LIVE BLOG: Committee of the Whole for June 6, 2017

Financial statements, splash pads, and the transit realignment are all on the docket for this month’s committee meeting. You can click here for the amended agenda from City Hall, and you can click here to read Politico’s preview of today’s meeting. For the complete blow-by-blow of today’s committee meeting, you can follow me on Twitter, or follow along below via Storify.

Committee-of-the-Whole Meeting – June 6, 2017

Live blog from the meeting starting at 2 pm

  1. Fibre Optic Cable, Budget Impacts, Q1 Budget and Capital Variance, and Land Ambulance response passed per consent agenda.
  2. First presentation, 2016 Consolidated Financial Statements and Audit Findings courtesy of KPMG.
  3. GM Finance and Treasurer presents unconsolidated statements first.
  4. The statements: cash and investments, employee future benefits, contaminated sites liability and reserve balances.
  5. New accounting standards added $2.5M to estimates for liability for contaminated sites to $24.4M. On the brite side: # of sites the same.
  6. The $24.4M amount is unbudgeted, but the number will come down as contaminated sites cleaned up and reclaimed.
  7. Staff says they’re happy with the progress, and position is strong to maintain AA+ credit rating.
  8. Matthew Betik from KPMG will now go over the consolidated statements.
  9. Long story short, KPMG seems to have no concerns about Guelph’s statements.
  10. No adjustments over $300K made. Auditors have to report if they have to do this with the balance sheet so that’s “good news” for Guelph
  11. Cllr Piper asks Tara Baker, about the various measures on how S&P calculates credit report.
  12. Baker: # of reports. Debt, plan for the use of debt, adherence to that plan. Guelph has plans and following them = comfort.
  13. No further Qs from council. Billings notes that councillors can meet with auditor outside of open meet.
  14. Cllr Hofland moves to hold such meeting, to seek further information from the auditor. Mayor Guthrie seconds.
  15. So council going into a closed meeting. Back live in a few….
  16. And we’re back. Nothing to report out says Cllr Billings.
  17. Chair Downer now taking us into public services. First up, Outdoor Aquatic Facilities.
  18. Pat Fung is not here to delegate. Guthrie proposes to put this item on hold. He maybe running late.
  19. Transit Advisory Committee member @steven_petric 2 talk about pilot project. TAC just got word of this pilot so not much of an official word
  20. Petric suggests that a two year pilot may be better, and that there’s work around for non-ticketed events.
  21. Petric says that TAC might have an official comment before council meeting.
  22. Cllr Gibson asks how the drivers will be “policing” the $1 special events fair.
  23. Transit GM Spicer says it will be a 5 sec translation to ask passenger to see tix. Anticipates no problem with drivers enforcing.
  24. Spicer says Transit will have a good idea about how program is going after second quarter and the amount of events at Sleeman & River Run
  25. Cllr Allt asks about other cities with similar programs.
  26. Spicer says he doesn’t see this as being troublesome. Copies similar programs in other cities.
  27. Spicer says this will be tracked by a special code on fair boxes, answering a Q from Cllr Salisbury.
  28. Cllr Billings asks about past data with Free Ride Fridays.
  29. DCAO Clack says that w/o Trapeze system they’re not confident about the data. Plus this is for *all* events.
  30. Not done analysis on downtown specifically with the current data.
  31. Guthrie’s point is that not everyone has a loonie on them. People tend to pay via cards or phone now.
  32. Spicer says making it free devalued the service. Making it $1 and expanding it to all events adds value.
  33. Also, someone’s got to pay for it Spicer says.
  34. Guthrie asks if there’s more of a marketing value getting ppl downtown if it were free, and the financial impact.
  35. Spicer says it’s meant to appeal to non-transit users. Show them that the system is safe and reliable.
  36. Guthrie re-asks: What’s the different between free and $1?
    Spicer: $4-$6,000.
    Guthrie: Oh.
  37. Then isn’t the uptake better for it to be free? asks Guthrie.
  38. GM Spicer says he’ll take the advice of council, but wants to show value for transit with the $1 price tag.
  39. DCAO Clack adds that she’s not sure how many people will take Transit up on the offer.
  40. Clack adds it’s about exposing people to the idea that there’s a value, and a cost, to transit.
  41. Cllr Gordon proposes to incl. bus cost in ticket price.
    Clack: That passes buck to Sleeman, River Run, and user groups.
