Watch the Council Meeting online on our video website here
The issue of finding a new location for Kitimat City Council to hold their meetings has been on the books for a while now. The goal is to find a meeting place which is accessible to everybody, including those who have constraints on their mobility due to a wheelchair or walker.
The current meeting room at the Public Safety Building is on the second story of the building and is only accessible through stairs. A stair climber attempts to make the room accessible but in the last five years, only one person has been brave enough to use it.
There are many options for the District to look at. They have talked about everything from a new City Hall, using rooms within facilities they own, such as Riverlodge and the Kitimat Court House, using rooms in Facilities they do not own, including KVI, and even suggesting setting up mobile structures for the meetings.
However, a lot of time has passed since this decision was made and Council decided to make a decision at the Committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday, January 14th.
In a memo to Council, Deputy CAO Warren Waycheshen delivered several ideas, their costs and notes. The first was Kitimat Valley Institute which would cost $21,840. It was noted longer meetings might cost more.
The second building was the old Kitimat City High Location. It would cost $3,900 which would include set up. However, there were additional costs for the tools used by presenters at the meetings as well as a curtain to hide the kitchen.
The third and fourth options were the library or a classroom at Northwest Community College. They would cost $0. However, as it was noted the rooms were too small for meetings, a wall could be knocked out to connect the two at a cost of $10,000.
Option five was the old CEP Union Hall at 623 Enterprise Avenue. It was noted the building needed to be rented, retrofitted and renovated at a cost estimated at $40,000 - $50,000 for the rent alone.
Option six would be to use the meeting room at City Hall. However, the room is too small. To accommodate this, the District could knock out the back wall and relocate staff. The District would also have to pay for improvements at the mall to limit public access afterhours to the area in front of the elevator.
The modular building cost was estimated at over $500,000 and there was no location which has been selected. There was one final option to make the current Council building accessible at a cost of $170,000.
Finally, there would be costs associated with all the buildings. It would cost the District $15,000 to be televised and $1,500 for moving costs.
Councillor Corinne Scott made a motion to resolve to move the Council and Committee of the Whole meeting location to Northwest Community College in Kitimat, put in a sound system and have Citywest contracted to relocate the television equipment. Councillor Mario Feldhoff made an amendment motion to knock the wall out and expand the room.
“The amendment clarifies where in the Northwest Community College the mover meant because we had three or four to choose from,” said Feldhoff. “Furthermore, the amendment also says, let’s make the room larger. I personally believe the larger facility in that particular location will be good.”
He said the cost is perfect for a temporary solution. It will buy them the time to make changes to the Fire Hall. He said there would be a lot of money spent on the Fire Hall in the future and there are plans for a City Hall far down the line.
Councillor Phil Germuth agreed. They were putting money away for the District Buildings and the Modular Structures were expensive. He expressed the Council was putting money away for the purchase. He said it was cost effective.
Scott considered this a friendly amendment which added on to the motion she made. She pointed out the new room would be bigger than the current Council Chambers as well as the most cost effective. She suggested adding a sign to park.
Councillor Mary Murphy spoke against the motion. “We’ve spent a lot of time on this, and this was the perfect answer for us. My concern is that we are closing the doors on other things and make it impossible for the community to move forward on educational proposals and we need them now. I’m under the impression that Northwest Community College has received some grant money, to put in a millwright shop and further some education proposals going forward,” said Murphy.
She wanted to know if the staff was aware of the space which was going to be needed in the college because she was told the college would be under limited space. She was worried the District would be creating another problem to solve their current problem.
Waycheshen told the Council the College grounds in Kitimat were too small for the Millwright Course so they would not be holding it in the building. Murphy wanted to know where it would be going, but Waycheshen could not answer the question.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan stated the college was looking at several trades which they will be teaching. She agreed with Murphy. “We may be cutting off our nose to spite our face on this particular issue,” said Monaghan.
Feldhoff reminded the Mayor this was not going to be a permanent solution. The room was going to be set up exclusively for Council. They would have a break out room, water, storage and a projector.
“If something comes along and the college says: “You know what, you guys are creating trouble for us, they’ll let us know and maybe we’ll look at options such as a modular approach or Riverlodge or somewhere else,” said Feldhoff. “If we make a mistake or we change our minds, we will not have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, we’ll have spent $10,000.”
He added they will be spending a little more to get the facilities up and running. Murphy agreed it was the perfect location but she did not want to send people to Terrace for training which could be provided in Kitimat.
Monaghan agreed with Murphy. She was talking with the College and was told if the District comes into the school, they will not have to look for anything else. The College does want classes in Kitimat though.
“I don’t want to go in another facility like Northwest Community College or any of the other places that we looked at. I think that we as a Council and I as a Mayor feel that we deserve something more than that. It is very demeaning, I believe, to be in an area where we have to be in a college or something like that, there is no other community in BC that is doing that. They have their own Council Chambers. We deserve it. We deserve not to be having this demeaning situation. We can have it, there is a way to do it, and it’s not going to cost us a lot of money in the long run,” said Monaghan.
