City Council ran until 11:30 Pm on Monday, January 25th. Although the meeting was long, tempers were short. Many important aspects of the future of the community were brought up. This could have been the single most important meeting that this reporter has ever attended.
The following article is quite long and is really only just a taste of the tragedy that took place at that meeting. More detailed articles will be going up within the next week. The first dominos have been knocked down.
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#1: Bill McIntyre, VP of Marketing and Sales for Canadian Bio Coal / Bio Char gave the first presentation. He explained that this was the first public exposure that the product has had and started talking about the Bio Coal Industry. Bio Coal was created to fight greenhouse gas emissions created by coal fuelled power plants. These plants have been asked to reduce emissions or close they are under pressure.
He explained that the project is not new. It is created through a clorification process for waste wood and there is enough waste wood in BC keep the industry going for a long time. He explained that there was a high demand for Bio Char and power producers are looking at these industries.
He added that this was a sustainable industry. Bio mass can be made from many different types of vegetation from garden waste to wood waste including bark, needles and related debris that are not used in the logging industry. He went through the demand for the product. He said that all a community needs to run one of these operations is 200,000 tonnes of Biomass a year.
He explained that this is a way to get people back to work quickly. He suggested that 30 plants in BC could employ 500 people. For three shifts, only 12 people are needed per plant. The technology uses powerful microwave ovens in a closed system. There are no emissions.
McIntyre explained that there were three advantages to this product: 1: the generation of Carbon credits, 2: keep their plants open and 3: they don’t require any modifications on their plants. Councillor Halyk pointed out that the cost of the Bio Coal is three times the amount of coal. McIntyre explained that the bio coal is not a replacement, it is to be burned with real coal. “It’s a companion, not a competition,” said McIntire.
Municipal Manager Trafford Hall pointed out that Kitimat is a long way from the marketplace in question, coal powered power plants that Councillor McLaren pointed out were in Alberta. McIntyre replied that they were not shipping this to Alberta, they were shipping to Europe. Mayor Monaghan thanked him for the presentation and council moved on.
#2: Tony Brady stepped up to the stand next to speak to the topic of the Public Safety Cameras. He stated that both his group and the council were frustrated that the cameras were not up. He wished to clear up some concerns. After some discussion on protocol, it was determined that council would get back to him and that it would not be a Q&A session. Brady thanked councillors McLaren, Halyk, Feldhoff, Gottschling, Goffinet and Corless for their support on the cameras and asked them if they still supported the project. He also asked that: if the motion made later at the meeting was supported, that a deadline be attached.
#3: Louise Avery stepped up next to speak about the Kitchen at the museum. They were awarded the capital for the project but the municipal freeze froze it. She asked council to review the project again. She said that they struggle with the behind the scenes space and staff has to work on programming and exhibition in there. She said that the kitchen is disorganized and packed with clutter and requested more cupboard and counter space.
#4: Council then went into the budget discussions with presentations from Municipal Manager Trafford Hall, Gwen Sewell and Steve Corp. Hall stated that they want to have the budget put together within 6 weeks. He added that he wanted the council to prepare for the worst so if things are better they could change their plans.
Hall started his presentation with a look at what could happen, first with a population estimate
based on statistics. He presented an estimate
of the population of Kitimat in 2000. He estimated
that in the 2010, there were estimates
that the population of Kitimat is sitting at 9000 people. He looked at the possibilities that drove the difference between the two numbers down. Loss of jobs was one of the major factors. 500 jobs were lost at Alcan and Methinex jobs losses were at 100. Hall used these numbers to estimate
that the population after the closure of Eurocan would have an estimated
loss of 2257 people.
He then looked further down the road looking at all the projects that could come to Kitimat and pointed out that Alcan is planning on reducing workers by 500. This would drop the estimate
to 4743 people living in Kitimat.
Councillor Feldhoff pointed out that he was not looking at retirements nor was he taking into account people who live outside of Kitimat but work here. Hall stated that they were giving statistics, not debating. Councillor Gottsching pointed out that these are serious projections and that positivity would not change things. Feldhoff asked him if the glass was half full or half empty.
Hall pointed out that the small industries that are coming to Kitimat only offer a handful of jobs.
Moving on, Hall stated that in 2011 expenditures including the known expenses would be $23,720,000. The revenue estimated to come into the District through taxes is $19,120,000 with a gave $4,600,000 difference. A 1% tax increase would generate $155,000. The required tax increase for the expenses is 30%. Halyk asked if the population dropped, wouldn’t the number of households taxed drop as well. Hall replied that this was taking into account business as usual.
