quite successful one…

      I beg to differ. If the District Energy system was a sucessful venture, 2 key points would be present:
      1- The City would be advertising how cheaply it is heating these public buildings. I have heard of no such thing.

      2- Private businesses downtown would have been jumping on board and paying to hook up to this sucessful system.. Once again, I have heard of no such thing.

      The PR people would be screaming “sucess!” From the rooftops and patting themselves on the back…..

Again. why can’t the city work with UNBC and develop all that land, and use a grant or two?

City got the exact answers they wanted so they can go ahead now and build a new pool like it or not.

The City cannot borrow money for a new pool, PAC, or any other expenditure that exceeds a certain level without going to a referendum, or an alternate approval process. So if people want to stop all this borrowing they have to get a petition going when the City goes to borrow, get the 5000 +/- signatures and Walla, they cant borrow the money. This forces them to go to a referendum and gives the tax payers a chance to vote on the issue.

Perhaps the City can sell the old Police Station and use the money from the sale to help fix the pools.

Don’t think for a New York minute that this City is broke. It has money coming out it ying yang. The problem is trying to track the money and see where it is being spent. That is the real problem.

What we need is a citizens committee made up of accountants that can peruse the year end reports, track the money, and then ask pertinent questions as to where the money went, and why.

Spending $500,000.00 on the Downtown Parking fiasco is one place to look. Also another $450,000.00 on bike lanes, and of course the $400,000.00 to add two more Government buildings to the Community Energy System. All these projects could have been delayed or not implemented at all and would have resulted in huge savings for the City.

    The last civic election was the referendum . Which part of parliamentary democracy don’t you get .

    We have a citizen’s committee already whose job it is to peruse year end reports, track the money and ask pertinent questions and it’s called City Council. Elected by the public in a democratic manner. Perhaps the citizens of this fine City should remember that when they vote.
    The last thing we need is another panel of “experts” questioning the first panel of “experts” , etc, etc, etc…..

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