LIVE BLOG: City Council Meeting for February 22, 2016

City council will be getting together again to discuss matters of importance to the City of Guelph. On the agenda this Monday are reports from the integrity commissioner and the audit committee, as well as action on infrastructure and a parking agreement with a downtown business. You can click here for the amended agenda from City Hall, and you can click here to read Politico’s preview of tonight’s meeting. For the complete blow-by-blow of tonight’s council meeting, you can follow me on Twitter, or follow along below via Storify.

Guelph City Council Meeting – February 22, 2016

Live blog of the City Council Meeting on Monday February 22, 2016

  1. Of course, I’ll be live blogging/tweeting from council tonight at 7 pm. #Guelph #GuelphNews
  2. Looks like it might be a full house for the first time this year.
  3. We’re under way. Mayor Guthrie going over items from closed session
  4. OPA 48,54 staff given direction; 171 Kortright Council no direction in this matter; staff given direction on Storm negotiations
  5. Correction: Andy Van Hellemond n’est pas ici today.
  6. Cllr Bell has question about the minutes on Jan 25. How was the open meeting closed w/o quorum?
  7. Clerk: Minutes showed there were enough members to close the open session. (Cllr Gordon came back).
  8. Robert Swayze, the integrity commissioner, now reporting. He’s been the “Maytag repair man” of ICs, he says.
  9. Billings also asks if there have been complaints filed for 2016.
  10. Swayze says that he has a complaint now that he is considering. Uh,oh.
  11. Now the Internal Audit work plan and the Audit Committee Work plan.
  12. Delegations her for the Infrastructure Environment and Funding Options Report.
  13. Cllr Bell is speaking to report from Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Ctte. That’s the Western hotel parking one
  14. Parking agreement with Western hotel passes 12-0.
  15. Cllr Billings asking about the Audit work plan. Why vote on 2016-18, rather than vote on 2016 and receive 17,18?
  16. Cllr Wettstein asked the auditor about risk. The 2016 list is recommended, asked to give risk analysis for future audits. When best 2do them
  17. Flexibility in the timing, in other words. It’s a rolling schedule. 2017,18 not finalized.
  18. Cllr Billings concerned that the plan for years beyond 17/18 will be seen as etched in stone.
  19. Billings proposes amendment to receive 2017, 18 plan instead of approved. Vote on amendment passes 12-0
  20. Billings asking about 2 processes “at odds.” Police chief expenses going to police board, but CAO expenses going to subordinate
  21. Audit says treasurer has enough authority to go to CAO and demand explanation for expenses.
  22. Wettstein says this is standard, not just the auditor’s opinion.
  23. Billings asking about value for money audit of fleet. Asking why there aren’t more audits like that.
  24. Wettstein: Value for money not the driving decided. Auditor looks more at risk.
  25. Auditor is assuring that there’s political neutrality. Value for money audits get into service rationalization and more political realms.
  26. Audit says she knows council has a priority for value for money. She takes into consideration her resources tho.
  27. Billings ask if there’s hope after the audit of fleet management to find savings.
  28. Wettstein says every audit hopes to find savings for the city (after risk management dangers accounted for).
  29. Will garbage trucks be looked at since they weren’t accounted for in waste audit? Yes.
  30. Fraud, conflict of interest, due diligence, all reasons why further action may be taken on the audit.
  31. Confusion in 2014/15 came from internal energy audit. Some ppl interpreted as district energy, which had unique elements to it.
  32. Will get to that when restructuring of GMHI comes to council in a few months.
  33. Community energy initiative broader than council, from the community. Coming back to council in May.
  34. It’s not like we’re dealing with transit, that’s ours. community energy initiative is broader, says Wettstein.
  35. Planned energy audit won’t include Community Energy Initiative, council hears, because CEI is wider than city hall.
  36. Guthrie: a lot of concern about CEI project, but it seemed to get push back from 2014.
  37. Guthrie: glad that Wettstein brought up CEI. broad based support in community. Concerned about projects initiated under CEI.