He moved on to consequences. He explained that they cannot shut down some essential services but they can shut down an arena. They could milk the capital stock but that does not work in the long run. He said that general efficiencies can be hard to find and reminded them about the Fire Department presentations at the CoW Meeting last week
. He explained how they tax the community and showed what Kitimat’s taxes were compared to the rest of BC and what they will be if taxes go up by 30%. Rio Tinto Alcan’s taxes would increase by $3,000,000 in this scenario. He concluded the presentation and turned the chair over to Gwen Sewell.
#5: Sewell ran through several options on how they could cut up to 20% of their services. She was followed by Staff Sergeant Steve Corp. He stated that Kitimat has a low crime rate and attributed it to a well resourced police force. He said that cutting back their budget would cost them police officers, from 2 - 5. He reminded the council that they had to fund the jail cell retrofit this year. He also added that 15 of the officers and 4 1/2 support staff are funded by the District of Kitimat. He ran council through the hierarchy and operations at the RCMP detachment.
He stated that if the budget was cut by 10%, they would lose two officers and things would change but not be as visible. They would probably have to cut one shift and have less flexibility to allow for absences and have to increase overtime. In addition, there would be a potential for less RCMP presence in community events and committees.
At 20%, they would cut three police officers. They would have to terminate a position of expertise. They would have to maximize their schedule and decrease training for officers. They would probably run out of money for overtime and require a larger overtime budget. There could be increased response times of up to 30 minutes. It would be difficult to get officers out into the community for events.
At a 30% decrease, there would only be 10 municipal police officers. There would be less need for support staff and would be at the point where a captain position would be terminated. 24 hour coverage would be gone. Response times would be up and officers would not have time for anything other than being on patrol. After taking questions, the presentation was over and council moved on.
#6: Under motions, Councillor Feldhoff made a motion to set aside $25,000 to conduct a viability study of Methanol and Ammonia at Methanex. Mayor Monaghan suggested a tabling motion until they could talk to Methanex representative, Kevin Henderson. Feldhoff suggested that there were a number of things that they want to work out with Methanex. However, as they were looking at the viability of Eurocan, they should do the same with another company and that things have changed since Methanex shut down. Councillor Gottschling stated that they should talk with Henderson prior to putting money aside because they are in a budget crunch. Gottschling put forward a tabling motion. The tabling motion was carried, Mario Feldhoff was opposed.
#7: The topic of the safety cameras came next and Councillor Gottshcling moved that they have administration complete the tendering process. Councillor Halyk stated that they have gone through so much for the cameras that he would support the motion. Councillor Goffinet wondered how much money they were committing to, especially after the previous presentation. Mayor Monaghan stated that it was $86,000.
Halyk pointed out that if they had a reduced police force, the cameras would make sense. However, the $86,000 was to be spent with the last budget. Councillor McLaren asked if the process was completed. The response was that they did get bids but the process was frozen.
Hall promised that if this was passed they would be installed this summer. Gottschling quoted the minutes. Goffinet wondered if they knew what they were doing on the 2nd of November. McLaren clarified the minutes. Hall reminded council that they had just seen a presenation about reducing costs. Gottschling insisted on the cameras going forward and stated that council is concerned about spending money. The motion was called and carried, Councillor Goffinet was opposed.
#8: Then came the strategic business plan. Gottschling suggested having it on March 27th or April 10th facilitated by a qualified consultant. Councillor Feldhoff stated that this was a good idea and there was value to put their heads together. Councillor McLaren agreed because they were spending a lot of time on small items. Councillor Corless wanted to know what a strategic business plan was. He added that after the budget they can have all the strategy they want.
#9: The next motion was to request the government to fund $200,000 of the feasibility study. There was talk about the funds that have come into the budget plan. Councillor Gottschling was concerned that the union would have to come up with the rest. He stated that this was a serious matter. He looked at the presentation Hall just gave. “We need governments help and we need their support,” said Gottschling.
He stated that they have considered having the feasibility study funded by the government in the first place. Mayor Joanne Monaghan was supposed to ask for more money and he wanted to know why they did not know about this. She stated that she did not know what went wrong. She asked them to fund the full amount. McLaren stated that the steering committee had hoped that the government would provide the money. He added that Mary Murphy asked for the money. Monaghan stated that if the government does not want to give the money, they do not have to.
There was further debate on procedure. Bob Corless read a letter from Gordon Campbell courtesy of Harry Nyce. The letter stated that the province is committed to look at sustainable economics. He added that the mayors on the Regional District should remind Campbell how much of the money came from the District. There was further discussion while the Mayor looked at her watch. It was 10:10. Halyk reported that both governments who gave $20,000 were asked to give that amount but could not report who told them to give that amount.
