LIVE BLOG: Committee of the Whole for September 5, 2017

We begin the fall session with money matters. So get out your abacus and get ready to go over variances with this month’s Committee-of-the-Whole. 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 – September 5, 2017

Live blog from the meeting starting at 2 pm

  1. The meeting has begun. Mayor hopes everyone had a good summer, “including our friends in the media.”
  2. First up a presentation from the Local Immigration Partnership.
  3. Sandra Cocco, GWLIP Co-Chair, Immigrant Services Guelph Wellington Trish McComb, GWLIP Co-Chair, County of Wellington presenting.
  4. Population growth isn’t keeping up with aging population, they say. A “talent attraction war” is now on.
  5. There’s a push/pull for services, LIP says. They’re paying taxes, taking part in services, and attracting new visitors to the city.
  6. International students pay 3x more than domestic students in tuition at U of G.
  7. Makes sense for local leaders to make Guelph an attractive place to settle, says LIP.
  8. LIP was established in ’09, hosted by the @cityofguelph and made up of local stakeholders from the city and county. #nowyouknow
  9. One of the questions being addressed is pairing int’l students with employers looking for talent in the field. Speaking to need for LIP data
  10. Cllr Salisbury asks what council can do. LIP says reaching out to employers to promote immigrants in work place.
  11. Also, responding “loud and clear” that Guelph is for everyone when acts of intolerance, like recent graffiti, occur.
  12. Key is building a good transit system, says LIP. Most new immigrants have no license, can’t afford car.
  13. “Now that my colleague’s had the “Mike” I’m going to give you your “Phil”. Pun master @PhilAlltWard3 in full effect.
  14. Cllr Allt asks about how the numbers for tuition fees were calculated. Average of all three local campuses, plus living expenses.
  15. The 3 campuses: U of G, Guelph-Humber and Ridgetown campus.
  16. Allt asks about impact of min. wage increase on new workers.
  17. Cllr Gordon asks about promotional details and outreach to address divide in the community on the value of new immigrants.
  18. Cllr Piper asks if there’s any data about why newcomers end up leaving the community?
  19. It can be found. Most of the data collection on immigration does come from federal agencies.
  20. Mayor Guthrie thanks the LIP team for their hard work, hopes things move forward and get better.
  21. Driver Certification Program Compliance Audit passes by consent. 12-0
  22. Internal Audit Work Plan Update for 2017 also passes by consent, 12-0
  23. No staff announcements for the audit committee.
  24. BTW: Bob Bell is not here for committee today, hence the vote of 12.
  25. Now a presentation from David Wiedrick, Manager of Bylaw Compliance, Security and Licensing.
  26. Topic: Corporate Security Update. Once, bylaw did security, and increasingly, they’re being pulled off bylaw duties for security.
  27. Wiedrick asking for 2 FT security guards so that security can be proactive rather than reactive.
  28. Cllr Hofland asks about best practices. Went to Cambridge City Hall, no security, just an info desk.
  29. DCAO Clack: Cambridge CH has a big open ground floor, but more secure on upper floors. Guelph CH is more open on upper levels.
  30. Hiring 2 FT ppl means City won’t need contracted services anymore, a savings of $40K says Wiedrick.
  31. Hofland: Are you looking for a strong signal from council to bring this forward at budget time? Unusual given past experiences.
  32. Clack: Staff been trying to bring these complex matters early so not “inundating” council with info on Budget night.
  33. If council says strong signal not to bother, the expansion package for this items will not be brought forward.
  34. Wiedrick: 1 guard might be based at city hall, other would be free to wander to other city sites. Not 24 hrs, mostly days/some evenings.
  35. Salisbury asks if there’s opportunity to look at alternatives: more training, electronic surveillance for example?
  36. Clack: Those options will be spoken to in the expansion package.
  37. Clack says the new FT guards the most direct mean to achieve security goals, doesn’t mean other options not being looked at.
  38. GM Doug Godfrey says staff has looked at all the options, and guards remains most cost-effective.
  39. There are capital costs developed to replace electronic security at some city facilities. Salisbury asks to see that work…