  38. Guthrie wants council to review these projects sooner than later b/c no report’s come in 2014 or 15
  39. Point of order:
    Corporate Energy Plan: Energy uses in city facilities.
    CEI: broader future local energy plans.
  40. Independent, risk related, non-political. Guidelines of how audit conducted says Wettstein.
  41. Audit ctte has no special role other than to receive report & ask questions of auditor. Can enhance or explore, but auditor knows risk areas
  42. Changing work plan not in audit committee mandate.
  43. “She’s independent of all us.” Wettstein says of internal auditor.
  44. Billings asking about process for getting an external auditor.
    Wettstein says it’s not up to cmtte or council to bring that forward.
  45. CAO Pappert offers clarification. Council can ask for audits, charter for auditor was reviewed last summer.
  46. Wettstein standing up for the auditor. It’s a request to consider, and she decides if it fits in her mandate. line of confusion.
  47. Gibson groing concerned about elements of CEI. Spent a lot of time on this file, and the decision & govern aspects causing concern
  48. June 28, 2010 when council approved strategic business study flashback. Gibson asks auditor if she can investigate CEI projects in 2016.
  49. Wettstein: That is not one that fits her (the auditor’s) current mandate. Will have to be referred back to CAO
  50. Gibson asks if auditor would consider CEI audit this year, if funds were made available. Wettstein suggests doesn’t fit auditor’s mandate.
  51. Gibson would like to see 3rd party audit. Auditor would scope and execute.
  52. This is a request that has to go thru the CAO, and not auditor directly.
  53. CAO: has the authority at any time. Hours in the auditor work plan to allow for 3rd party. Council can offer scope.
  54. Depending on nature of investigation, the scope question might be something dealt with in closed session
  55. Either discussed through committee or through council.
  56. Gibson moves for 3rd party external audit of CEI. Wettstein says council is blending the directives.
  57. Gibson moves for 3rd party external audit of CEI. Wettstein says council is blending the directives.
  58. Its a new motion. The audit committee report is still the motion on the floor. Still speakers on original motion: Bell, Salisbury & Allt
  59. Bell: there’s enormous support across Canada for action on climate change. CEI is supposed to participate in that effort
  60. Bell referencing Gibson motion. Will come back to that.
  61. Cllr Salisbury: 2017 audit of energy is internal to the city. Corporate Energy Program not CEI.
  62. That’s a pretty mundane thing. Wettstein on the Internal Audit Work Plan.
  63. One is energy savings, one is energy generating. Allt on the difference between CEP and CEI.
  64. Council direct 3rd party investigative audit for capital projects under CEI & special public meeting be held to determine frame of reference
  65. Bell notes Federal support for energy initiatives to battle climate change.
  66. Need to direct efforts in areas we know we’ve had successes.
  67. Details of motion debatable, but need to look at where we’re good, bad, and where we’ll go in future – Bell
  68. Gibson doesn’t believe checkins on CEI have been completed yet. Need to make sure we fulfill enviro goals and ambitions.
  69. Gibson: If it merits, have public discussion and delegations.
  70. Guthrie and Pappert believe that “public” handcuffs the motions. Maybe matters that can only be discussed in camera.
  71. …”council be involved for determining scope and terms of reference” Guthrie’s proposed changed.
  72. CAO asking for direction. How will we do progress report on CEI in May? Many partners/projects in CEI
  73. Guthrie says he trusts that the report from Pappert and team will include direction and timing.
  74. CAO trying to draft reference for report, if its under GMHI that’s easier to put together.
  75. Gibson: Doesn’t need progress report to be concerned.
  76. Guthrie says we’re moving in scoping, which we really don’t need right now.
  77. Wettstein: Everything Gibson said has to be done after May. Ideally, everything possible needs to be public.
  78. No question about public involvement or participation, says Wettstein. Haven’t got anything to scope yet.
  79. Wettstein says he’d have no trouble supporting this in May. Maybe a bit early to do this now.
  80. Salisbury salutes intent. Concerned about narrow scope and prematurity of motion.
  81. CAO: review of analysis and metrics needs to be part of scoping and approach discussion coming to council
  82. A broad picture coming to council in May. Report will arrive, then analysis to see what’s working or not.
  83. Salisbury: trying to get a lay of the land, and would their be a preliminary scoping? High level risk analysis?
  84. CAO: Motion wasn’t to go to that extreme. There maybe specific projects that require further details.
  85. CAO: Still work to do in drafting terms of reference. Getting approval on how council wants the city to review work the intent of May’s rprt
  86. Exec team report back to gov cmte the preferred method of delivering report, original motion about May’s report as read by Guthrie.
