Budget Committee, March 24/26, 2021
Meeting recap (the important stuff):
The two day marathon Budget Committee meeting ended by lunch on Friday with the passing of the Department of Transportation and Public Works’ budget being passed. The committee also added some items to the budget ‘parking lot’, which is shaping up to be an interesting budget fight.
Before the committee started, they received two presentations. The first was from Curtis Larsh who explained that we way talk about cars and driving is getting people hurt. They said that when a driver hits someone with their car it’s often referred to as an ‘accident’, or that ‘a vehicle hit a pedestrian’, completely removing the driver from the situation. Which absolutely makes sense, cars don’t drive themselves, people do. Drivers hit pedestrians with cars because cars can’t drive themselves. And if we’re being honest, they probably won’t for a very long time.
The second presentation came from Shalom Mandaville of the Soil & Water Conservation Society of Metro Halifax (SWCSMH), who spoke on the issue of road debris in lakes.
As a note for the rest of this article, when things go to the budget adjustment list, a.k.a. the ‘parking lot’, council has not committed to them. They’re requesting more information and will debate everything added, all at once, in April. That is where the ‘parking lot’ list will be finalized.
The first thing added to the ‘parking lot’ during this meeting was a motion from Councillor Austin to find out how the city could plant more trees and get closer to their tree planting goal. Executive Director of Transportation and Public Works Brad Anguish said that even though the city is planting a lot of trees, they are also losing trees, so the net gain of trees in the city is not much. Councillors balked at the price of trees, ~$800 each and up to $30,000 in urban contexts, but this is simply a function of the market at work. The prime minister says he’s going to plant a lot of trees, and so the dollar value of trees goes up with the increased demand.
The second and third items going into the ‘parking lot’ were rare budget unders (meaning the city would spend less money rather than more money). It was to keep recycling and green bin pick up on a bi-weekly schedule like it is currently due to COVID. Some context for our rural readers, other parts of the city normally get weekly recycling pickup. Keeping the green bin pick up bi-weekly was sent to the ‘parking lot’ with an 11-6 vote, and keeping blue bag pick up bi-weekly passed unanimously.
The fourth thing to go into the ‘parking lot’ was adding more travelling hazardous waste pickup times. The city normally does 12 a year, if this survives the ‘parking lot’ brawl in April there will be 18 this year. Mayor Savage and Councillor Outhit were the only two people to vote against this going to the ‘parking lot’.
Councillor Cleary then went on a tear trying to put things into the ‘parking lot’. He proposed $2 million for better snow clearing at transit stops, which passed with Mayor Savage being the only no vote. He added a motion to figure out who owns the streets the city didn’t accept at amalgamation, in order to better repair them, which passed unanimously.
Cleary then tried to pass a motion to add better sidewalk clearing for schools during storms but that ultimately failed. Councillors didn’t want to consider spending ~$4 million for something that would have at best a marginal improvement on the calibre of snow clearing.
And finally, Councillor Stoddard tried a ‘Lovelace Gambit’ to push through a much needed sidewalk in her district that her constituents have been fighting for year. She was informed by Anguish that TPW simply did not have the capacity to do it this year, even if they were given money. Anguish assured her the sidewalk on St. Margaret’s Bay Road would be done in the 2022-2023 timeframe. In a show of solidarity Councillor Kent asked for a commitment from Anguish to help Stoddard communicate with her constituents exactly what was happening and when the work could be expected to be complete. But the chair moved down the speakers list and Anguish wasn’t given the opportunity to speak again in the meeting.
Who said what (paraphrased):
Russell: Public participation section part of the meeting, we have two speakers! You can signup to speak here.
Shalom Mandaville: *Tech issues*
Clerk: Next speaker while we figure it out?
Curtis Larsh (they/them): I’m here to sound the alarm on transportation for Strollers (an inclusive term for pedestrians). I was born prematurely because of the stress caused by my dad being hit by a vehicle. My dad should have been protected by infrastructure on his walk home. His death was preventable at the time and hasn’t been solved since, I’m 32. When we talk about cars we frame it as an accident ‘oops,’ ‘it’s just a fender bender,’ but it’s not an accident. It’s drivers. As much as we love our cars, they’re not alive. We need to change our language: ‘collision’, ‘driver of car’, not ‘accident’. We asked Global News to make their headline more active and they did. Our current culture blames the car, an inanimate object, not the driver. I condemn the policies in place that allow the driver to get away without facing justice, meanwhile, Gass’s family will have generations of trauma. The amount of people who’ve been hit by people driving cars is too much. Your ‘solutions’ are not ambitious enough. People are dying because of your inaction. Imagine if we designed our cities to serve people instead of cars. Right now fearless commitment is the only way forward. What will you do when you lose a family member in a crosswalk? Will you act then?
