LIVE BLOG: City Council Meeting for November 3, 2016

Tonight at a special meeting of city council, the contentious topic of infrastructure levies will be discussed as well as potential alternative options. 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.

***Due to Open Sources Guelph ending at 6 pm, please note that there will be a delay between the start of the meeting and the start of the live-blog.

Guelph City Council Meeting – November 3, 2016

Live blog from the meeting starting at 6 pm (ish)

  1. Big night for #GuelphBudget: approval of non-tax & staff present on capital, infrastructure levy and City Building. Council Chambers 6p.m.
  2. Okay, I am at the council meeting. The live-blog will begin shortly as I get my bearrings.
  3. James Krauter, Acting Treasurer, is presently going over programs of work options.
  4. Cllr Bell ask about why Emma-Earl Bridge construction been pushed back to 2020.
  5. Bell: It’s important to note that the updates were meant to be in tandem with bike lane construction.
  6. Staff: Bridge is currently under EVA now, construction will take a number of years so it will still be done in tandem.
  7. Cllr Gibson interjects on Contaminated Sites for updates on IMACO redevelopment.
  8. Enviro portion of IMACO: monitoring of site for 20 years, at the point its proved worth and almost time to move to next phase
  9. Remedial strategy and implementation will be next phases.
  10. Combination of remediation and risk assessment techniques for the site, staff says in response to Bell Q.
  11. Cllr Van Hellemond asks about London/Woolwich, Stevenson/Speedvale
  12. Private brownfields are not addressed in this report. Those are private brownfields.
  13. Province has terms and conditions on when to get involved when privately owned brownfield is not remediated.
  14. Downtown Implementation now. Bell asking about pedestrian bridge on river walk.
  15. City will be paying for upgrades though the extended phase.
  16. Billings asking about implementation of on street parking self-pay machines. The price point is $800K
  17. Billings: Will it be the same way with individual meters?
    Staff: No, 60 machines managing 10-12 spaces each
  18. Council approved the model of moving into a user-pay system. The implications of new machines is the reason for hybrid model of funding
  19. $1.2 M in revenue potential from the new meters, but that’s not going to cover 73% pf the cost for new lot.
  20. Some confusion about the implementation of the new parking…
  21. Cllr Downer says the DT Board is supposedly looking at options.
  22. Cartwright: His understanding that council directed staff to look at phased in paid parking in the downtown.
  23. Reporting still has to be done thru ’17, but looking for capital funds to start preparing the process.
  24. Staff: It is changing quickly b/c there are so many applications out there. The meters are hardware, its the software that’s always changing
  25. Downer says she thought she voted for the idea that performance measures had to be met before moving forward.
  26. Guthrie asks Clerk to recall minutes of the meeting.
  27. Motion asked for the performance measurements to be done, while giving staff flexibility of timing for implementation.
  28. Downer requests that the report be taken back to the DT advisory committee too.
  29. Staff: Procurement will be delayed for as long as possible, but they won’t be installed until all stakeholders consulted
  30. Now on to Downtown Infrastructure renewal, and Full Corridor reconstruction…
  31. Gibson concerned about engineering hurtles on Yord Rd project before getting to Vic Rd and Watson stretch.
  32. Gibson disappointed that the detailed design of the new corridor is held over till 2018, but asks about commercial redevelopment studies
  33. Staff: A number of pieces going on in the background that will support timeline of York Rd redevelopment.
  34. Cllr MacKinnon asks about construction signs on York Rd that says construction is finished tomorrow…
  35. Staff: He may be thinking of lower Wyndham, York Rd work will continue thru December.
  36. Staff confirms, York Rd will not be open for the weekend.
  37. MacKinnon about Orin Reid park (on Goodwin Dr) getting pushed back again. A lot of people looking forward to it.
  38. Two phases of Orin Reid done, but other park priorities.
  39. MacKinnon asks why not just cancel the other phases.
  40. DCAO Clack says its rolling a process, but the gap is only every getting bigger.
  41. MacKinnon says the expectation is creating anger. “Can we not be so optimistic when we’re planning spaces?”
  42. CAO Thomson says its complicated. Development charges on forecasted basis, capital and development funds creating problems at both ends