  40. CAO Thomson weighs in: staff feels like things aren’t being brought to the forefront. Council not fully understanding decisions asked for.
  41. Thomson: These things still have to go thru prioritization at exec committee, and that’s been done couple of different ways in last few yrs
  42. Salisbury says he appreciates Thomson’s answer, stands by request for more info as additional FTEs a hot potato at budget time.
  43. Allt thinks council needs examples of incidents and trends to try and justify the request, but will endorse this moving forward to council
  44. Thomson: Threats to public safety is real, # of major incidents in City Hall with health/safety effect. Tech has been exhausted…
  45. What’s missing is the response, and the ability to be proactive. Having security on staff would open up City Hall further, Thomson says
  46. Cllr Wettstein appreciates the advanced information, thinks it would be more useful if this was classified as “received info”. Gets nods.
  47. Clack: Want to be respectful of council direction, so they can receive but they don’t have to say no today.
  48. Guthrie: Why not hire a bylaw person? Could be doing bylaw stuff when not responding to security.
  49. Wiedrick: Permanent security frees up a bylaw officer, so it’s a two-fer (basically).
  50. Guthrie asks is there’s a seasonal difference, and there is not. Monthly average is about the same.
  51. Chair Downer notes the receipt items don’t come back for council, so if cmte wants this to come back with more info, then pass as is.
  52. Clack acknowledges Andy MacDonald, manager of emergency services. He’s done great work re-organizing that structure.
  53. Chair-ship moves to Cllr MacKinnon now for Corporate Services. First up Reserve and Reserve Fund Review and Policy Update.
  54. Cllr Hofland “over the moon” about the update, asks Treasurer Baker for the highlights.
  55. Oen addendum was made last week, a schedule of updates that Baker noticed was missing from the final report.
  56. Hofland asks how targets came about.
    Baker: Some is best practices, some is training from the MFOA, some is hearing back from dept GMs
  57. Cllr Gibson says this is like turning a bowl of spaghetti into lasagna.
    […]
    That’s a good thing.
  58. Gibson asks about how the various reserves are being harmonized, what goes where?
  59. Capital projects will go thru council based on staff recommendation. Every project assessed on one-to-one basis.
  60. Cllr Billings asks if there’s more delegated authority in this policy for transferring funds?
  61. Baker says there is, but outside the innovation/efficiency fund, there’s no change in authority, just documentation.
  62. In other words, one of the changes here is how things will be brought forward to council, & asking for in-year transfers “when appropriate”
  63. And now there’s an alarm… Clack says there’s no worry, only a 1st stage. Waiting to see what the heck’s going on.
  64. Council is going into recess until the alarm is gotten under control. Staff doesn’t think there’s a fire, but have to find source of alarm
  65. OK, the alarm is off, and we’re going to try and get back to business.
  66. Guthrie moves the report, has some closing comments as all his Qs were answered.
  67. Guthrie thanks staff for work, views this as an overhaul of the reserves and funds, and it’s good to see. Hopes the vote is unanimous.
  68. Mayor notes this isn’t a “ribbon cutting event”, not “flashy” or “sexy” but “so, so important”.
  69. Gibson echoes mayor’s statements. “This is bringing accountability right down to where it needs to be,” he says.
  70. Chair MacKinnon: the issue been hanging over council’s head since the beginning of term, now it’s done.
  71. Next up: Capital Transfer Allocation Policy. DCAO Lee introducing.
  72. Hofland wanted to talk about the history of the 1% infrastructure levy. It wasn’t in the report, so it bears revisiting.
  73. Hofland reminds, staff recommendation was 0.5%, council voted in favour of additional 0.5% for “city building”
  74. Report says though that of that 1%, it will be a 90/10 split for infrastructure renewal/city building. Question: Huh?
  75. Baker: Something like new Library will have multiple funding sources: some infrastructure, some building, then fed/prov. funding.
  76. 1% = $2.5 million, so $2.25 million will go to infrastructure.
  77. Thomson says there will be another round of infrastructure funding from the feds and provence. Getting some idea of parameters now.
  78. Allt: Will this be matching funds?
    Thomson: Both levels been specific on what they want to fund, have to be agile on project2project basis
