LIVE BLOG: City Council Meeting for October 26, 2017

Budget battles begin as delegates offer their opinions on the 2018 Capital Budget, and the 2018 Non-Tax Supported Budget. You can click here for the agenda from City Hall, and you can click here for the Politico preview. For the complete blow-by-blow of tonight’s council meeting, you can follow me on Twitter, or follow along below via Storify.

***Please note that there will be a pause in coverage between 4:30 until shortly after 6 (if necessary) due to the regular broadcast of Open Sources Guelph.

The City of Guelph is also live streaming the meeting on its YouTube page, and you can watch it below:


#GuelphBudget Meeting – October 26, 2017

Live blog from the meeting starting at 2 pm

  1. Both #GuelphBudget items will be presented, and then there will be delegates: 5 for Non-Tax Budget, and 27 for Capital/Forecast.
  2. Unfortunately, there will be a considerable break in live-blog coverage from 4:30 till after 6 because of @OS_Guelph, so be forewarned.
  3. In case you want to follow along in a more visual sense, the @cityofguelph will be live-streaming the meeting on its YouTube channel. 
  4. Mayor Guthrie notes that if there’s anything in regards to Hastings Stadium or baseball, he will call a conflict on himself and remove himself from the debate.
  5. Deputy CAO Trevor Lee will kick-off the Non-Tax Supported budget presentation.
  6. The meeting is *not* being broadcast on @RTVGuelph as Cllr Allt noted. This is due to a scheduling conflict on Rogers’ part and not the City.
  7. Lee notes that the 10-year forecast is not full funded. That will change next year when the 2019 budget is presented.
  8. Tara Baker is now presenting the budget timeline. To hear more from the GM of Finance and Treasurer on how the budget comes together every year, listen to this: 
  9. Schedule: Presentation and delegates today for capital/non-tax. These will be voted on next week at the November 2 meeting. 
  10. Compensation, energy costs, infrastructure funding gap, and growth are the four main challenges to the non-tax supported budget this year.
  11. What’s the non-tax budget? It covers court services, water, wastewater, stormwater, and ON Building Code admin. These areas are not paid for with revenue from property taxes.
  12. GM of Engineering and Capital Infrastructure Kealy Dedman says this was a good year for Water Services. Recent events in Houston show how important a functioning Stormwater Dept is.
  13. Average stormwater monthly charge will go up $0.60 per month according to 2018 budget, that’s $7.20 for the year. Still the second cheapest in comparator municipalities with separate stormwater fee.
  14. The extra $0.60 will allow Stormwater to build a base for sustainability going forward, says Dedman.
  15. Guthrie suggests that questions should follow the presentation of each department rather than plough through the whole presentation. Staff agrees.
  16. Cllr Gordon asks about extending the date to achieve sustainability. Any risks?
  17. Dedman says 60 cent increase per year is important for affordability, but the risks are minimal as they build a base for sustainability.
  18. Dedman adds there’s a long-term 10 year program that addresses the higher risks first.
  19. Cllr Gibson asks for "inquiring minds" is this a $250K graphic. jk.

    Cllr Gibson asks for “inquiring minds” is this a $250K graphic. jk.
  20. The City is the service provider as per the Gov of Ontario and it services Guelph and Wellington. It’s paid through the revenue for fines paid for provincial offences.
  21. Last year, Court Services collected $250K in revenue, and saved $9,700 from moving to online banking for the collection of fees. #welcometo2017
  22. There’s been a declining charge volume in #guelph year over year, this year being the lowest since the City took over the courts. Also, Court Services does not set expectations for the number of charges laid.
  23. The backlog being recovered in fees using collection agencies is substantial. That revenue will go down year-over-year, and a not significant portion of new delinquencies are being added.
  24. Also, the province instituted a plate-denial program this year where if you have overdue fines for provincial offences you don’t get your new tags.
  25. Cllr MacKinnon asks about disparity of the expected revenue versus the actual revenue. Court Services GM Coutts says they’re pretty close most of the time, but a couple of things might throw them off.
  26. A charge like a work place accident might result in a high fine of between $500K to a million. Court Services don’t take into account those kind of huge payouts in the budget.
  27. The outstanding backlog right now: $16 million. That’s 28-29K cases. 65 per cent of total fines are paid out on time, which is about the provincial average.
  28. That’s it for court services. Next up, Todd Salter, GM of Planning, Urban Design and Building Services.
  29. Salter is presenting building code admin. The only real matter of concern is that 1/4 staff members are retiring in next four years, and they need to strategically plan for that.
  30. Now we’re on to Water and Wastewater with Peter Busatto, GM of Environmental Services.
  31. Overall, all customer groups are conserving more and more water, which is good but less use means less revenue.
  32. Water & Wastewater will be looking to three new environmental assessments, the re-coating of the Verney Water Tower, and the acceleration of the Water Meter Replacement program in 2018.
  33. Presently, a contest is underway to design the new wrap of the Verney Tower. Results will be available to be voted on starting Nov 6.
  34. Annual increases to Capital reserve is putting Wastewater on the path to sustainability.
  35. New Water Meter installations will also be stepped in order to better calculate the cost of water use, and more accurately. Could be missing out on revenue, you know.
  36. Staff says that there are 18K water meters that are outside their useful life, they’re typically off by about 1.3% in terms of accuracy.
  37. Cllr Gibson points out that #Guelph is competitive on water rates being one of the few comparator communities dependent on ground water.