Russell: Thank you, but we have priorities we need to balance, and we have to make difficult decisions (to let people die? That’s… I…)
Clerk: He’s going to dial in, his internet wasn’t good.
Russell: While we’re waiting we have in-camera minutes, should we pass thos-
Hendsbee: So moved!
Russell: Do we need to go in-camera? No?
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous – Minutes passed
Shalom Mandaville: I’m part of the Soil & Water Conservation Society of Metro Halifax (SWCSMH). We’ve tested a lot of lakes in the HRM, and gave you a bunch of information in 2002 and put it in a DVD, I gave Mayor Savage one when he was first elected. I know that times are bad financially now, but they won’t be forever. It would be nice if, in five years or so, TPW put in treatment centers to protect lakes. Debris from cars, tire particles and stuff, get into our lakes. They’re pretty simple to design and make, I’ve sent it to you in an email. There’s a lot of problems the debris cause in the lake. The rubber from tires in the lake sucks out oxygen, and it’s an issue in our lakes. Gas getting into lakes is also an issue, even in very small quantities, at the end of the pipes, not in the lakes themselves though.
Russell: Onto the presentation.
Anguish: This is my third budget for TPW! This presentation has a lot of information, and it’s too much information for the presentation, so I’ll be giving highlights and please ask questions. One of our primary responsibilities is maintaining our infrastructure, here are some fun facts:
Anguish: Here’s what we did during COVID:
Anguish: We’ve had to make some cuts due to COVID. We’re behind on some reports and our AG recommendations. We’re focusing on that this year. We mainly put anything on the backburner if it didn’t directly benefit people. Here are some things we achieved last year:
Anguish: Our performance indicators are quite in-depth, and we monitor it closely. You’ve given us a task of reducing fatal and injury-causing collisions by 20 per cent, our baseline is 800 people, and we’re down to 611, which is a 23 per cent reduction. But there are fewer people out due to COVID. I can’t underscore enough we’re absolutely on fire to try and change this. There’s sometimes a limited scope of what we can do if we don’t own the roads. More people have been getting hurt or dying in the HRM but on provincial roads. Here are stats for pedestrians being hit by drivers and what we’re doing about it:
Anguish: This doesn’t really demonstrate the work we’re doing on the intersections where people are more frequently hit by drivers. And here’s what we’re planning, highlight edition!
Anguish: The IMP started to take effect in 2018, and complete streets are more expensive than just slapping down blacktop.
Anguish: A lot of our road safety is being achieved by complete streets. In 2014 we were advised we were underspending on pavement. This is starting to catch up with us. There’s a gap of about $25 million a year to hold the line on our current pavement condition index. This year we’re going to accurately define the acceptable pavement condition, and try to hit that. Potholes, we’ve done well. With fewer people out, fewer people see potholes so fewer potholes are being reported to us. Our supervisors are out looking though. Dorian also caused a lot of potholes. Here’s what we’re doing with regard to Integrated Mobility:
Anguish: And our capital projects:
Anguish: We’re going to be planting 1450 trees, we won’t hit the goal of 26,000 trees by 2023, since trees are more expensive. We are also now reporting how many trees we’ve lost. We lost 2700 trees in the past three years and planted 3000, so we’re holding steady but not gaining. We’re throwing out less garbage per capita. Otter Lake’s going to be fine until 2046. Here’s what we’re doing for waste management:
Anguish: Here’s what we’re doing for diversity, inclusion and accessibility:
Anguish: That’s the plan, so what does it cost?
Anguish: We’re looking to hire nine people. Here are the changes with our budget:
Anguish: In short, labour costs are going up. We think parking ticket revenue will be down. Six Mobile Household Hazardous Waste collections will be added. There are some things we can do to save money. Not picking up bulky items, picking up organics every second week, and collecting recycling every other week. (I AM ABOUT TO RIOT! THIS IS STANDARD IN RURAL HRM, OTHER PEOPLE IN THIS CITY GET WEEKLY RECYCLING PICKUP!? WEEKLY ORGANICS!? THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!!!!!!!)