  43. MacKinnon asks if maybe this is more of a communication issue then?
  44. Salisbury asking about the construction of a bike park. Might not happen till ’19, but he notes busy skatepark.
  45. Staff recommending pushing back final phase of Orin Reid Park in #Ward6 from 2017 to beyond 2021. (ie. no Westminster Woods splash pad)
  46. Cllr Van Hellemond: “I don’t speak much, so…”
  47. More open space investments proposed for Eastview Community Park & Cedarvale Ave Parkette in #East #Guelph for 2017
  48. Any community engagement process for park design is about $100K.
  49. Gibson asks about road resurfacing in Starwood/Watson Rd area. City applied for federal funding for 5 blocks, but unsuccessful
  50. Bell asks about Eastview construction in ’17, assumes there will be public info centre, timing seems compressed.
  51. Staff: project being designed in-house and already underway. An open house prior to construction could take place in early spring
  52. Staff will work on making South End Rec Centre to make it shovel ready for federal money, but pushed back another year…
  53. More news on South End Rec Centre will be coming up shortly. Stay tuned.
  54. Staff: There’s nothing budgeted in ’17 that’s why there’s a 0, to answer Bell’s Q
  55. Bell: No money from the Feds for this year’s transit?
    Clack: New buses next year, previous funding, that’s it.
  56. There was 5 components including shelters, pads, signals and new fare boxes as well as buses.
  57. Piper asks about the “spine route” in the Growth Strategy, it had significant potential for releasing over-capacity.
  58. Clack: Majority of that spending is operating budget. Not being recommended in ’17 due to “other budget pressures”
  59. Piper says the new routes were part of renegotiation of UPass with CSA. IS there any contractual obligation.
  60. Clack: there are 4 new buses that have arrived, replacement buses budgeted for this year.
  61. MacKinnon: We’ve intensified Gordon, no transit solutions. What can be done?
  62. Clack says they can report back, more operating budget convo than capital.
  63. Gibson asks about 7K lost trees over the next decade.
  64. Staff might be closer to 8K, most in forest conditions so no need to replant. #Lifewillfindaway.
  65. Up to $750,000 to purchase one city bus.@adamadonaldson @OnwardWillow @guelphtransit – the reality of living in a growing city.
  66. Bell: with 1/3 of capital for vehicles and equipment. Looking for historical perspective (10 years)
  67. FYI: Apparently, Rogers Guelph is live-streaming the meeting. Doesn't start on cable till 9 pm.

    FYI: Apparently, Rogers Guelph is live-streaming the meeting. Doesn’t start on cable till 9 pm.
  68. “I was going to ask how much firetruck costs but I think its more than a bus,” remarks Allt.
  69. Without grants to replace vehicles, Guelph could not replace its vehicles.@adamadonaldson .@thatjamesgordon Modern times, modern $$$$
  70. Wastewater collection and Water distribution the last two items.
  71. Staff is recommending that this all be referred to the Dec 7 budget meeting.
  72. We’re going to hear from Susan Watson before breaking.
  73. Watson says there are a lot of question about how growth costs the city.
  74. Watson says its important for council to understand development #’s as it determines how we grow, what we can observe and afford.
  75. What’s staff to report back on the cost of growth, need to identify the big leaks diverting money away from future projects.
  76. If we can afford a lot of food waste, we can afford and infrastructure levy, says Watson.
  77. Guthrie confirms that review was done with DCAO Amarosi.
  78. Ted Pritchard from the Fair Tax Campaign next delegation.
  79. Pritchard is a Guelph condo owner, and is speaking on behalf of other owners that want fair waster service.
  80. According to Pritchard, 50% of condo owners pay taxes for solid waste, but don’t get the service. Paying twice for collection basically
  81. Pritchard looking at purchase of multi-res vehicle for 2018, will allow pick up at 80% of condos, but why wait?
  82. Brantford and Brampton currently use these vehicles.
  83. What happens if the city buys the truck and condos don’t want the service? Or what happens if they all want it? Pritchard asks.
  84. Pritchard asking that the multi-res collection truck be bought in 2017
  85. Pritchard says 1 property manager (a good sample) had 68 condo corps – 2,500 owners – 700 units unable to use city collection
  86. Those 700 got city waste collection till the switch over to cart system in other words.
  87. Bell asks for clarity: no resistance to going with the 3 stream?
  88. Pritchard: there was resistance but ppl brought on side, same could be done for condo owners
  89. Woodlawn multiuse path already being enjoyed by people, but there are delays with hydro poles not being moved yet.
  90. “Elephant feet”, crosswalk lines that tell cyclists they can continue and not have to get off their bike, are faded in many places
  91. Salisbury says a lot of the finishing work referenced will be completed soon.
  92. Next up Pat Fung, Guthrie says he thanks the respectful delegations so far.
  93. Fung wants to talk about the levy, so we go to @WilliamsMarty instead.
  94. Williams says he was surprised to see the parking commitment in the budget
  95. Williams says the ppl he represent are very nervous about the “implementation” mentions. Thought there would be discussions 1st.