  42. GM Spicer: “I’m very cognizant of what our programs” cost so cautious about offering those programs for free.
  43. GM Spider “Yes it’s subsidized, but transit is subsidized across the board.”
  44. Gas tax also based on ridership, so that’s an added benefit of putting more people on the bus.
  45. Salisbury asks about expanding after the pilot to events at the University, etc.
  46. Clack says those conversations have begun, maybe be decided on case-per-case basis depending on “tourism value”
  47. GM Spicer will be having a meeting with Clerk O’Brien about free rides on elxn days. (Answer to Q from Downer)
  48. Guthrie proposes amendment. Make it free instead.
  49. Bell says we need to teach ppl to pay for transit. Making things free encourages ppl to not drive, but doesn’t teach them to pay.
  50. “Everybody’s got a loonie somewhere,” Cllr Bob Bell.
  51. Allt says he’ll be sticking with staff recommendation. $1 tracks ridership better, better marketing.
  52. Piper says she supports the spirit of the amendment, but it is a pilot and the consequence big if its free then taken away.
  53. Amendment fails 4-9 (Guthrie, Gibson, MacKinnon and Van Hellemond vote in favour).
  54. Timeline: will start in Sept ’17. Review at Q2 in 2018.
  55. MacKinnon asks for breakdown of riders to various events.
    GM Spicer says doable, but tricky when 2 events happening on same nite.
  56. Spicer: Didn’t decide to make changes for their own sake. Wanted a strong, reliable system, say it and mean it.
  57. GM Spicer: “We’re stuck in the same traffic as all the calls are” on queue jump lanes, signal priority & future developments.
  58. Realignment based on driver/operator feedback. Where were they getting hung up, where was there confusion?
  59. Some time constraints to meet June deadline, but there could be further public consultation on the realignment.
  60. 40 loads per day are left on the sidewalk, Spicer says. People given up on Transit b/c they know they can’t get a bus.
  61. Among tweeks since March is that new 17/18 routes will still make the stops at the corner of Woodlawn/Imperial
  62. Businesses on Malcolm Rd were emphatic about keeping service along there (that’s the #20 NW Industrial).
  63. Another change, #20 will now cover Marksam on inbound trip. Spicer says staff will monitor to make sure route’s not “too tight”
  64. There will be further public engagement thru July, Aug, Sept. Realignment will go into effect on Sept 3. Spicer asking for advance promo.
  65. GM Spicer says they’re tracking on-time performance and they are showing improvement despite anecdotal examples.
  66. GM Spicer says they’re also getting ready for service review. Has asked his staff to look at where they’re at risk.
  67. Spicer says he’ll be coming back to council in the future with “convenient transit routes”. For now: needed to get house in order.
  68. Spicer says there are pockets of the city where there are empty buses. Able to make adjustments within budget to put service where needed.
  69. Allt asks about difficulty of winning riders back, whether there’s self-fulfilling prophecy in the case of 130 Grange.
  70. Spicer says the community bus needs a renewal. Hourly is not convenient, he says, need consultation to make more attractive.
  71. Also, needs to message that community bus is not just for mobility clients.
  72. There’s a transit stop within 500m of any point in the city. Spicer says this will have to be reduced in some places in the city.
  73. Spicer says he’s been asked by a number of companies to expand transit. Looking at that for 2018.
  74. Cllr Piper asks about stops along Wellington. (There will be).
    Stop at McCrae House eliminated, may effect attendance. (Convenient route)
  75. Piper: Will we see budget enhancements for 2018?
    Spicer: There will be some, but lion’s share coming in 2019 and beyond.
  76. Community bus goes right into seniors residence at Grange & Stevenson every hour.
  77. Cllr Gibson asks if the community bus can be better tailored to help this neighbourhood. Spicer says staff doing that work right now.
  78. Spicer says they’ve hear the residents loud and clear, a lot of work to get done going forward.
  79. Guthrie is wondering if there’s an opportunity to get feedback from council. Would like to form the 2018 budget around transit.
  80. Spicer says that Transit has been more reactive than proactive. Realignment allows service to take a breath, get community back on board.
  81. His goal is to bring Transit to a steady state, build basic system based on data and add from there.
  82. GM Spicer confident that they will see benefits. Will always be room for improvement.
  83. GM Spicer says that Transit would have been very vulnerable (for cuts) if they didn’t do realignment before service review.