Outhit: Thank you for all your department’s hard work. It seems like in-house painting was done sooner. I have a bunch of concerns: trees, when trees are tangled in wires who deals with that? I’m not happy with only six more 40km/hr zones this year, can we do more than six? What’s the plan for school zones on hills since speed bumps don’t work for them? How are we doing with the reflective markings on poles? The fact that costs $800 to plant a tree what can we do to get that down? (From our editor who used to grow trees: With tree planting, especially with everyone and their dog thinking it’s the go-to climate solution (and it partly is), you’re just dealing with supply/demand pricing. That’s disaster capitalism, baby.) $19,000 to get hazardous waste on the road? Let’s get that down.
Anguish: Trees in the wires, I’m working with NS Power to sort it out. When it’s entangled there’s no clear direction. We’re setting responsibilities and sorting out the money. 40 zones, I share the frustration. The province may be willing to move to be like Ontario and give the municipalities the right to do their own street speed limits. There’s a huge cost difference with horizontal and vertical traffic calming, so it’ll depend on your priorities for school zones. The poles are at 100 per cent, if they’re not call 311. For trees, everyone’s trying to grab trees, so it’s about the stock available (Damn you Trudeau!) We don’t do it in-house, so we have to buy from the market. There’s a lot of costs associated with hazardous waste infrastructure when they move, the price is the price.
Mason: You and your department do great work. I have three big concerns. The funding gap in core paving is something we need to address (reallocate funds from the police?). We need to address the $25 million gap. We need to address pedestrian safety. We also need to address the capacity of your department to get projects done with massive influxes of federal money. Photo enforcement, we need to make sure the policy is in place quickly. Capacity, I would like a briefing note about what’s going to happen in the next three years to get the bike lanes done because I don’t think we have enough to get it done.
Anguish: Part of the reason trees are more expensive is we’re enhancing the bracing of the trees to make sure we don’t lose the trees (damn you climate change!). Major project work, I’m glad you’re seeing that trend. Projects are growing in size, $2 million projects used to be rare. We’ve started to get advice on how to better manage large projects and project management, as per the AG’s recommendations. We’re doing a structural reorganization to deal with it. It’s not a crisis, I would have brought it forward if it was. The bike network, the criticism is fair. We expected it to be easier, consultation is complex. Some streets don’t have the space for everything needed in the right of way. We’re also developing at such a rate that we’re having to work hand in hand with developers, which is good because they’re taking some of the costs, but we also lose control of our schedule. Would a full project management change help this? Hard to say.
Cuttell: Pedestrian Safety is important, we have flashing lights going in at the intersection of Herring Cove Road and Woodcrest Avenue where a terrible accident happened in December (when a driver hit a pregnant lady in the crosswalk), it’s important to be proactive instead of reactive (of note: the pedestrian lights at this intersection were not going to be installed, the city decided to do so in January, likely reactively). It’s $25-30,000 to put a tree in urban environments. I don’t know what we can do about the cost of trees in the urban environment, but we also need them the most in the places where they’re expensive. With the 4700km that are managed by the province, I think it’s important to make progress in working better with the province and aligning strategies. There are two different standards in this city. It creates inconsistency and confusion. Do we know what the projected increases are when the roads get transferred to us? Traffic safety measures for school crosswalk signs that don’t work? Rural pedestrian program, where does that come from in the budget?
Anguish: Provincial coordination, we can’t continue to be in our own silos. We’re working to break that down. Where we have had success, like the Mineville shoulder extensions, were because the councillor and the MLA teamed up to put political pressure on and got stuff done. The $25 million gap is for our existing infrastructure. The provincial transfers will add about $5 million. We’re aware of what they are, the full report will get to you in the spring. There’s a lot of costs that go with it, snow clearing, drainage, but it’s built into the $5 million and will be here next year. Rural pedestrian program should come to you in early summer. Current model is not to fund rural Active Transit if not funded by taxes (SHAME). IMP action item 82 was to address this and our report in the summer will be to address this. And RA8 is a sign built into the street directly.
Blackburn: I’m happy to hear there’s increased communications between your department and the school board. Since they make decisions that impact what you guys do. The traffic counts, you guys are doing traffic counts at pre-COVID levels. How will that data be treated, since we’re still not back at pre-COVID levels?
