Today was the second of three 3 hour meetings for City of Victoria departments to make presentations to the Victoria City Council regarding the 2015-19 Draft Financial Plan. Video from the meeting this morning is available here.
Conclusion to Engineering and Public Works
The Engineering and Public Works Operating Budget request is for a total of $58.9 million dollars. Yesterday, there were a number of questions asked by Council, and the meeting started this morning
with an additional 30 minutes of questions for the department. Motions of note that were passed by Council included:
- Motion by Mayor Helps to have staff investigate feasibility of a proposal she has been “loosely working on” with BC transit and other local transit providers, for what she called a “transit precinct” in downtown Victoria. This new initiative is to be a response to notice given by the owners of the Empress that the lease of the Bus Depot (attached to the Empress) will not be renewed since the new owner has plans to renovate the site.
- Councillor Loveday asked some questions about expediting implementation of the Cycling Master Plan recommendations, was told that this will already be coming back to Council as a result of a similar motion on the Strategic Objectives/Outcomes/Actions identified previously.
- Councillor Isitt asked a series of legalistic questions regarding some of the Capital Budget Requests 2015-19 Draft Financial Plan planned for the 2015 year but he was speaking at such a high level of detail that he was hard to follow.
Victoria Police Department
Chief Frank Elsner from the Victoria Police Department attended the meeting this morning with his Comptroller and his manger of Public Relations. The VicPD 2015 Provisional Budget was presented to Council and in doing so, Chief Elsner also took the time to provided Council with additional details and context to the bullets on the ppt deck. Some operational issues of note that were discussed by Council included:
- Lots of time is taken up by domestic violence calls and charges – Chief Elsner said this is because more calls are received and more calls are officially dealt with than before now that domestic violence is an easier charge to establish.
- Chief Elsner is very committed to community policing.
- There is supposed to be an organizational review of VicPD but this is being held up by lack of funding from the province of BC. Mayor Helps assured #vicgpc that she is Mayor Desjardins are working on this in their capacity as co-chairs of the Victoria Esquimalt Police Board.
- VicPD is working on a new strategic plan and they also recently conducted an IT review which indicated a number of risks.
- Related to this, Chief Elsner said that he’s been talking with emergency services providers on the mainland and that there may be an opportunity for the City of Victoria to save money on necessary CREST radio infrastructure upgrades if they partner with mainland groups to receive services from EComm.
- Councillor Isitt and Councillor Loveday tried to get a motion passed by Council to appeal to the province as per section 27 of the BC Police Act by declaring a lack of support for the personnel requirements identified by VicPD. This motion was not successful.
- Chief Elsner spoke of VicPDs commitment to restorative justice and the importance of an increase presence in the community.
- Chief Elsner indicated that VicPD are working on a variety of cost reduction methods and some of these include a better subpoena management system and also sending lower level of officer to “lower end” calls.
- One slide included in the presentation indicated that relative annual budget increase requests are still lower than previous years.
Because Chief Elsner spoke of having previously been before Council to already give his 2015 budget in detail – also as per section 27 of the Police Act – I went searching through CivicWeb to see when this was. It looks like the presentation occurred on October 23, 2014 and a short quarterly update was provided.
But I couldn’t find any easy record of an actual budget presentation so I’m inclined to think the 2015 budget presentations from Victoria police occurred in camera. Can anyone advise?
Parks, Recreation and Culture
The Parks Recreation & Culture operating budget presentation was an efficient exercise with all necessary senior staff in attendance to ask any questions raised by Victoria Council. Second to Engineering and Public Works, this department has the next largest budget request in terms of pages in the 2015 Draft Financial Plan and the third largest in house department request in terms of total dollars with a $14.9 million identified for the operating budget.
Acting Director Julie MacDougall provided Council with an overview of service areas (e.g., Parks, Recreation and Arts and Culture) and also ran through some of the proposed initiatives for 2015 including:
- David Foster Harbour Pathyway
- Playground Renewal/Upgrades
- Greenway Projects
- Royal Athletic Park
- Parkk improvements
- Planning and Design for park improvements
- Planning policy
- Development of an investment strategy for Crystal Pool
- Need to replace CLASS registration system
- Increase sport development
- Arts Culture and special events
Some interesting questions asked by Council included:
- The use, value, and plans for use of the Active Living Guide
- The system for tree replacement across the City
- There is apparently $50,000 put aside for community consultation for a new park planning and design based around the skatepark
- Councillor Loveday brought up for the Victoria Harbour Cats are no longer using Royal Athletic Park as their home base
- Councillor Madoff asked about what happened to a report that suggested the Ross Bay Cemetery could be a self financing cemetery – even though staff indicated that only a handful of burials occur there each year.
Everyone was intrigued by this suggestion from Councillor Madoff, and so staff committed to finding this report and bringing back before Council for consideration. Because part of my job last year was cemetery manager, I also went searching.
It looks as though report Madoff was referring to was the Ross Bay Cemetery Business Plan Update completed by Lees & Associates and must have been approved as part of the Jan 22, 2010 presentation of the Engineering 2010 Capital Budget requests.