  87. Guthrie: Gibson motion audits projects not how they’re audited.
  88. Salisbury getting emails on this. The Gibson motion is too narrow and too premature.
  89. Allt not supporting either, saying that we can’t start an audit before the review
  90. Allt: this is all complex and needs to be rolled out slowly. Gibson motion is a “quantum leap.”
  91. Cllr Hofland wishes the delegates had gotten to speak first. So do they (probably).
  92. Gordon asking how this motion will impact the timeline for staff report in May.
  93. CAO: we would be working on parallel process. Would be coming back with scope of 3rd party audit and timeline
  94. Gordon: It’s adding to the hairiness. His interpretation.
  95. Has faith that staff is doing the work and it will be comprehensive.
  96. Downer also talks about timing but doesn’t want to see motion voted down. Defer to May?
  97. Guthrie feels like they’ve veered off. May motion was about preferred method of progress report.
  98. Narrowness and scoping is a discussion that will come back when staff delivers report from this motion.
  99. Downer: We’re putting the cart before the horse, hence want to defer.
  100. McKinnon says motion is incomplete. No timeline.
  101. CAO: report could come back in April for council input.
  102. Piper says a number of projects being audited under CEI have partners. There’s also been no talk of cost yet.
  103. Guthrie seems a bit frustrated by the merry-go-round debate. Will call vote after Billings comments.
  104. Billings point out that liability of the projects is $17 million. Could severely impact the city.
  105. Calling it “narrow” or “premature” is short-sighted, Billings.
  106. @scottjtracey @adamadonaldson my motion calling for 3rd party investigative audit into CEI projects is a motion to direct, scope to follow.
  107. Guthrie calling for a recess. Council back at 9 pm.
  108. Still 4 delegates for Infrastructure Environment and Funding Options incl. @chamberadvocacy
  109. Report about “potential funding for upcoming renovations/expansions and to report back by the end of 2016 Q3” for General hospital.
  110. Hofland differs Qs about specific renos at hospital to Billings who’s on Hospital board.
  111. Dodge says we’ll open another can of worms now…
  112. When he lost job in ’14, he looked for ways to make ends meet. City has same responsibility.
  113. Dodge says council refuses to look inwards. That needs to end, needs to find internal savings first b4 levy.
  114. “What about the fruit hanging in the middle or at the top of the tree?”
  115. Dodge: might benefit to look at selling, partnership for Sleeman, or River Run
  116. Dodge: every time council refuses to look within it tells city they don’t respect there tax money.
  117. “Some of you were strongly supported by local unions…” he says. Job is to make tough decisions, Dodge says.
  118. Kithio Mwanzia AKA: @chamberadvocacy now speaking against the infrastructure levy.
  119. Businesses that have to make tough decisions about where to expand over the next couple of years. Profit and non-profit.
  120. There will be negative implications under the levy, says Mwanzia.
  121. #Guelph needs to be evaluated competitively, says Mwanzia.
  122. Mwanzia also making the case for revisiting service rationalization. Effect is delay in determining how to close infrastructure gap.
  123. Mwanzia is pointedly using the word “tax” instead of “levy.”
  124. Chamber recommending hiatus on levy talk till asset management plan done.
  125. Staff report notes other municipalities which have imposed such levies, but Mwanzia says they have done service reviews, asset mgmnt plans
  126. McKinnon asking about how Chamber members feel about keeping the gap growing even after review is done.
  127. Proposed levy is 2% a year for 10 years, but asset management plan could affect that number. Maybe 1.5% or 1% for example.