Anguish: Traffic counts, the COVID counts are in, we’re at a 3 per cent increase overall at the bridges. The p.m. peak is back, the a.m. peak is still lagging. Transit’s recovery is critical, with their capacity reduced more people are in cars. Traffic counts used to be done by interns, but now we have full time people and are moving to a different process. We’re going to try and make the student positions up, but we need people on this year round.
Lovelace: (Milestone: first accidental ‘still on mute’ zoom moment) I think being able to have one service standard for road maintenance in the HRM will be good, I’m looking forward to the report about which streets we’re getting. The new staff positions, what will they be doing with the road transfer? On slide 19, street and road maintenance, there is confusion between what it is a provincial road and municipal roads. The slide was just HRM potholes, and does not reflect provincial roads. Photo enforcement, let’s do it. We have to get this done. Are we moving to a two week pickup cycle across the HRM? It’s a rural reality. Street lights, I’m concerned about the number of street lights in rural areas where we don’t really need them. Is there a policy where we can review if they’re needed? Have we had consultations with the province about the Public Highways Act?
Anguish: The report is only municipal potholes, but report all potholes, we make sure the province gets them. The road transfer and the three staff, one of them manage the streets, we need to train a lot of people so one of them will be doing that to make sure everyone’s qualifications are up to date. And the third is the contract supervisor. We’re working now to update the policy of road transfers because there are more transfers to come. As cities get more dense they get control of the streets. The province needs to share the costs if we get streets in poor condition, which we’re currently negotiating. Bi-weekly pickup happens if there’s not a lot of density and/or need. The plan is to continue the segregated system, but council can switch everyone to bi-weekly to save money (I mean, if the choice is let people die crossing the road or bi-weekly pickup it’s a no-brainer. To uncharitably dunk on Russell’s response to the first public speaker). Light pollution, when the LED conversion happened, a lot of people got a lot more light than they were used to. To answer your question, there is a light standard, they can be reviewed, send something to Taso and we’ll get it too. Public Highways Act, I’ll have to get back to you.
Austin: (There’s a whole bunch of stuff on sweeping systems, but I’m dealing with a massive headache and have missed it entirely) The traffic calming briefing note for the extra million was good, but we need to think about it being a permanent thing, but that’s an issue for budget adjustment day. By 2023 we’re going to be getting to just over 50 per cent of our goal? Yes? That’s because we haven’t adequately funded it. I’d like to request a briefing note to give us an idea of what we would have to spend to hit certain percentages. *Makes a motion to get a briefing note to see how much it would cost to get to 75 per cent of our goal by 2023* To make a pitch for trees, they’re very important and improve in value year over year. We have parts of the municipality that don’t have street trees (if you want to find them, just do door-to-door canvassing, looking at you Eastern Passage and Lower Sackville).
Hendsbee: I support the request for the motion, we know Trudeau made a promise for trees so we know there should be federal money there. We should also have fruit trees.
Purdy: Austin you sold me on trees, but why were trees in my district planted right under power lines. Edible trees, we’re getting a lot of rat problems (people are going hungry without food, but sure, rats), what could we do to mitigate the risk of rodents?
Anguish: 2023 means 1 Jan 2023, which is two years. But in three years it’s roughly 6500 trees, at $800 a tree, it’s $5.5 million over three years. Types of trees, they are best managed in a community garden type environment. Planting under power lines, pandora’s box. Street trees are critically important to the health of everyone and everything. This conflict will continue to exist until NS power goes underground, or we change. There are trees that only grow to a certain height, and so that’s what we’re doing currently.
Savage: This briefing note is coming back for this budget?
Austin: Yes. That’s a fair bit of sticker shock, but I don’t want to randomly pick a number out of the air so we can get options and stew on it.
Russell: Would you like to try and plug a number right now?
Anguish: I’d prefer a briefing note I think, and come back with scenarios to foster discussion.
Morse: A suggestion for the briefing note, can you look at options for less expensive trees? Cheaper trees or locations?
Anguish: The primary driver of this plan is the street tree canopy, but we can do cheaper trees in cheaper places. We’re enhancing the environment we put the trees in because trees have a warranty, but if we keep putting them in the same places and they keep dying there’s no real point.
Kent: I’m supportive of the briefing note, but I’m worried about how much we’re putting in the ‘parking lot’. I’m still holding fast on no changes in the tax rate (as a reminder, a one cent tax increase would pay for most of the $5.5 million for the trees) Can you send me the link for the benefits of trees.