    Cllr Gibson points out that #Guelph is competitive on water rates being one of the few comparator communities dependent on ground water.
  38. Guelph has cut back on water use by the equivalent of 496 single-family homes. #FYI
  39. Busatto says that increased bills will lead to more revenue versus the cost of replacing all the older meters. Cllr Salisbury asked about the cost of doing nothing.
  40. Staff says they can bring forward potential cost offsets to address Salisbury concern. Water thinks its in the best interest of both the customers and the City.
  41. Cllr Allt asks about succession planning, and how staff is going to deal with a lot of the inefficiencies there in.
  42. Recent changes to managerial structure has made staff more agile. Younger staff are stepping ahead and older staff are hanging back to help transfer of knowledge.
  43. Last presentation before delegations: Wastewater Services.
  44. This slide sums up the total impact of water rate changes from all three branches on customers.

    This slide sums up the total impact of water rate changes from all three branches on customers.
  45. 1 minute less in the shower everyday would mean a 0% increase for rate payers, adds Busatto in summation.
  46. Apparently, neither of the GRCA reps are here, so take a look at this relevant screen grab.

    Apparently, neither of the GRCA reps are here, so take a look at this relevant screen grab.
  47. So the first delegate is local resident Dorothy Griggs. Guthrie says council got an email about the topic of Griigs presentation, so that’s interesting.
  48. Griggs is speaking to the “Niska Property” a name she says is misleading because this is the former Kortright Water Fowl Park. All ppl have seen is locked gates, with rumours of secret planning.
  49. Here’s some of the accompanying documentation from Griggs presentation.
  50. Next up is Rob Hildred and he’s got some ideas about the budget.

    Next up is Rob Hildred and he’s got some ideas about the budget.
  51. Hildred suggest expressing the budget expansion benefit it offers, and compare expansion to how the service is doing now.
  52. Recommended 2018 tax-supported operating budget now online. Will be presented to Council Nov. 8. #budget2018