  128. Anytime we’ve seen the implementation of this type of tax, there’s a number of preceding documents and actions, Mwanzia.
  129. If council refuses to look, does that preclude getting more money? McKinnon to Mwanzia.
  130. Probably not going to find $25 million in operational and $100 million in backlog says MacKinnon. Piper shakes head no.
  131. Mwanzia: council decision making is what it is. Wants council to think thru decision as a job. Decisions could be delayed.
  132. Businesses could decide not to hire in lieu of paying the levy.
  133. The business community will basically reconsider expenditures, new employees and expansion, etc.
  134. Gibson agrees, shouldn’t jump straight to a “tax.” Show’s community that there’s due diligence on council
  135. Gibson wants to make sure there’s still a business culture here.
  136. Allt not sure where he stands on levy. Believes he has responsibility to make sure we build a good quality city.
  137. Asks Mwanzia if he can name a city where a levy has a negative impact on business.
  138. Mwanzia mentions again that number of FTE opps in a given year may not be as many if there’s a levy.
  139. Mwanzia add that members are not against city building, this is about process.
  140. “Someone will not have a job that year because of a decision made around this council table.” Mwanzia.
  141. Allt wondering about the impact on business if infrastructure not developed. Sympathetic to taxpayers.
  142. “I’m the cheapest person in this world.” I think that’s @PhilAlltWard3‘s re-election slogan for 2018.
  143. Allt asking if Chamber has ideas about assets that can be managed off the books. Mwanzia says it requires thoughtful engagement.
  144. Wettstein mentions that there are competing elements i.e.: service rationalization lost to keep 2016 tax rate low
  145. Wettstein: is your (Mwanzia) perception that we’re not looking at those things now.
  146. Short answer: not a perception, but actions of council moved business to believe they don’t exist, Mwanzia.
  147. Wettstein asking if Mwanzia would have been more comfortable if service rationalization been enacted in xchange for higher taxes?
  148. Mwanzia: don’t think its reasonable to say that we took out prudent biz management for one year of lower taxes.
  149. Decision making has to happen today, says Mwanzia. Public policy doesn’t line-up with the reality of what council decided on.
  150. Salisbury thanks Mwanzia for common sense, but doesn’t see magnitude of savings from review.
  151. Salisbury: would it not make sense to make a move to predictability instead of large lump sum increases due to infrastructure failure?
  152. Asset management in other communities didn’t do anything about backlog, but it offered hints about savings, Mwanzia.
  153. Budget at level of inflation “not an unheard of scenario,” says Mwanzia. Doesn’t want to prejudice the process.
  154. Lack of tweets donates that we’re kind of circling around the same question being asked and answered.
  155. . @CathyDowner questions @chamberadvocacy math – suggesting 2% levy would not equal a full-time position as he claimed #Guelph
  156. Chris Keleher, who ran in Ward 2 in 2014, now speaking.
  157. He worked for the city of 9 years. Respectfully disagrees with the idea that there’s no low hanging fruit.
  158. Keleher doesn’t want to see fruit rot. His ideas can be achieved quickly $250-$500K savings a change in city bylaw. An unorthodox proposal.
  159. Finally Pat Fung, who also spoke during budget deliberations.
  160. Fung listing off wide variety of businesses that have cut jobs.
  161. Have to try and provide service at lowest cost possible, if it means cutting then that’s what we have to do, Fung
  162. Vote to receive infrastructure options. MacKinnon asking where this goes from here.
  163. Hofland: there’s no action, but she has same question.
  164. Billings said there’s still work that has to be done by staff. Going from desktop to comprehensive review.
  165. Mark Amarosi says it would be prudent for Scott Stewart to talk about next stages for council and community clarity.
  166. A lot of work on assets that hasn’t been quantified yet, Amarosi
  167. Stewart: there’s a whole bunch of assets that we have a good handle on. We don;t have to have a fire sale.
  168. Stewart: No magical cure to all our infrastructure needs.
  169. Stewart says he’s worked in municipalities with a development freeze. “that’s a chill.” have to keep up with infrastructure.