Mason: I feel your pain Kent, but our constituents asked for this and if we make the investment now, we save money later. If we don’t do this we’ll pay more for asphalt, which we are already falling way behind on. I don’t think we’re going to get to full funding this year, but if we start a years-long plan we’ll get there.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Mancini, Mason, Smith, Cleary, Morse, Cuttell, Stoddard, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee, Kent, Purdy, Austin – Abstention – Savage (not present) – Tree spending briefing note
*Break for lunch*
Clerk: We’re back and will be going live momentarily.
Russell: We’re back, Mancini.
Mancini: Traffic safety, one of the questions about major collector roads. We have three roads that meet this criteria. What do we do for a street like Waverly? I can’t get traffic calming, I can’t get speed reduced, I can’t get traffic calming. I talk to HRP and they do some enforcement, but they can’t be there all the time (they absolutely could be there all the time, but they’d have to put the polygraph guys out there or something). The bollards with cement bases that are coming out, are they what bollards are going to be moving forward? In the streets where we’ve reduced speed, how do we measure success? There’s a new premier, he seems to have a different approach, should we try hitting him up? Can we do a pilot in 2022 of photo enforcement instead of just a feasibility study? New developments, are we putting in place traffic calming into complete communities?
Anguish: Major collectors, every district has one and that’s why photo enforcement is so important. It’s the majority of where we’re having our traffic issues. The cost of photo enforcement isn’t the camera, the cost is in the backend. A lot of cities have broken the mould and could partner with other municipalities to make it cheaper for us. The dynamic speed display signs, we’re going to expand it this year. We realized there’s a bunch of management concerns about those speed signs because the police have asked us to put them up to keep their officers safe and we need to work with the provinces. The speed display signs are semi-permanent. Speed limits, we’ve been dropping them in some of the collectors, like Forest Hills Parkway, it went down from 70 to 60. Once you reduce a speed it’s unlikely that you’ll go back so we need to try and make sure we get it right the first time.
Mancini: Wait, we can reduce the speeds of major arterials?
Anguish: Kind of, we can drop it to 50, but as soon as we go under 50 it becomes an issue. The advice from KPMG said that most bollards are removed from the roads in the winter, but we kept some cement-based to give them a full test. But it’ll depend, if they affect drainage for example it could affect general safety. The new premier is using still mostly the same staff and we continue to advocate loudly and frequently. New developments, we’re working with developers and should have a full update this summer.
Cleary: Where did the analysis of near misses happen?
Anguish: I can get you the list.
Cleary: In the adjustment list (a.k.a. the ‘parking lot’) we saw the $1 million as a one-time, but it seems to be ongoing or needs to be ongoing? And you’ve also said that how we do traffic calming needs a complete overhaul. Is it wrong to call it an ongoing investment?
Anguish: We confined the $1 million to the list that exists today, but it has issues that we’ll get into at another meeting, but it’s not completely upside down. Where the AO is causing us trouble is the requirement to do complete streets when we do the traffic calming. Some low priority complete streets are high priority traffic calming streets. The $1 million is a one-time deal in the briefing note. If you want to give us another million next year we need to know so we can make better choices this year. We’re very interested in it though.
Cleary: Our current AO is fixing crappy streets, not traffic calming, so I can see that. I want a briefing note for the green cart bi-weekly. I’d like to include in the briefing note, specialized areas of density where weekly green bin pickups would be needed.
Mancini: I’ve had some complaints about bi-weekly green cart pickups but it was from million dollar homes on the lake so….
Mason: Part of the issue when we first did this that there are some communities where they don’t have access to a lot of space and some places got stinky. But we made it work in our neighbourhood. I’ve had one or two emails concerning bi-weekly, and I’m also in favour of doing bi-weekly blue bag. But it worked out fine for most people.
Hendsbee: I’m in support of this, and want to amend it to include bi-weekly blue bags. I’m not in favour of bi-weekly organics collection, especially in growing season. Bears are an issue, we had to put locks on green bins in Lake Echo.
Russell: The blue bag would be a separate motion.
Austin: I’m going to support this going to the ‘parking lot’. This came up on the doorstep in a couple of places. For most people going to bi-weekly it was at most a bit of grumble. The people who really cared about this really really cared about this. We have a briefing note for traffic calming, trees, it grows all the time. You have to pick and choose. There’s no reality where we have low taxes, a lot of services, and no debt. It’s a fiction. I’m less sensitive to tax than some of my peers. The complaints I get are service-based, not tax-based.
