More Dept. Budgets – Plus Planning! Co-Op on 10th Avenue

The long march of budget meetings continues with multiple departments this morning at 10AM (unfortunately I cannot attend) with Admin Services, Corporate Services, Finance and Reserves, and the ERRF gets its own (that stands for Equipment Replacement Reserve Fund) then the final department budget presentation will be Planning and SPCA at 2PM (which I will be at).

A reminder that these are only presentations of the department budgets they are not final decisions on what their budgets will be.  Departments are basically bringing forward their baseline budgets so that we can see how they tick and what the minimums are for moving forward plus what they believe they need in order to improve in future.

All the presentations are followed by questions from Council and the public.

On Wednesday the 24th there will be a chance for a different kind of discussion around the budget as the public is invited to participate in round table discussions on various aspects of the upcoming plan.  Stay tuned for more information about that.

Planning Commission Meeting today

I’m more and more happy to be on the Planning commission.  It always seems to have interesting stuff on the Agenda.

Top of the list this week is the plans for a new “4 pump, 8 lane gas station and convenience store” on 10th Avenue beside/behind Tim Hortons and across from the large apartment buildings on 10th.

It’s an interesting thing to consider that we used to have 4 gas stations at the intersection of 10th and Redford.  That has been reduced to none.

Is another gas station needed?  Should we be converted high density residential zoning to commercial gas stations?  It would be very nice to have another brand new development in the area with Tim Hortons.  Is this something that is compatible with the high pedestrian activity in the area?


Many questions…. the APC meetings are open to the public.  Come ask your questions.

Also on the agenda is the Stewardship centre application by West Coast Aquatic at the Harbour Quay and subdivision of a residential lot at Ian and Craig.

Posted in Environment, Politics, The Good Life | 2 Comments

Want to know everything about everything at the City?

Tons of information today!

All agendas for meetings today are on the City website.

First…. in just a few minutes at 9:30AM there will be a special meeting in Council chambers on the Raven Coal issue and the work that the City’s committee has done preparing the City’s response for the Working Group part of the Environmental Review process.  Unfortunately I’m at work at VIU so I won’t be able to attend but I wanted to post this in order for people to know what’s up. Their work is due into the Ministry soon so this is their chance to present it to council first and then send it along.

At 10AM, 2PM and 6PM the City continues its series of department budget presentations.  Today will be Economic Development and Chamber of Commerce (10AM), Parks and Rec and Industrial Heritage Society including McLean Mill (2PM), and Fire Department (6PM).

Come out and learn more about these issues if they are things that most interest you! I will be at the 2PM and 6PM meetings.  There are more meetings scheduled for Thursday including Corporate Services (10AM), and Planning and SPCA (2PM) plus the regular Planning Advisory Commission meeting at 12PM.

Wanna just read?

If you would rather stay home and do some light reading, check out the City’s new “Document Library” page on their website.  It is an incredible resource!  It has dozens of documents and reports on all aspects of the City going back to the 1980s.  There is a ton of information there.  Some of them I have never heard of before like the “East Bypass Study”, “Bicycle Route Proposal” from 1983(!!), and the Tsunami Frequency at Tofino and Port Alberni (1979).  Might be very interesting to read some of these very old reports and see how things have changed or evolved over time since.BagbJnNIMAAREko.jpg-jpg

Warning: At the end of either the budget meetings or after having read every report on the Document Library page (or both!), you may feel like the tired little Minion.  Don’t forget to stand up every once in a while and take a break!  But how could you be tired!?  This is riveting stuff! (No really! I like it!) :)

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Important: Special Meeting on District Energy Project Monday

After Meeting Update – Catalyst will be approach to provide steam – Next Decision at Regular Meeting on Feb 23rd – Don’t forget the poll on the side.