“Where is the province, we need that money guys,” said Halyk. “Where is the government of British Columbia when we need them?” One of the Councillors referred to the BC government as the judges from American Idol. He took this as it’s time to move on to plan B.
This surprised Gottschling who stated that he had been informed that the people of Kitimat have been deceived. Mayor Monaghan took up the defence. She stated that she had asked for the $200,000 dollars. The motion was called and carried, Councillor Feldhoff was opposed.
#10: Then came a motion considering the 5 year financial plan prior to the budget. The motion was made by Councillor McLaren. Hall stated that it would help them make their decisions. The motion was called and carried. Then came Mayor Monaghan’s motion to support and update the copper smelter study. Councillor Halyk expressed that he felt blindsided by the motion as he knew little about a previous study. Councillor Goffinet recommended taking out the word support because they do not know what their mining proposals were. The amendment was carried. So was the motion.
#11: It was now 10:36 and council moved on to reports approving a building permit and summer student top up. Moving into communications, a letter was received for information. There was further discussion on policy. The Kitchen Renovations was moved. Councillor Corless and Goffinet pointed out that this could be put into the budget process. Halyk suggested a tabling motion. The tabling motion failed, passed and then failed a second time due to the fact it was 10:49 pm. Council returned to the motion and it…
#12: Into new business and Councillor Gottschling accused Monahan of violating the council agenda. A conversation bounced back and forth concerning a slide that Mayor Monaghan spoke to at a recent conference. The slide had been provided by KTIDs and council was opposed to it’s contents.
Gottschling accused her of presenting an item that had not been discussed by council and that she was not representing the interests of council by speaking to it. He accused her of speaking for KTIDs. She stated that she did not know that the slide was from KTIDs until recently. Councillor McLaren pointed out that they need a motion to discuss the fallout of these two slides. Halyk stated that he too had concerns. He stated that because Monaghan’s name was on it, it was like her signing a check. She asked if anyone else wanted to chastise her. Corless offered to take that opportunity stating that the mayors were to go through these things before they presented them. He stated that council never saw the slides.
Councillor Goffinet did not want to fault anyone. A motion to brief everyone so they could all be on the same page was oncoming. Monaghan explained that the three issues from the slides were the rail line to the port, port development and Kemano Modernization.
Hall took the Mayor’s side. He explained that the Mayor was elected at large and she can speak on anything. She could speak her own mind. He added that the Mayor can speak to things contrary to council but she could not be speaking on behalf of council in this instance.
#13: At this point, it was 11:00 pm and Council decided to extend the meeting… twice because the first time, Councillor Feldhoff was still out of the room in conflict of interest due to his connection with Alcan.
#14: Councillor McLaren wished that council would meet to discuss the problem of these slides. McLaren expressed equal shock to Gottschling. He pointed out that the letter they had read on this presentation discussed what would be talked about but not what the mayor presented on. He expressed concern that this means that council has endorsed these items and he was not happy that KTIDs made it look like Mayor and Council said things that Council was opposed to.
Mayor Monaghan stated that she did not have time to review the slides in advance. Gottschling stated that this is why council should go as a group. Mayor Monaghan promised that she would never go down again. Goffinet stated that they were going out of order. Corless asked him who made him the referee. The motion was carried.
#15: Councillor Halyk wanted to look at the Fire insurance discussed at the last meeting and on whether or not fire insurance is higher when the Fire Department is voluntary. He stated he went to 3 insurance companies and asked them about their criteria for fire insurance. In all three cases, a volunteer Fire Department does not raise the cost.
#16: Halyk also brought up a letter about an investment and trade opportunity. He stated that Kitimat was selected for a pilot project and the 29th of January was the deadline. He made a motion that council get together and discuss this. Dianne Hewlette explained what she had planned to do with this. She suggested that council meet for lunch or over the phone. Halyk stated that this was about what they were struggling with, Economic Development. The motion failed and the mayor had to bang her gavel to gain control of the meeting. Councillor Goffinet made an inquiry.
#17: Halyk had two more pieces of information. One was the meeting with Pat Bell that was coming up and that more people would be there. The second was that the NHA meeting in Valemont on the 15th and suggested that Kitimat City Council attend. Mayor Monaghan asked for a motion to go past 11:30 for the in camera portion of the meeting which was carried.
The public portion of the meeting ended. Council would only remain in camera briefly for what was announced to be a personnel issue. It was a long meeting. Expect further information about many of the topics throughout the next two weeks.