  96. DT believes the $800K should not be spend this year. None of the caveats they’ve created have come to pass. Still lots of work to do.
  97. WIlliams urges council to remove it till the parking master plan is done.
  98. “How do you tell ppl that they can’t come here? They don’t park downtown just for fun.” – Williams
  99. Guthrie asks if Williams will commit to getting to a conclusion as soon as possible when the process commences.
  100. Williams says yes. They just want to go through the process first.
  101. Doug Minett of the Downtown Advisory Board now talking.
  102. Wilson St parkade moving along “nicely” but there’s issues with moving on parking review quickly.
  103. Minett suggests that the $800K go to making sure the parkade opens on time. It’s a complicated project.
  104. Now vote to refer all this to the Dec 7 meeting.
  105. Bell with comments on parking. Finds it disturbing that DT BofM are trying to change the rules of the game.
  106. Parkers supposed to pay 73% of parking master plan. If they want to delay, council should consider not retendering the garage.
  107. “I don’t want to be caught in a position where we’ve committed to building a parking garage and that the parkers were going to fund it…”
  108. Cartwright: We’re trying to make best effort to get the request for proposal back into the market for Xmas time.
  109. DCAO Stewart: to not tender will have to be a clear direction from council
  110. Wettstein says Wilson parkade was identified as high priority project to get done for 17. Needs to be done *b4* on street parking reconsider
  111. Guthrie steps in says he’s not turning this into a parking/Wilson parkade debate tonite.
  112. “Seeds have planted, they need to be answered.” -Gibson
  113. Gibson asks “elephant in the room” if next year is fully funded are we still falling behind on the gap?
  114. Thomson: We’re shifting priorities to take care of things w/o raising taxes for the citizens.
  115. Thomson: if Guelph were not getting grant money or getting reduction in gas tax, it would be different capital budget.
  116. Bell wondering if section of multi use path btwn Nicklin Rd and Trans-Canada Trail funded. It’s about 200 feet.
  117. Multi use path from Imperial to Elmira will be coming in 2018.
  118. Bell asks how much it would be to complete that section. (To be answered later).
  119. Thomson says staff should be congratulated for $20 M in new grant money in 2017.
  120. “We have high hopes that we will continue to receive grant money from the federal and provincial government.”
  121. MacKinnon notes that the amount Guelph’s investing in capital has dropped. Same btwn 16 and 17, but $20 M in grants
  122. MacKinnon: “We’re really not stepping up with our share of the funding aren’t we?”
    Thomson: “Short answer, yes.”
  123. “We have not been funding capital to the rate that we should be thats why you have that second report in front of you tonight.” Thomson
  124. Wettstein: Fully funding for 2017 = not increasing gap, right?
  125. Confusion over the definition of “fully funded”
  126. There will be some definitions in the infrastructure levy report.
  127. Guthrie asks for clarity on multi-res waste collection and whether it will be included in service review.
  128. DCAO Stewart says the review will deal with broader strokes, will answer whether an extra truck is needed. This will be back Q3/Q4 2017
  129. Report received 12-0. Next Up, Infrastructure Renewal Levy presentation.
  130. City recommending 0.5% levy compounded over 10 years. Decision “has not come easy” says Thomson.
  131. If council were to divert the entire 2017 operating budget to infrastructure it would still not be enough to close the gap.
  132. Levy is not a “magic wand”. Took generations to get here, will take generations to address it.
  133. It would cost $.4 B to replace infrastructure today.
  134. Urgent projects funded, while new needs added to the backlog.
  135. Increasing backlog represents more risk to the public, says report.
  136. Greg Clark, Program Manager, Capital Accounting and Planning now addressing council
  137. If City does nothing, it might not have the money to take advantage of provincial and federal grants.
  138. The infrastructure gap may eventually start to negatively impact the City’s credit rating.
  139. “Staying on this path does not address this issue,” says Clark.
  140. The magic of the animated cash flowing out of the tub facet was somewhat lost b/x of tech issues.
  141. Spending $5 today might save $10 tomorrow, says Clark.
  142. With the levy, the backlog will continue to to increase for next couple of years, but it will peak and start to go down.