We had an excellent meeting on Monday afternoon.  Mr. Deakin (Economic Development Manager) and Mr. Salter (District Energy consultant) provided a very good update on where the project stands exactly and Council peppered them with questions.  Council decided to wait until the regular meeting on Monday to actually address the recommended course of action presented by Mr. Deakin so that the issue was out in the public for that much longer and it could be discussed and decided under the full scrutiny of the regular public council meeting on the 23rd.

If you would like more background information on the project, check out the Feasibility Study from 2012 (which was not previously available to the public).  It provides a very comprehensive rundown of the system though some of the facts are a little out of date now 3 years on including the price of natural gas which has dropped (as was identified in the report as a risk) and thus the profit to the City if it ran it self has potentially dropped as well.

However, there is no scenario where this project costs the taxpayer money.  The project is designed and the business plan is set to include the debt servicing costs within the operating budget of the facility.  So currently, if the project is done as a Private Public Partnership, the City will receive an unspecified (likely small) royalty as part owner, and if the project is done as a wholly City owned venture, it would see revenue of around $100,000 which if that revenue stream was in place this year would be the same as eliminating 0.8% from any residential tax rise.  So instead of a 2.8% increase, we would have a 2.0% increase.   This is in addition to savings the City would gain from paying much less for heating its facilities if they were hooked up to the District Energy system.  After the “mortgage” is payed off in 25 years or less, the system would deliver revenues of around $500,000 (in 2012 dollars).  The infrastructure (pipes etc) would last around 50-60 years.

There is a bit of urgency to moving on with the decision as the grant providers that agreed to give grants for the project way back in 2012 are getting a little impatient with us.  So now is the time to move things to a next step.

Council decided to immediately send Catalyst a letter to see if they would be interested in providing the steam for the system from the excess in their operations.  It is unclear whether they will or not, but Council thought it would be best so as to be able to support this important business in our City.  Note that this is *only* for the Steam supply of the system.  It is understood that Catalyst has no intention of building or operating the district energy system itself.

On Monday, Council will decide whether to put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to private companies to build and operate the system in partnership with the City or to forego that and simply build and operate it as a service or corporation wholly controlled by the City. However, even if Council decides then to send out RFPs, it will still have the opportunity to examine those RFPs and come to a decision on whether to go with a PPP or do it as a wholly owned and operated municipal service or corporation.

I’m currently leaning toward what I see as the simplest approach with the least operating complexity/cost and maximum City benefit: a municipal service.  However, I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open to all the options in what I believe is a very exciting proposal.

Initial Post…

There is a poll on the righthand side of the page to register what you would do…. below is the beginning of the explanation.  I highly recommend coming on Monday, 3PM, to hear the full up-to-date info that will be presented in full then.

You likely know that there has been a project in the works at the City for a number of years to create a biomass (wood chip) fired energy system in the City to provide heat to local large customers like VIHA, City facilities, and others.

Here is a map… one thing that has apparently changed is involvement of Catalyst.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.55.00 PM

It appears that a number of factors including low natural gas prices are now bringing that project to a crossroads.

Download the  agenda and explanation here for the February 16 meeting at 3PM in City Hall Council Chambers.  The agenda includes a brief explanation of where the City is at, how we got here, and what the options are.

Here is the explanation from the 2014 Sustainability Report:

7.3 District Energy System

In early 2010 the City retained Stephen Salter P.Eng of Farallon Consulting to undertake an evaluation of Integrated Resource Recovery Options for Port Alberni. This evaluation was completed in mid-2010 and indicated that there were two very viable options to convert biomass to energy and circulate it to institutional, civic and large private sector residential facilities. These options had the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 4000 to 13,000 tonnes/yr, create cost savings for customers and provide new non-tax revenue for the City. The executive summary of the Farallon report is included in Appendix 12.

Initially an option incorporating a partnership with the Catalyst Paper mill was pursued. Ultimately a City stand-alone option proved to be more workable. The project will incorporate three technical innovations: a three-line district heating distribution system, a direct contact condensing economizer, and an adsorption chiller that will make use of heat from the system to replace the Hospital’s existing chiller.