  170. MacKinnon: it looks like gap shrinking is going well, but the infrastructure report card tells a different story.
  171. Stewart: what we’re getting better at is the numbers that we’re giving you. Slide on screen doesn’t have vertical infrastructure.
  172. Vertical infrastructure is stuff like rec centres for example.
  173. Guthrie wants to focus on the motions in front of council: hospital and operation review.
  174. Staff will share answer to MacKinnon’s Q offline so that the motion can move along.
  175. Salisbury Q asks how staff report on internal operations savings is different from service rationalization.
  176. Guthrie motions are not being implemented today. This is direction being given to staff.
  177. Gibson glad it will be coming for more dialogue. Can’t be something that “pops up” at budget time.
  178. Gibson: speaks to the business communities desire for transparency in this process.
  179. Piper: How does the 2nd motion differ from what we do everyday?
  180. Piper: That I think is a rhetorical question, she says.
  181. Staff: it will be a summery to council along the lines that Piper mentioned, as well as offering some new directions to staff.
  182. Wettstein says this is a duplication of the budgeting process, maybe ineffectual to open it in the middle of the year.
  183. Amarosi: misinterpretation of the process. It’s presenting options to find savings, not recreating lists of past savings taken or not
  184. It will be a short report to find a range of options everyday at city hall, says Amarosi.
  185. Wettstein: it’s a make work project that doesn’t identify the main issues. Obviously, he’s voting against.
  186. Downer asking if the city’s gone to the province yet.
  187. Hofland says that the hospital is working with the ministry to go to stage one of the process. Timeline is 5 years.
  188. Downer says she doesn’t want staff diving efforts. Asks motions to be separated. Guthrie will make it so.
  189. Allt says this is downloading, asking Guelph rate payers to over provincial responsibility.
  190. Allt adds that the second amendment is redundant to the process. Asking staff to do something they do everyday.
  191. Hofland says that she won’t be supporting either motion.
  192. Billigs points out that province covers 90% of capital costs for hospital; municipality covers 10%
  193. @AdamMacIntyre I think the argument is that staff already do that. They prepare a list of efficiencies every budget.
  194. Salisbury notes that it seems rushed considering it could take upward of 7 years to get the project going.
  195. Gordon is worried if this is a deflection into the work at hand. Roads and pipes to as sexy, but crucial.
  196. Guthrie says point #1 is about more info; wants more info.
  197. Guthrie thinks some on council are pre-judging when its about getting more info. On the 2nd motion, doesn’t appreciate “frivolous.”
  198. Motion fails on #1 6-6. That’s staff working with hospital on funding.
  199. #2 passes 7-5. That’s Q2 report for operational savings.
  200. Hofland looking for timing on operational savings report. Wants public input, and wants it to not conflict with budget
  201. Q3 is “perfectly reasonable.” Will also know some of the results around asset management work too.
  202. Motion to move passed 11 pm passes. Awesome? jk
  203. Another ball in the air: infrastructure money from the Feds, Hofland.
  204. New motion from Hofland: report come back in Q3 to committee with status update.
  205. Gibson wants to make sure that the community is full aware where council’s head space is at.
  206. Salisbury wants to make sure council isn’t “drinking the kool-aid” that service rationalization is a “magic bullet” to cover infrastructure
  207. Wettstein: it appears unlikely that there’s 2% tax increase for infrastructure in 2017.
  208. MacKinnon says that what we’re talking about is what we need. Not going to have all the info to make a good decision.
  209. MacKinnon: can’t ignore infrastructure one more year.
  210. Should be automatic policy that if you need $100M for a bridge in 100 years u should put away $1M per year – MacKinnon
  211. “and potential recommendations” has been added. Vote passes 12-0
  212. Finally, Billings wants to talk about CAO matter.
  213. Pappert, facilitator may be required for April session, not March
  214. Governance committee meets as CAo subcommittee for that process.

 

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