  143. DCAO Stewart is wrapping up the presentation. “Council can decide to fix the burden rather than defer to next generation.”
  144. Guthrie wants to open floor to delegations before council discussion. First up, Pat Fung.
  145. Fung is quoting internet comments from Trib article.
  146. “Why didn’t staff find $1.1 M in administration?” asks Fung. Points out how he “found” half a million in communications.
  147. “Every department in [City] should cut spending by 5%”, Fung quoting one internet comment.
  148. “I’m first going to share the parable of the Candle, the Nose and the Tent”…
  149. Moral of the story: Camels will soon take over Guelph
  150. Not sure where Tolhurst is getting this, but according to him some councillor suggested a reverse mortgage to pay homeowner taxes (???)
  151. Rena Ackerman up now completing the Gerry Barker trilogy.
  152. Ackerman says she and husband on fixed income and levy will have negative impact on retirees.
  153. “Council needs to stop taking annual increase. You probably justify them by saying they’re small increases, but they compound.” Ackerman
  154. A big bite out of her pocket as opposed to “the university professors” and “business managers” that live here – Ackerman.
  155. Ackerman is suggesting that city should recruit retired financial analysts to make budget decisions.
  156. Guthrie now moves to questions, and questions only.
  157. Gordon notes difference between fully funded and sustainable funding.
  158. Thanks for the tweet! Council still committing $$ to active transpo, now lets make sure current AT facilities are as safe as they can be! 
  159. Amarosi says they understand the burden on taxpayers, but its their option that they have to start somewhere.
  160. The higher the levy the fast you get to sustainability, says Amarosi, but 2% will really hurt citizens he says.
  161. Council has opportunity every year to continue the .5% or offsetting it, says Amarosi. Not set in stone.
  162. Gordon says the decision is to see if there’s a public appetite for sustainability.
  163. Amarosi: Staff have given their best professional suggestion to deal with capital backlog.
  164. Lots of infrastructure come to end of life at the same time, no way this could have been foreseen, Amarosi.
  165. “You have an opportunity to fund capital differently,” says Amarosi.
  166. Guthrie wonders what the impact of .5% would be one an average detached home? Asks staff to research that.
  167. Amarosi says he can, but its based on 2016 assessments and there will be reassessments in 2017.
  168. MPAC assessment cycle ends in 2016, new cycle begins in 2017. 
  169. .5% is approx. $5 per $100k in assessment on annual basis says Krauter.
  170. Gibson, I have every desire to put money in the tub, but who quickly can this be corrected?
  171. Van Hellemond wonders of the thought process of ppl here is different than past council. Getting clarity on the numbers.
  172. MacKinnon asks if we’re using better data to identify the backlog.
    Staff: Yes, new data will be available in the new year.
  173. MacKinnon: How do we know the levy is going to get us closer to closing the gap?
  174. Staff: A conservative estimate, infrastructure report card update in Feb ’17 will have up to date numbers.
  175. The funding gap, and the backlog, may increase with updated numbers.
  176. Staff points out that 2012 report incl water, wastewater, stormwater. Those gaps have been partially closed in last 4 years.
  177. The more we transfer from operating to capital puts pressure on the operating budget, says Amarosi.
  178. Would have resulted in an increase that “most of you wouldn’t have liked very much.” he adds.
  179. “Fully funded” means the projects in the 2017 capital budget are funded. Full stop.
  180. Wettstein notes there’s an opportunity to do something, it’s a significant culture shift: don’t do what previous staff said/coouncil’s did.
  181. Wettstein notes that there’s been a culture of uploading from the upper levels of gov recently.
  182. “We’re going to have to do our job” Staff not suggesting to cut infrastructure to keep taxes lower.
  183. Guthrie asks for comments, notes there’s another presentation.
  184. The referral is on the floor. Bell comments that he sees need for gap and reserves, but they need separate measures.