Funds are identified in the City’s current five year financial plan to undertake this project d Funding grant applications have also been approved by FCM’s Green Municipal Fund and the Gas Tax Innovation Fund in the amount of $1.9 million.

Once constructed this project, as currently envisaged, would:

  • conserve 60,000 GJ/year of natural gas,
  • conserve 122MWh/year of electricity,
  • divert 2,800 tonnes/year of wood waste from landfilling,
  • reduce greenhousegas emissions by 5,100tonnes/year
  • reduce the City’s corporate emissions by a further 38% and, retain greenhouse gas offsets of $65,000/year currently paid by public organizations in Port Alberni to the Pacific Carbon Trust.

However, the bottomline now is this, like (and related to) oil prices, the market has changed both for what we can expect to sell the energy for, and how much will be consumed.

Here are the options included in Monday’s agenda. (Sorry they are images, click for larger)

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.12.54 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.13.04 PM


The Economic Development Manager is recommending that if Council still wants to pursue the project, that it do so in a partnership with a private company, Option 2 above.

If we choose to receive the maximum benefit by building it fully by ourselves as a City Utility or corporation (Option 1 above) then we shoulder the cost, and that would mean borrowing over $7 Million which would trigger a referendum to make that happen.

Or, we can walk away.

I am not going to state right now what I believe the City should do but I will say that I have watched this project for many years and have been a supporter of it.  It is clear market conditions are not as good as they once were…. but where are they going to be?

I want to hear what Mr. Deakin has to say on Monday and will have questions.

Below are some links to information about the system. What do you think?  Come to the meeting this monday.  It will be important.

  • A description of the project on the City’s website here.
  • Here is an AV Times report about the system in town from 2013.
  • Here is a report about a similar system proposed in Courtenay but that City did not have some of the built-in advantages we have (location and facilities)

Below are FortisBC Natural Gas prices. These are residential rates though, not commercial but they should give an idea of trends.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.22.12 PM

Posted in Climate Change, Environment, Peak Oil, Politics | 4 Comments

Urgent Water Conservation Measures Feb 4th Due to Water Plant Upgrades

Passing along the message from the City’s Website.

For the construction of the City’s new Bainbridge Water Treatment Plant, a temporary water supply shut down is required for a large water main connection.

City crews need to cut into the main water supply pipe to the City and install a series of valves and fittings for the new plant.  The work will take place on Wednesday, February 4, 2015, from 9:00 AM to 11:30 PM. 

We are asking all residents to minimize water use during this crucial time. We will meet our minimum water needs and fire protection from our 5 water reservoirs.

The new Bainbridge Water Treatment Plant upgrade project will be completed Spring 2015.

We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your efforts to conserve water use during this critical time.

Thank you,

Brian Mousley
Utilities Superintendent
City of Port Alberni

Phone: 250-720-2849

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Medals, Water, and lots of Planning

Well, another week, another batch of learning and new experiences.  Some highlights:

Medals for Wrestlers!


Gold and silver medals presented to female wrestlers at the event.


The kids warming up on the two big mats at the ADSS gym.








On Saturday I had the privilege of representing City Council and the City of Port Alberni along with Councillor Ron Paulson and former Mayor Ken McRae at the 42nd Annual Alberni Invitiational wrestling tournament.  It is most definitely the highlight of my work on City council so far.  Being surrounded by the youth of the community in our fabulous ADSS campus with the support of their friends and family was really great.  My kids are always so excited to have any reason to go to ADSS.  They keep asking me if they will go there when they are in High School.  I assure them they will and then a little part of me wishes I could go back to school with them!

Two points Jade

Jade was a quick study after Wrestling… but Josh is agile I’m sure there will be rematch maybe even in a future wrestling event at a local school! :D

Obviously both ADSS the building  and ADSS the people are inspiring.  My kids certainly think so.  I can only assume other kids feel the same way and that is a huge asset for our community.