  84. Gordon asks about criteria. Stops like Metcalfe street have fewer passengers, but more dedicated passengers that rely on transit…
  85. GM Spicer says he understands the struggles, working on it, but transit was still leaving 40 loads on the sidewalk
  86. Gordon says people are expecting to see enhancement in this realignment, but this is two different steps…
  87. Gordon says he feels comfortable going back to constituents saying there’s a next step.
  88. Van Hellemond asks about Woodlawn/Victoria, if that’s a heavy area?
    Spicer: 105 average passenger boardings.
  89. The Elliott serviced by the Community bus, it’s a schedule service with $3 cash fare.
  90. #99 will not run 10 minutes all day Sat/Sun because Transit had to stay in present budget.
  91. The mainline is planned out to be a 40 minute trip fyi. Could be longer if there’s construction, hence looking at transit priority.
  92. Spicer has challenged staff: Can you get from Walmart to Pergola in 10-12 minutes? Work in progress.
  93. Hofland has a petition with 180 signatures to keep Grange route. Spicer says to cont. service they would have to create new route.
  94. Spicer says the Community bus is still there, but it’s his goal to come back. 4-5 other pockets in city part of expansion.
  95. Hofland says commuters can’t take community bus, doesn’t go downtown or to Linamar, et al.
  96. Spicer says staff will be visiting 130 Grange again, and will be working with residents to provide detail.
  97. “If we could have found a way to make that work, it would have been our first recommendation,” says Spicer on #13 to Cllr Bell.
  98. Bell asks about having the #99 enter GCS and the UC.
  99. Staff: Needed the capacity. #16 doesn’t go into UC, doesn’t cary as many passengers as others that *do* go into UC.
  100. Express buses along the mainline could be a future addition to the service.
  101. MacKinnon says there’s a big hole at Hanlon Business Park. Why?
  102. GM Spicer: Density isn’t there now, but working with Cartwright to cover entire Park in the future.
  103. Now delegations, kicking off with @steven_petric for the Transit Advisory Committee.
  104. @steven_petric Calls this a “modest first step” to improving the system, and hopes further improvements will come soon.
  105. Members of TAC wanted to seem more public consultations for longer, and longer period of online feedback.
  106. Guthrie comment: “This is the 1st time in 7 years I have ever felt excited about transit.”
  107. Bell asks for more feedback about removing buses from Wyndham St.
  108. Staff: People will be able to catch bus inbound to GCS & transfer or take one block over to Woolwich.
  109. Bell says he was hoping to see *more* change. It’s happening too slow. Should have been moving to grid system sooner.
  110. Bell wants to encourage Transit to move quicker. East/west route at the top of the city for example.
  111. Bell tells staff that he doesn’t think they’re matching the city’s appetite for transit. He demands more!
  112. “Of course changes are too slow,” says Allt. He still appreciates Spicer and Co’s work and forward advances.
  113. Committee’s going to take a 10 minute break (after much debate). Back on 5 pm!!!
  114. Guthrie says 3 reports in the package all for receipt so double checks with committee about skipping the presentation.
  115. Internal Audit Follow-Up Process; Legal Representation Follow-Up Audit; and. Vendor / Payment Process Audit Report are the items.
  116. Hofland says she was looking forward to the presentation but will go with majority…
  117. Committee votes unanimously to receive three audit reports.
  118. Guthrie will chair even though it’s under IDE, because it’s Gibson’s motion
  119. Abhilash Kantamnei is the first delegate on Gibson’s motion.
  120. Kantamneni is a PhD candidate at the @uofg. Lived in Michigan where he said electrical rates were higher, and ppl are poorer.
  121. He also helped write Michigan’s first community energy plan.
  122. So obviously he supports Gibson’s motion to transition the City to net zero.
  123. Obviously, he’s in favour and hopes council will vote unanimously to save money, energy and the Earth.
  124. Schreiner says cost of operating electric vehicle 1/10th that of a gasoline vehicle, In other words, “$$$$ for #Guelph
  125. Schreiner says it’s important to build community support for sustainable energy solutions. Shows citizens how they can save energy.
  126. Oh, and brand image. #Guelph‘s gotta stay a leader on enviro-issues.
  127. Schreiner says the first step in getting broad support is to make a positive economic case follow path to net zero.
  128. Knowles, as an energy entrepreneur, supports this motion.
  129. Sheridan’s also in favour, and mentions that there should be more bike parking downtown. Bike to work, then get into an electrical vehicle.