    Recommended 2018 tax-supported operating budget now online. Will be presented to Council Nov. 8.  #budget2018
  53. Next up, Pat Fung. He had a couple of things to talk about, but now it’s only one: Stormwater rebate.
  54. Cllr Salisbury asks if Fung can email his concerns to the staff as his questions are fairly technical. Fung will move those on.
  55. Back to council questions now, Gibson begins looking at impact of rebates, is that more on the commercial or residential?
  56. Dedman: Commercial. City working towards educating the residents on how to manage their own stormwater.
  57. Cllr Bell and Cllr Hofland put the recommendations on the floor.
  58. Baker encourages council to go to the budget message board, a lot of questions asked today are answered there.
  59. Recommendations accepted 11-0 (@leannepiper and Karl Wettstein are regrets today.)
  60. Guthrie notes that this seems like a natural place to take a break, but wants to continue on to 4:30.
  61. So it looks like council will go on till a 4:30 break. I however will take my break here.
  62. I’ll pick up the live blog shortly after 6 pm. In the meantime, you can watch the live stream embedded on Politico’s live blog page. 
  63. The council live stream seems broken again @cityofguelph. Oh yeah, I’m watching *and* doing @OS_Guelph
  64. Back at city council in time for library delegations. Anne Gajerski-Cauley hopes this will be the last time she appears before council to advocate for a new main branch of the @GuelphLibrary.
  65. AGC says the library does not drain the public purse. If her husband had talked to her as long as council’s been talking about a library, she’d have never gotten married.
  66. “What good is a marriage if you’ll never speak to us again?” asks Cllr Allt.
  67. Next up, Paul Costello from the Guelph Council of Canadians office. Pro-library, anti-P3 to pay for it.
  68. Next up is John Parkyn, he wants to look at libraries in other municipalities, and references the Idea Exchange in #Cambridge.
  69. Parkyn says that he knows some people have some difficulty with the word visions, but it’s not as practical as a good theory.
  70. Now Elaine Duignan is up to the mic. Notes that a library is needed in downtown Guelph, mostly because she doesn’t have a computer and can access there, but also because she meets a lot of beautiful people.
  71. Now Susan Watson will speak to libraries. Notes that the City has engaged in a priority study process to determine future development on the Baker Street lot.
  72. Watson says that she wants to start from a place that she and the mayor agree – much to the surprise of the crowd – the Baker Street property is under performing.
  73. Mira Clarke of Action Read is not here, but Donna Jennison is so the delegations will move on with her.
  74. Jennison has done research about the library, at the library, and notes that 100s of meetings have been held on this matter and other things. It seems clear that the city overwhelming wants and needs new library.
  75. Cynthia Bragg is now up. Notes the infrastructure deficit is daunting, but a well-funded library is no less important to the health, wealth and prosperity of the city.
  76. Still about 13 people left on the delegation list, btw.
  77. Duncan MacKenzie is a former librarian. Worked in elementary and high schools, and thinks libraries should be happy, welcoming places.
  78. MacKenzie says that the school board he worked for in California spend hundreds of thousands improving his library before and after he took his there, and he notes that this was in Silicon Valley.
  79. Next up is @Susan_T_Carey, one of the founders of the Guelph Tool Library. Notes that young people aren’t so obsessed with owning things anymore. That’s where we should be investing.
  80. Carey says to council that when they make decisions about the library, there are no cons, only pros. And don’t close any doors.
  81. Guthrie notes that it’s important when visioning the new library that everyone engage with the board between now and February.
  82. Anne MacKay of the Library Board now at bat. Notes that libraries aren’t about books specifically, but about sharing ideas. Books have just been the usual way to do it.
  83. MacKay says she appreciates the work of staff and council, knows that it’s been a long path to get here.
  84. Emran Jamali notes, again, that the library is more than just books. London has the Idea Store. 
  85. Some applause for Jamali’s words. Now my old boss Ian Findlay is up, and speaking on behalf of Friends of the Public Library.
  86. Friends of GPL don’t have a space for the book sale in 2018, but that search will be on again after the new year.
  87. Findlay reveals that for third year in a row, the book sale made $100K. Numbers are not final, but the tally all told so far is $630K. Findlay says Friends of GPL will bring a cool $1 million to the table.
  88. Next up, Mary Mulholland. She’s also one of the organizers of the book sale, and she’s going over the long history of redevelopment of the main library.
  89. Mulholland says she will try to live long enough to see the new main library finally be built. Allt notes that it’s important to note the dollar figure in all the missed opportunities.
  90. Jonathan Webb notes the paradox of asking developers to include the new library in with their pitches for redevelopment plans.
  91. FYI: Still 5 people left on the delegate list, and there will be council questions after that.
  92. Jesse Tetrault of @OutOnTheShelf is now up, starts with a reminder that it’s the 19th anniversary this month of Matthew Shepard’s murder.
  93. Tetrault is the Library Chair and Vice-Chair of OOTS, notes the importance of libraries and their archives to protect history.
  94. Cllr MacKinnon asks Tetrault about 100 Queers Who Care, a fundraiser that @OutOnTheShelf is running now. Here’s a link: 
  95. Next up is Maggie Laidlaw who chastises the Trib for running an editorial about taking time to develop the library. She respectfully disagrees.