Purdy: Anything that increases the likelihood of rodents being attracted to residents (of note, rodents live here too) I’m against. I also don’t want to raise tax and decrease services. People understood due to COVID, but I don’t think our residents can stomach that. (For the record, I absolutely can, you’re not raising taxes for this specific service.)
Outhit: I heard the same thing as Purdy. People could accept it for COVID, for one year. People were suggesting that we should have done blue bags instead of green bins. In the suburbs, we don’t have as much space as people think. It should be everybody or nobody.
Lovelace: I think that moving the blue bags to every two weeks makes sense, most of my district is already doing this. The issue is when pickup becomes storm delayed, if your green bin is full, so we should do something to communicate that. If we are raising taxes and reducing service I don’t think that’s good. (Taxes fund more than just this one service, they also fund library lunches, and police polygraph testing, for example)
Smith: Are there any lessons learned from the bi-weekly switch to organics?
Anguish: There were no widespread complaints about the green bin switch, but it’s not clear if everyone understood the necessity due to COVID. I don’t have a great answer, but if there were a lot of complaints we wouldn’t have put it on this list.
Smith: Can we get 311 green bin complaints put on this briefing note too?
Kent: I can’t support this, we are all saying much the same thing. We’re asking every resident at every home to do their part, but we’re missing some links (like corporate accountability for pollution). We should be looking at this in a larger picture, and not just do it quickly to get it in front of us for budget season. Can we change the contracts we just signed for garbage pickup? We waited so long for weekly pickup in the Passage and just got it, we can’t just get rid of it. We are getting so many complaints about rodents. Those of us who live on the coast have to deal with the blue bags being blown around the neighbourhood, it is a big deal. We have a lot to consider in the budget, I think this is a bigger picture thing.
Anguish: All of the unders we put in our slide have been negotiated, so yes, we can do it. The weekly green cart is an option we exercise on May 1 every year. We did have complaints, but we expected a lot more. The numbers, we have to make the green cart decision by May 1, so if you decided to go with this budget under on April 20, it’ll be done in time. Bi-weekly blue bag would save $400,000 this year, and $850,000 annually in a full year.
Russell: Deagle-Gammon, take over as chair, please
Deagle-Gammon: Russell, would you like to speak?
Russell: I would, I can’t support this. I put the motion on the floor last year and it made sense because we were in a difficult time and we knew it. Then we had the election and the overwhelming response I got was that we made a mistake moving to a two week pickup for the green carts. Not everyone mentioned it, but everyone who did said it was the wrong thing to do (pretty depressing for issues like climate change). Climate change is making summers get warmer and so green bins get worse (so we better drive extra trucks through neighbourhoods?)
Austin: This is all about choices. This is to some extent a zero sum game. There are going to be a lot of hard choices.
Cleary: We find ourselves in a funny situation. We have to cut something that’s less important than traffic calming. When we’re at the end of our budget discussion about raising our rate to cover our overs, we’ll need to remember this. The choices are in priority, what is the higher priority? This is just going to be more information. But we do need ways to keep our costs down.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Mason, Smith, Cleary, Morse, Cuttell, Stoddard, Lovelace, Blackburn, Austin, Mancini, Savage – Nay – Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee, Kent, Purdy – Motion passes 11-6, green bin bi-weekly briefing note
Purdy: Under road safety, you’re going to send us the 10 intersections, how was the data gathered? Where did the video come from? What is pedestrian recall? I’m getting a lot of complaints about dog poop being thrown in the woods instead of garbages, what is the pet waste pilot? Who’s responsible for the policy changing in traffic calming? (It’s council?) Will you speak at all today about the briefing note about the $1 million in traffic calming?
Anguish: We advanced the briefing note to today so you could ask questions about it. But to sum, we’d spend $250,000 on school zones, for 16 school zones, 26 streets and 26 neighbourhood streets that were impacted by previous implementation, a.k.a. ‘short cutting’. The AO on policy change, we’re looking forward to that. We’re going to be giving a presentation to Transportation Standing Committee and we’ll change it based on their feedback and bring it back to council. Having it done by summer would be nice. Dog poo not being thrown out at parks, talk to Parks and Rec. But this is about us not being able to accept compost in our green bins. The pilot is to see if we can put it in our new organics plan. We applied to an insurance company that was doing it, got accepted, took video and sent it to them for analysis.