  79. Transit, affordable housing, *some* community projects like libraries or rec centres could be a part, says Thomson.
  80. Gordon says he needs to assure to people that council is committed to city building in spite of 90/10 split.
  81. Thomson: City building comes from multiple sources, DCs and grants, etc. Infrastructure has more limited options.
  82. Thomson: A real need to protect the assets we have right now. Again, infrastructure has not been funded the way it should have been…
  83. …Again, because there are only so many funding options for infrastructure.
  84. Difference between city building & growth? Growth maintains current level of services, building adds/expands services.
  85. That was an answer to a question from Mike Salisbury.
  86. Salisbury needs a definition of city building, but will take the discussion offline.
  87. Wettstein sees things as being purely about infrastructure, but asks if the levy was ever supposed to be about city building?
  88. Thomson said the thought for the original 0.5% levy was to go entirely to address the $500 M infrastructure gap.
  89. Wettstein disappointed that city building has dropped off into “meaninglessness”, so why is it still mentioned in the levy?
  90. Wettstein says the decision he has to make is if he’s cool with the 0.5% for city building is really 0.1%.
  91. Wettstein also curious about what percentage of a project comes from what funding source. Realizes that might be a bit dry for ppl following
  92. Baker tells Wettstein they can look into providing him with that break down.
  93. Downer says this isn’t just about “in the ground” infrastructure. The $500 M is about libraries, parks, roads, etc. too.
  94. Downer says that all items are infrastructure, and have been identified as needs in asset study that resulted in $500 M gap figure.
  95. Downer says we’re creating a problem, and categories in our minds, that aren’t really there.
  96. Thomson: This is a funding mechanism, not a recommendation to determine asset types.
  97. Wettstein says the important thing is not the breakdown, but the fact that council has dedicated 1% /year to address gap.
  98. Guthrie notes that the asset review that took backlog from $191 M to $500 M after the budget last year. 1% = 11 yrs to deal with $191 M.
  99. MacKinnon said the discussion was important, and that labels do have value.
  100. Capital Transfer Allocation passes 11-1 (Salisbury against).
  101. Next up, Q2 Capital Variance Report and a question from Cllr Gibson.
  102. Details on waste water improvements are still vague, rate discussion to happen in Oct/Nov, staff waiting to see if their numbers R accurate.
  103. DCAO Stewart says staff is being cautious right now, and hope to have some hard answers soon.
  104. Next, and last, the Q2 Operating Variance Report.
  105. Billings asks about why staff is asking for $360K from reserve for Solid Waste when they’re looking to address negative variance within
  106. Baker: This is a known impact, and there could be a service impact unless addressed.
  107. DCAO Stewart: Mitigation can’t “get it all.” An “impossible” task to bring it down to zero, but want to show some impact.
  108. Stewart: Staff running these operations need a full cost accounting, and that hasn’t been the way it’s been in the past.
  109. Stewart adds, “We’ve had enough surprises in this area.”
  110. Seems like a good time to point out that all this will be addressed when the Solid Waste service review comes to council on Sept 18.
  111. Billings wants to get at why staff and council has been trying to “right-size” the huge variances, but keep coming up short…
  112. Is the $360 K b/c of contract with City of Waterloo? Billings, basically
  113. CAO Thomson says staff has been “peeling back the onions” but there was the fire, problems with contracts and operating issues
  114. Thomson says issues are more complex, council got best info at budget time last year.
  115. Thomson says staff is being more transparent. Not waiting for the end of the year to unveil large variances.
  116. Billings asking that council be shown the true negative variance for Solid Waste at the end of the year, w/o the transfers that offset.
  117. Thomson says that will be included in the breakdown. Billings is satisfied.
  118. Cllr Van Hellemond says kudos should be offered to staff, as they “inherited a mess out there” with solid waste.
  119. No announcements from Corporate Services staff.

 

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