March 26 GPC Early Thoughts

There are some big items on the agenda for tomorrow’s Governance and Priorities Committee meeting. Going on past practice mind you, I’m sure the meeting will done with quite quickly. Yay due diligence!

So what is on the agenda?

JSB Replacement Project Budget Adjustment

This is the report that was supposed to be available on February 26th GPC agenda as a follow up to the quarterly update that occurred in January of this year (the 22nd) and originally announced the need for an increase to the project contingency (e.g. the “oh crap, we need more money” fund). Fun fact is that this meeting on the 22nd was the first meeting I attended with my Victorian Analysis hat on – I tweeted it but never actually published a written summary of this meeting.

I did however do a massive write up of the JSB item, which was never published because I was still experimenting with my voice at the time and trying to find a balance between political and basic reporting. I did however touch upon some topics of obvious relevance to tomorrow’s discussion and I will reference some of them now.

The Mayor’s Support for the JSB

Just the other day Mayor Helps was on the radio, speaking with Gregor Craigie of On the Island, and during this interview she was quick to say that she voted against the bridge. This was a theme she repeated throughout the recent election as well, and it is one that I find somewhat hypocritical because she voted in support of the motion to initiate the procurement process necessary (based on the assumption of a $15.6 million increase to the then project budget) for bridge completion on March 15, 2012 (see pg. 14,  para 3-4):

1. Proceed with the Johnson Street Bridge Project using a procurement process in which three prequalified proponents will be permitted to propose to the City design improvements necessary to deliver the project on budget and schedule.

For: Mayor Fortin; Councillors Alto, Coleman, Helps, Isitt, Madoff, Thornton-Joe

Against: Councillor Young


Granted, she then proceeded in the same meeting (see pgs 14-15) to vote against approving the 2012 Capital plan and necessary amendments to the 2012 Financial Plan to accommodate the $92,800,000 necessary for the bridge at the time, and she also voted against making the necessary amendments to the JSB project charters to reflect the procurement decision that she approved.

Which is just silly if you ask me, and also makes me think of the kid who says, “mom, I want a puppy” and then as we all know the kid never does anything with the dog.

As additional context to this very same meeting on March 12, 2012 is an article from the folks that also includes section by section video of all discussion related to the subsequent motions passed by Council as referenced above. Reading again through the meeting minutes, you find they provide a very detailed record of why and how the additional monies were required to complete the appropriate bridge. Of relevance to the current problems with steel fabrication I highlight the following:

Project Budget (see pg. 10, para 3-4)

 The construction estimate includes: escalation, contingency, value of engineering, a strip-down process (what if) and was a very thorough look at the project. This was completed in January with a $1.39 million in savings, found in a variety places such as using a different grade of steel. This process never stops, as project team members they are always looking for savings. Market tested for unit rates of steel. Quotes were fairly tight and they feel they were realistic. Quantities are based on current design. There are still unknowns like contaminated soil; that propose risk to the City.

 In summary, the estimate was quite different than what they thought. The estimated cost of construction increased because they now have a better understanding of sheet piles and steel fabrication (complexity). This has accounted for the increases.

Council Discussion (see Page 11, para 7):

 With the increased bridge costs, want to be clear the changes are netted out, and includes shortening the bridge which makes costs go downward. In terms of tons of steel, the estimate in 2010 was for 615 tons and has now been reduced to 502 tons – also in the counter weight. The cost of steel fabrication has gone up. If they did not change that the cost would have been much higher.

So these were the major promises and observations from 2012, and if you’re ever interested in the quarterly updates that occurred since then, you’ll find most of the documents on the JSB website, but I caution you that you’ll often have to search through CivicWeb for additional attachments.

Ok – So Let’s Get Back To Today

If you look through the GPC report on the bridge tomorrow, the first practical concern you’ll note that the Director of Engineering and Public Works has made up his own committee motion for Background section of his report which doesn’t reflect actual motions made on either January 22nd (when the original need was reported) or on February 26th (when a non update was provided).

But whatever. The purpose of the report is to:

outline additional funding needs for the project contingency, increased costs due to schedule delay and additional legal costs for external legal advice and participation in mediation. The City will seek recovery for the majority of these costs from other parties who are responsible for the delay. This report also identifies opportunities to reduce costs (e.g., no public art and delay of E&N station).