Her idea was to use the lot beside the Veterinarian. The lot was covered in trees, which the District could sell for the money they need to do this. They could put an Atco or PTI building on it and be close to water and sewer. They could use the parking lot so they do not have to put one in.
Monaghan suggested when the time comes to build a city Hall, they could move the Mobile Council Chambers to another part of town or continue to utilize it on the spot. She pointed out both the Youth Centre and the Senior’s Centre were looking for more room. She suggested the Seniors could expand into the Youth Centre and use the temporary Council Chambers for the Youth Centre.
“I do not want to go into an area, it’s very demeaning to be in Northwest Community College or have it in KVI or any of the other places that we looked at,” said Monaghan.
“I don’t think it’s demeaning to be there. I think it’s the best temporary option. I’m completely against the Atco Structure option that came out earlier in the year because that was a lot of money that was only going to be temporary,” replied Germuth.
He reminded the Mayor the reason the Council was doing this was to get people with limited mobility at their Council Meetings. To him, this was the most reasonable solution until they have figured out what their capital building plan was going to be.
“If our ultimate goal right now is to be able to have those people come out to our meetings with limited mobility, this is the cheapest way to do it for now. As Councillor Feldhoff suggested, if all of a sudden, the college needs that room for something, then we’ll have to look at something else. Maybe we’ll have to go back up to the Fire Hall or maybe by then; we’ll have our capital replacement plan in order, we’ll know exactly where we’re going to be in a certain number of years. As for the training, there are other training places,” said Germuth.
He named KVI as an example as a location for training and told the Mayor the college has stated this will not affect their programs. Feldhoff stated he was happy the college had suggested this room. He also mentioned all the projects which were looking at Kitimat.
“What is demeaning is people with disabilities who can’t come to our Council Meetings. That is demeaning. We need to do something to address that,” said Feldhoff.
Monaghan told the Council they could get a portable just as fast as the Council could knock out the wall in the college.
Councillor Rob Goffinet pointed out they were debating the main motion when the motion on the floor was the amendment to remove the wall. He said he was in favour of removing the wall. He pointed out the deal breaker would be if the college had another use. He suggested staff would come back to Council if they hit a wall. He pointed out the Council would be using an underused facility.
He thought this was not demeaning, it was prudent. “No one would criticize Council of spending money on an edifice that looked really beautiful and made us feel better,” said Goffinet. “It’s functional. Everyone will see perfectly, everyone will hear perfectly. Everyone should be able to attend as perfectly as possible. That’s our intention.”
He expressed the Council cannot be the price. He hoped the Council’s address system would be portable and usable anywhere else.
“This is a win win win for them. I believe Mayor and Council will benefit from having a totally open accessible space that I feel is going to help Northwest Community College utilize their space and get a little more focus,” concluded Goffinet.
Monaghan pointed out it was more than $10,000. Murphy expressed she had not had enough time to think about this because she only heard about it this weekend and wanted more time to talk to the college. She stated the Council could not start renovating until March so it was going to take more time. There were also industrial proposals moving forward but the idea was to get the community ready with certificates in hand before those proposals come forward. She was torn between this being the perfect place but worries about other things coming up.
Councillor Edwin Empinado wanted to put an agreement on paper. Waycheshen told him they would need a written agreement.
Goffinet agreed with Mary, he would hate to see Council go into the college if it ejected the skills program from Kitimat. He suggested an amendment to make the main motion dependant on Northwest Community College giving them permission because there is no other pressing need for the room.
Scott expressed the Council and the Mayor was not going to be demeaned by Northwest Community College. She told Council the College came to them. She said the College made sure they were able to meet all of the needs of Council and even include accessible washrooms on top of everything else.
“To say that it would be demeaning would be a huge disservice to Northwest Community College. It is not demeaning at all. It is a lovely bright open room with windows that I feel grateful that they would come forward to offer their services to the District of Kitimat,” said Scott.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan expressed Scott was taking her out of context. Monaghan explained Council should, just like every other City Council in BC, have their own chambers which are theirs and accessible. She did not mean Northwest Community College was making things demeaning.
The amendment to expand the room was called and carried, with Monaghan and Murphy opposed. Onto the main motion, Monaghan expressed the college told her there are options for classes to come to Kitimat and she did not want to see the people of Kitimat go to Terrace because the Council Chambers were taking up their classrooms.
Councillor Rob Goffinet made an amendment to make the motion conditional on Northwest Community College having no reservations on Council using their space. Monaghan expressed this was redundant because something could come up after they were moved in.
Scott expressed a business was not going to give up space when there was a use they could make of it. Feldhoff agreed with Scott and understood why Goffinet made it. Germuth agreed.
“Maybe you talk to John Ross then like I did today,” laughed Monaghan.
“That’s what we rely on staff reports for Madam Mayor,” retorted Feldhoff.
The amendment was called and carried, Monaghan, Murphy and Empinado opposed. Due to confusion, the main motion was never voted on, although it had been declared to be passed when the first amendment passed.
I just don't believe it.....