 Strategic Planning gets off the ground along with 5yr Plan.

The Council started its Strategic Planning process last Monday with the help of our excellent in-house expert facilitator Theresa Kingston.

My visual metaphors for the City.

My visual metaphors for the City.


The situational analysis chart… what are our known knowns and known unknowns?


The start of a wish list?

We are about half way through.  We will be finishing it off this coming Monday before we swing right into the Budget process.

You can see the full schedule and working papers for this years Budget and Five Year Financial Plan on the website. Bookmark that link! It will grow to include all of the department reports and other information you will need to know if you want to give feedback for budgeting.

Hot Topics!

Port Authority and Kiters:

This… is awesome…. and it’s one of many awesome pictures at the popular local wind sports website  It’s a real potential boon for our City as hundreds of water sport enthusiasts are ready and willing to come to Port Alberni in the summer to enjoy our hot weather and afternoon breezes.

Flying high over the Harbour!

Flying high over the Harbour!


Unfortunately, there are also safety concerns.  The Port Alberni Port Authority (PAPA) raised those concerns this past week and may ban kiteboarding from the Centennial Pier.  There were some passionate words spoken by members of the public at the Council meeting last night to go along with a strong outcry on social media from local and out of town kiters.

The good news is there is dialogue both between the PAPA and water users, and the City and PAPA as well.  The Centennial Pier is PAPA property and they have responsibility to ensure our harbour is safe and accessible for all users on the water.  I hope the user groups and authority can all work together to ensure the harbour is used to its peak potential and I know the City will play a part in that when needed.


The watershed continues to be an area of concern for both me and the council as a whole.  I brought forward a motion proposing to pause all activity in the City of Port Alberni Bainbridge and China Creek watershed until such time that a Watershed Management Plan was in place.

Council decided not to pass this motion, to take from the summary of the meeting.  “Council’s focus is  on continuing to build a positive relationship with forest companies and engaging in ongoing discussions regarding protection of the watershed.”  I know my fellow councillors share my concerns and that their patience is not infinite.  In the meantime, I continue gathering information.  Here are some links I’ve gathered from government and industry sources.

“Forest activities are industrial in scale and will generate sediment.  The amount can be minimized but not eliminated.”
Island Health Medical Health Officer 
“Removal of vegetation and steep slopes can contribute to increased erosion and sedimentation of the reservoir, resulting in diminished water quality.”

“Lessons from the Future” by the Forest Practices Board and UBC researchers in 2003 (specifically mentioning the Port Alberni and Nanaimo watersheds).

“The auditor general [of british columbia] estimated that adding filtration systems to municipalities outside of Vancouver and Victoria would cost $700 million in capital costs and $30 million annually.”
Threats to Sources of Drinking Water and Aquatic Ecosystems Health in Canada” (Environment Canada)
“Timber harvest can increase water yield, suspended solids and temperature in streams. In general, total runoff increases with forest disturbance due to reduced interception and transpiration by the forest canopy.”
From the Ministry of Agriculture of Alberta talking to landowners there:
“The trees intercept rain and dissipate rainfall energy, reducing the volume and energy of rain reaching the forest floor. Water on the forest floor moves within the litter cover layer which slows water movement. This allows more water to infiltrate the soil, leaving less water to contribute to surface runoff.”

Community Stakeholders Initiative to End Homeless

That’s a mouthful!  But it’s also a very important and positive group imageworking hard in our city to keep people off the street and help our most disadvantaged.

As rep for the City at the CSI table I participated in the first plenary session that will result in an updated plan of action for ending homelessness in our community.

LGLA seminars.

That’s all for now!  This week is The Local Government Leadership Academy Elected Officials Seminar in Parksville!  3 days! It is really our last big initiation training as councillors.  We will have a chance to meet councillors and directors from the surrounding communities on Vancouver Island and learn about how to do our jobs and communicate together effectively.  I will likely post pictures and comments on Facebook at least if not twitter.


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