 Furthermore, a number of financial considerations are identified:

  • Staff have estimated additional known costs to be covered by the contingency.
  • An unallocated contingency is recommended for the balance of the project which will last another two years.
  • The schedule delay due to the stoppage of fabrication has caused additional costs.
  • Additional funds are needed for mediation and legal advice.
  • Various claims for additional costs have been made by PCL and MMM, and a mediation process has been established to determine the validity of those claims. This request for approval of an additional contingency fund does not include any additional funds required as a result of the mediation issues. Any additional required funds as a result of the mediation will be dealt with as a separate submission to Council when the mediation is complete.

These costs are summarized in the following table (see page 5):

New JSB Costs

As also noted in this report, the requested $4.8 million does not include the additional $7.9 million that was initially staff said was requested by the bridge contractors back in Spring of 2014, or perhaps the additional $9.5 million that the contractor actually requested. And if you look at the minutes for the committee meeting on July 24, 2014 related to discussion of these additional requests, you find a lot of words but few substantive motions related to the project moving forward.

Which bring us again to today with Council being asked to:

  1. Approve an increase in the project budget of $4.8 million less any acceptable cost reduction opportunities with funding from the Building and Infrastructure Reserve.
  2. Direct staff to transfer to the Building and Infrastructure Reserve any costs recovered from other parties.

All in all, the agenda report is really poorly written and the justification for necessary costs increases for the Johnson Street Bridge is confusing, inconsistent and poorly organized. Is it really that hard to clearly delineate who is responsible for what, what work still needs to be done, and how much these work will cost?

Anyone want to place any bets as to whether Mayor Helps will be in favour of amendments to the Project Charter this time around?

Use of Parks & Green Spaces for Overnight Shelter

This is supposed to be a report from the Director of Legislative and Regulatory Services describing the impacts arising from people taking shelter overnight in City parks and green spaces and seeking Council direction on these issues. But it isn’t available yet.

An article from the Times Colonist from summer 2014 indicates that established process on behalf of the City of Victoria is to “monitor camping in parks” and only ticket if materials are not packed up by 7am in accordance with city bylaws, namely section 16A in the Parks Regulation Bylaw.

According to the City, should a member of the public be concerned about an activity in the park, they can contact the City of Victoria Parks Office at 250.361.0600 or the City of Victoria Bylaw Office at 250.361.0215 or

Skateboarding in the downtown core

This is a clear and easy report that provides a brief history on the issue, and has both an public engagement summary report and the original staff report attached for convenience. As I understand it, a group approached Council last year to ask that the skateboarding prohibition be removed and this got looked into it.

Speaking to the Times Colonist on the topic in October 2014, then Mayor Dean Fortin had this to say (see para 7-9):

“The funny thing is, I don’t think anybody actually knew that it was illegal to skateboard in the downtown. I don’t expect any real big change in behaviour, other than people saying: ‘Hey, get off the sidewalk and get back on the road where you belong,” Fortin said.

He said the change recognizes skateboarding as a legitimate form of transportation.

“I think that the public needs to know that skateboards are recognized as a legitimate form of transportation by the Motor Vehicle Act and they are subject to the same rules as bicycles.”

The recommendations for council consideration tomorrow include:

1. That Council direct staff to prepare the following proposed amendments to the Streets and Traffic Bylaw:

a) Remove the current prohibition against the use of skateboards and other human powered devices on roadways within the downtown core and the 2300 block Trent Street. The current prohibition against the use of bicycles, skateboards and other human powered devices on sidewalks throughout the city would remain in place.

b) Require users of skateboards and other human powered devices travelling on city streets to follow the same rules of the road as cyclists, and

c) Eliminate impound provisions specific to skateboards or other human-powered device.

2. That Council direct staff to develop a communications program to increase public understanding around how skateboarders can operate in the downtown core, and report back to Council in May 2015, in conjunction with the proposed Streets and Traffic Bylaw amendments.

Encouraging the Growth of Car Share

This is a report from the City’s senior Environment Planner seeking Council approval to amend the Streets & Traffic Bylaw to encourage growth in the availability and use of car share in Victoria. In this report, car share programs are said to be integral components of a multi-modal transportation system, despite it not being included in the city’s draft strategic plan (see pages 12-13).

Specifically, this report seeks to obtain Council authorization for an amendment to the existing Streets and Traffic Bylaw. The purpose of this proposed amendment is twofold:

1) To include, within the permissible uses for a Street Occupancy Permit, a new car share operating model, known as “free-floating” car share service (e.g., to accommodate companies like Car2Go).

2) To establish a price of $2,000 per year for each “free-floating” car share vehicle issued under the City’s Street Occupancy Permit. This proposed price is comparable to the annual charge for other allowable uses under the City’s Street Occupancy Permit (e.g. service vehicles), and reflects staffs best assumption of the fair market value of the benefit to be conveyed to these car share organizations.