  130. Gibson makes the point that he and his wife made changes in their own home, and didn’t tell his neighbours what to do…
  131. …Wants to do same thing for @cityofguelph, City Hall will prove a positive change can be made and be an example to others.
  132. Corporate utility budget = $10M
    Fuel budget = $4M
    Gibson: We can see those go down quickly with net zero commitment.
  133. Amended motion. Takes out "to fully" in #2, and changes reporting date to Q1 & Q2 in 2018. https://t.co/F5WSS6wkRY

    Amended motion. Takes out “to fully” in #2, and changes reporting date to Q1 & Q2 in 2018. pic.twitter.com/F5WSS6wkRY
  134. Allt asks if this motion is a workload issue for staff. DCAO Stewart says the motion lines up with priorities of staff.
  135. “It is additional work for staff, but it is work that we have to anyway.”
  136. New buildings are easier to make “environmentally high performing” than older buildings, apparently.
  137. DCAO likes the short-termness of the motion, because there also long-term discussions on this portfolio too.
  138. Stewart also says it’s a good message to the community that the City is concerned about community energy.
  139. Salisbury asks Stewart if we’re debating more than political fluff considering that they’re going to do the work anyway.
  140. Stewart: “You’re saying that this is important and you want to hear back from us.” The only way they wouldn’t do it is if council says “No.”
  141. Bell happy that “fully” been removed from the motion. That is all.
  142. Billings asks if an amendment needs to be made to the motion to account for cost to implement, or is that implicit?
  143. CAO Thomson says a new standard would have to be developed through proper business cases. Plus, this sector evolving very quickly.
  144. Guthrie asks how point #3 relates to #2. Is City looking at buying new vehicles right now?
  145. DCAO Stewart: It’s okay to wait, we’re not there yet.
  146. Wettstein: got calls from the community to defer this till after the report from the task force, but he senses that’s not going to happen
  147. Wettstein wants to amend to mention the task force in point #1. Also wants to take out point #2. Wants to add “opportunities:” to point #3.
  148. Amendments: adding CEI task force to point #1 and “opportunities” to #3 on the floor.
  149. Gibson points out that city isn’t directing the task force, now community driven, so dubious of given them direction.
  150. Wettstein doesn’t see it as direction, but coordination.
  151. Gibson says he thought he heard “direction”. Guthrie says he reads it as not a direction, but it mentions coordination.
  152. Allt feels that something like this should include citizen input and the CEI task force seems to be the way to do it.
  153. Guthrie concerned about working to make sure the motion is worded right that it not sound like task force being directed, hears “rumblings”
  154. Thomson has working breakthrough. Vote is called.
  155. “…with the CEP mandate, city staff be directed in coordination with the newly formed Climate Change Office and CEI task force explore…”
  156. Point #1 passes as amended unanimously. Point #2 passes 12-1 (Wettstein against).
  157. Billings asks if development charges are being collected on any of the splash pads.
  158. Staff: About 4 are identified in the DC study, the rest have to be explored.
  159. Billings asks about the difference between 2011 and 2016 census. Staff says there was a slight decrease in kids. (Ratio work out same tho)
  160. Market Square is a multipurpose space, why it’s not counted as a splashpad.
  161. Bell says he knows residents want more splash pads, thinks converting the pools b/c of water use is pointless though.
  162. If they want a splash pad in these parks then community fundraising is the way to go.
  163. City wants to turn Exhibition and Sunny Acres Parks wading pools into splash pads.
  164. Guthrie asks about pent up demand for splash pads vs other types of outdoor facilities i.e. skate parks.
  165. DCAO Clack: this report is focused on aquatics, not to the exclusivity of other park developments in the city.
  166. Staff: the pools will stay until community feedback’s been gathered. Changes may not happen till 2018.
  167. The report simply states that city will build no more wading pools, and look to direction for 3 pools at the end of life.
  168. Guthrie asks staff to look a dual purpose use in the parks.
    Staff: None of that is off the table Only wading pools are off the table
  169. Downer asks staff to look at the big gaps south of the river to giver south end parks amenities.
  170. Point #1: passes unanimously
    Point #2: passes unanimously
    Point #3: passes 12-1 (Bell against)
  171. Motion to adjourn passes. And that’s a wrap for committee.

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