  185. Bell blames staff: You guys brought us increased spending and operating budget, now you’re wanting infrastructure back in
  186. Guthrie: “You know this, but it’s council decision.”
  187. Bell” “It’s impossible to make this recommendation without staff!”
  188. Bell: “You’re just asking for a levy without the instruments to rein in operating!”
  189. Guthrie to Bell: “I’d love for you to stop using the word ‘you'”
  190. Guthrie: “At the end of the day, the decision lies with us around the horseshoe.”
  191. Bell says he would like to see one year, 2% not tied to infrastructure., to see how it would work.
  192. Bell wants to see staff by reducing by a similar amount.
  193. MacKinnon says its about operating and not capital. Fixing the roof of your house is not an optional thing.
  194. All the services are affordability issues, even some capital projects are too, but infrastructure renewal is not optional – MacKinnon
  195. Wettstein agrees with Ward-mate MacKinnon. Staff have bene bold, and done so over the years.
  196. “Staff are not, in my opinion, accountable for council decisions.” Wettstein.
  197. Wettstein: “Asset management wasn’t a term used at council 5 years ago.”
  198. Gibson congratulates staff, but the message is clear that there’s structural deficits in infrastructure.
  199. Gibson: 1 trepidation is that council has finally got serious about service rationalization. Could funnel savings to infrastructure.
  200. Gibson: Raising taxes will be felt hardest on middle income, lower income ppl. How will they be helped in this budget?
  201. Gibson challenges colleagues to find the money to help close the gap.
  202. Billings clarified that city is putting $4.2 M next year on stormwater vs $4.6 M in ’16. Where’s the boldness when spending less?
  203. @adamadonaldson: Bell with comments on parking. Finds it disturbing that DT BofM are trying to change the rules of the game.” But no Qs? 👎
  204. Downer says out of every dollar in taxes in Ontario, 9 cents goes to cities. 4.5 after school boards et al.
  205. This is not a Guelph issue, all across country, says Downer. Even Mississauga, one of the wealthiest communities in Canada,
  206. “Future generations will thank us” says Allt.
  207. Guthrie separating the referrals. Some confusion on that point
  208. Nope, the whole report to be referred as one. Guthrie not happy about 10 years.
  209. Motion to go past 11. But now a 5 minute break.
  210. Council is ready to come back, but Guthrie and Bell are talking behind closed doors…
  211. Next presentation: Financial Implications of City Building Projects on Capital Budget.
  212. Less than 10% of capital budget is dedicated to city building projects.
  213. Still future costs to endure. Example, no south end rec centre, money still has to go to other rec centres to accommodate.
  214. For South End Rec Centre total cost would be $60M. 80% would be recouped from development charges.
  215. Staff suggests city move to phase 1 with the detail planning, $684K, to make the project shovel ready by 18, could be 17 if council wants
  216. Now Downtown Implementation, “keeping the momentum going”
  217. DCAO Stewart: City needs to show leadership on downtown project to attract partners. Set up workshop in new year about cost.
  218. DCAO Amarosi: If these projects are a priority to the City, then it has to start taking steps on city building.
  219. Guthrie asks council to stick with questions given the hour.
  220. Clack: DCs not tied to a single project, they’re collected for the whole.
  221. Financial: South Rec Centre also meant to address future growth in the city too.
  222. Salisbury wonders about the purpose of a workshop. These topics have been “talked to death” he says.
  223. Stewart: the point is to ask if this is still a realistic plan? Talk about the realities costing these things out.
  224. MacKinnon: Can staff carry out Phase 1 and discussion of Phase 2 in 2017?
    Staff: Yes.
  225. Gordon wonders about the cost of not moving forward, what are the repercussions?
  226. Thomson: there’s escalation costs on projects not built, impact on DC charges & how they’re collected, have to figure out our portion
  227. A small portion of DCs – $1.678M – went to Vic Road Rec renovations.
  228. Clack says projected costs are much higher, and that’s the number Billings might have received.
  229. Council refers report 11-1 (Bell votes against again).
  230. Council now passing the bylaws. First up #1 and #3. Passes 12-0
  231. Vote on bylaw #2 stormwater, passes 11-1 (Billings votes against).
  232. November 23 meet was dedicated to expansion/reductions, but staff says there’s not enough to discuss for that whole meeting. Added to Nov 9
  233. Guthrie wants focus on intent, clarity Qs, and asks council to keep that frame of mind.
  234. Guthrie does not want to entertain any surprise motions on the night of budget. (Includes himself)
  235. Wants all motions in advance so staff can have the answer/impact ready.
  236. Finally, reminds public of his town halls. 2 in person, 1 Facebook live. Tues Nov 15, 22, 29.
  237. Ward 6 town hall on Nov 17 at south emergency centre from 7-9 pm
  238. FYI: Bradley Breedon will be live tweeting Wednesday budget meetings from this feed. Stay tuned.


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