Staff are also looking into opportunities for using third party car share to complement the City’s fleet and operations. This opportunity will be explored in the course of developing the City’s overall fleet strategy, identified in the draft budget as a proposed initiative for 2015.

The recommendations before Council for consideration are:

  1. That Council instruct staff to prepare an amendment to the Streets and Traffic Bylaw in accordance with the draft contained in Appendix A of this report.
  2. That Council direct staff to:

-Update the terms and conditions of the Street Occupancy Permit to include reporting requirements for car share organizations operating under this permit.

-Perform an evaluation at the end of the one year pilot period, and forward the results and any proposed recommendations for Council’s consideration.

Reserve Fund Policy Review

This is a report to update Council on a review of the City’s reserve fund policy – complete with all attachments it checks in at 83 pages.

The recommendations before Council for consideration include;

That Council:

1. Approve the methodology for determining target balances for each reserve as outlined in Appendix D of this report for inclusion in the Reserve Fund Policy (available here).

2. Transfer the funding in the Economic Development Reserve to the Buildings and Infrastructure Reserve.

3. Transfer the funding in the Fiscal Reserve to the Financial Stability Reserve keeping the subsets of Debt Reduction and Insurance, but merging Working Capital with the main reserve.

4. Amend the Reserve Fund Bylaw, 2004 by: a. Eliminating the Economic Development Reserve b. Eliminating the Fiscal Reserve

5. Amend the Reserve Fund Policy for the water, sewer and stormwater utilities to direct 50% of each utility’s surpluses to the respective financial stability reserve until they reach target balances and the remainder to the respective equipment and infrastructure reserve.

6. Direct staff to bring forward options for the use of the funding in the Strategic Initiatives Reserve timed with the report on public input on the draft Strategic Plan.

7. Direct staff to report back on recommended target balances and annual funding contributions for all reserves related to facilities once the facilities assessment is complete.

8. Direct staff to annually report to Council on the status of all reserve funds.

Given that we are just now moving into the final stages of the 2015-19 financing planning and budgeting cycle, it would have been nice to have this reserve fund update before this whole thing kicked off. No?

New Business

Under this category of new business, are three minor items:

Commemorating Lebanese Immigration to Canada

This is a motion from Councillors Isitt and Thornton-Joe requesting that Council approve the following:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council directs staff to work with the World Lebanese Cultural Union – BC Council and the local Lebanese-Canadian community to identify and report back to Council on potential sites within the City of Victoria for the installation of the statue “The Lebanese Emigrant,” .including possible sites in the City right-of-way, plazas, greenspace or parks in proximity to Downtown Victoria or Victoria Harbour that would be suitable for this statue.

One thing to note, is that when you Google “Victoria BC AND Lebanese” all you get are some local restaurant listings for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Which is to say, it  looks like Council is responding quickly and diligently to what appears to be a mass request to all BC municipalities (on February 23).

And yet the poor strata owners of the Wave building had to wait 3 months for an actual local issue with significant financial impact?

AVICC Conference Request

The AVICC is the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, our regional constituent lobby group to the larger Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), and this item is a request for Councillor’s Isitt and Loveday to attend the Annual General Meeting and Convention from April 10-12 for a total cost of $575.

From a budget perspective, funds for such travel are always put aside in a general conference/travel account (#4116) for Councillor use and this account was set at $20,000 for 2015 (Council 2015-19 Draft Financial Plan).

JSB Seismic Standards

This is a letter from MMM Group the engineering company responsible for oversight on the Johnson Street Bridge project. Where Council received an update at their March 12 GPC meeting from Mr. Huggett the JSB Interim Project Director and he said at the time that he had received written confirmation of the seismic standards from MMM, this letter on the agenda is dated March 20, 2015.

It is also full of all sorts of science and makes no sense to me. Perhaps if you try and read it with the PPT that was shown on the 12th it will make more sense? Of note is that there is no information on the agenda faceplate to provide any sort of guidance on what we’re supposed to do with this item.

Paper Airplanes anyone?

I imagine it will get passed on the consent agenda.

Closed Business

There are then a number of closed business items on the agenda:

  • Land Acquisition
  • Proposed municipal service – presented by Fire Chief
  • Labour Relations/Proposed Municipal service
  • Appointment – Victoria Family Court and Youth Justice Committee
  • Intergovernmental Negotiations
  • Disposition of Land – maybe the Crystal Gardens?

Tweets will start at 9am as usual!

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