  96. Laidlaw reading articles written for the Mercury about how desperate the need for a new library is. The year? 1993.
  97. Laidlaw blames herself as “one of those foot draggers” as no action was taken during her years as a city councillor.
  98. .@MikeSchreiner pulls something out of his bag… and gives a shout out to Guelph staff on developing a list of priorities. He feels that staff is on top of things, but…
  99. @MikeSchreiner …Hopes that the capital budget is structured to take advantage of fed and prov offerings, and that council hears the passion of Guelphites for a new library.
  100. Final delegate of the night, Karen DelVecchio. Wanted to be last, b/c she wanted to talk about accessibility as this meeting started at 2 pm, when a lot of people in the community are working.
  101. DelVecchio says that meetings need to be made more accessible, even if it means multiple meetings. Plus, docs need to be more accessible with large type and multi-languages.
  102. DelVecchio notes that more of an effort needs to be made to make council meetings accessible via video. @ward6mark did his part last budget season. 
  103. DelVecchio also notes that there needs to be more library resources for young people and more people of all languages to learn English, as ESL is big for a lot of newcomers to Guelph. Also, outside learning facilities would be nice.
  104. Delaying funding is denying funding, she says in summation.
  105. I am optimistic that council will be approving some AODA-compliant video streaming and archiving this budget season. 
  106. Cllr Downer also hopes that she lives to see the library built.
  107. Downer asks CAO Thomson if the request has gone out, or a review of the process so far.
  108. Thomson: We’re ready if there’s fed/prov funding. Been lobbying a number of infrastructure projects last few years, a library component has always been part of that. Recently solidified governance structure around construction.
  109. Also, Library CEO been working with consultant on business case. As for RFP, Peter Cartwright says staff are finalizing. Based on council endorsed concept for mixed use incl 90 sq ft library.
  110. It will be staged process beginning with expression of interest, also will ask for expertise/experience on such developments. Allows council to make decisions on library concept and biz case. Both processes starting to merge.
  111. This is a 2 phase approach, says Thomson. The RFP and business case will come back together in February. This project has also been identified as a Tier 1 project, so it’s a priority for the City to be sure.
  112. The RFP will be public, Guthrie notes. As soon as its ready to go out, everyone will be able to access it and read it.
  113. $622 per square foot? Allt asks. And are we narrowing the RFP too much to not including things like a new YMCA and affordable housing in the plan. People are right, libraries become a meeting place.
  114. Thomson wants an open transparent sounding of that land, and doesn’t want the process to be guided one way or the other by demands placed in the RFP. Also, YMCA and others might have own ideas of space/size. Working thru own biz case now
  115. Guthrie reminds that we’re not here to talk about the operating works of a new library, this is about capital overall.
  116. Cllr Gordon offers gratitude to the inspiring delegations. Hears passion and commitment from staff and councillors too, but concerned that City hasn’t made a big enough commitment.
  117. In other words, Gordon wants to take the “lie” out of “library”.
  118. Baker: The business case is coming back in Feb. Part of that will be costing, plus public engagement. That info is needed to recommend a budget, so they can’t recommend it now.
  119. Baker adds that the city has access debt funding to move the process through a quicker pace, or access other funding if it becomes available.
  120. Cllr Hofland also humbled by delegates. Thinks it’s important to note that all of council is on the same page.
  121. Thomson says City can put together a timeline complete with milestones so that council can see down the road what work needs to be done, and to answer general questions about process.
  122. Cllr Wettstein says when it comes to the library, $100K is all council is dealing with tonight. The vote isn’t that complex when business case comes back in Feb: does council move forward?
  123. Salisbury says council knows they’re going to commit to building a library, so why not commit to putting aside $500K this budget?

    Thomson says it’s simple: council hasn’t given that direction yet.

  124. Wettstein notes that 2019 budget will not get started until Q1 of 2019 b/c of the 2018 elxn.
  125. Downer noted that in 2003, everything was set to go, there was funding, and the will of the new council put the kibosh on it. This can get turned around at any time before the final vote.
  126. Downer notes council is closer now than anytime since 2003, but that’s politics, and that’s why the community has to stay engaged.
  127. Cllr Gibson and Bell move the recommendations.
  128. Guthrie reads an article from a year-and-a-half ago about sending a signal to rally around council rather than perpetuate incorrect rhetoric about the library. Believes all library motions (5/6) that have all been unanimous.
  129. Guthrie wonders how the city can send a stronger signal that they’re committed. Could have allocated surplus to Baker Street, but didn’t. Gets the optics, might make ppl feel better, but the process is dictating it being done in right way.
  130. The vote is called. Passes 11-0. (Van Hellemond and Piper not here)
  131. Guthrie acknowledges the comments about scheduling, which will be taken into account.
  132. And that’s meeting adjourned. Nov 2 is the next meeting to vote on the final recommendations for capital/non-tax budgets. Good night.

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