Kent: I didn’t see anything in this presentation about the layers of educating the public. Pedestrians, drivers both have responsibilities in this. It can’t all be a government fix. Is there a layer of education about things like old education videos, like stop look and listen? A crosswalk is not your friend when you step out into it, you will lose against a vehicle (the person driving the vehicle), you have to stay safe. The pedestrian crosswalks, the speaker who spoke he (they) spoke very strongly and passionately about it. I appreciate hearing from the public. We’re not the keeper of best ideas (urge to dunk, rising). One last question for Anguish, is your department the one responsible for lake health?
Anguish: Planning and development. Do we have enough education going on? The money is not in our budget, it’s in the corporate communications budget. They run one or two campaigns a year. Heads Up Halifax was the most prominent. So they’ve lined up monthly themes (this month is seatbelt safety). There’s a lot to learn about bike lanes for cyclists and drivers. There are quite a few pockets of effort going on.
Smith: 40km/hr zones, the progress is great, what are we doing with integration with HRP to make sure enforcement is happening in those zones? (Anecdotally, the drop in speed on Cole Harbour Road has not had increased police presence enforcing the new speed limit). The Heads Up Halifax campaign, it may be worth doing a revamp of that campaign. The RA8 signs, we lost one in my district immediately, and we know that’s because drivers don’t pay attention (shared responsibility). Street safety is a priority, I really hope we continue to prioritize this.
Anguish: 40km/hr zones, we work with police to let them know zones are going in and the timing. And they develop their tactics and we trust that they carry out those tactics (I do not trust that they are doing this). That question might be best for the Board of Police Commissioners. (He’s answering a question about paint that I didn’t hear) Our paint supply might be affected by the storm in Texas. Heads Up Halifax has morphed into the flexible approach of monthly themes. Our best feedback comes from you and constituents. We are pedal to the metal on pedestrian safety, that was a terrible analogy. Even if we got to zero pedestrian fatalities we’re still having vehicle collisions.
Hendsbee: The provincial transfer of roads isn’t going to happen until next year, but I there’ll be some state of good repair issues, will we be getting money for that? The ditch tax, the new territories need to be aware that when we get the roads there’s going to be that cost. It’s night and day when we took over the last batch of streets, much better now. The paving projects, I and some other residents of Porter’s Lake aren’t happy with it, but it’s necessary to get the work done in East Preston, so we understand it. But I hope there’s a way to look at the Porter’s Lake streets. I’m pleased to see Cain Street in North Preston is getting water management and a sidewalk. Ross Road realignment, the new owners are demolishing the buildings, so hopefully we have a clean site to look at, but we need to start negotiating immediately. Solid waste, I’ll be putting a motion forward to start a pilot of bi-weekly motion for blue bags.
Russell: The motion is to come back later?
Hendsbee: I figured I’d just put the motion on the floor since I was running out of time.
Russell: You were. *Reads the motion for a staff report on bi-weekly blue bag* Any speakers?
Mason: The motion doesn’t say one year pilot and measuring outcomes. We want to know if diversion goes down or if litter goes up, we need to measure it and potentially cancel it if either is true. Oh, it is updated, I’ll support that.
Lovelace: My concern is diversion and illegal dumping, so if that’s included here, that’s good for me.
Purdy: I can’t support services going down and taxes going up (this would mean taxes going down or staying flat).
Austin: Are the savings for bi-weekly green bin and blue bags the same?
Anguish: Yes, more or less.
Austin: The part that’s not making sense to me, shouldn’t the savings for the blue bags be bigger since it’s year round?
Anguish: The deals are complex, so it’s not a straight equivalent.
Austin: I’ll support this.
Outhit: I’ll support this too, but how much flexibility will we have with the contract?
Anguish: I’ll have to look at the contract, I don’t have that off the top.
Deagle-Gammon: Is there a limit of blue bags that can be put out.
Deagle-Gammon: Sometimes bluebags are blowing around, is bi-weekly pickup going to reduce that?
Russell: I tie the bags together to prevent them from blowing around.
Kent: We’re bi-weekly and they blow around.
Cuttell: I have more recycling than garbage and storage becomes an issue, it’d be nice if there were blue bins to put things in. Can you just add high level stuff about how to make bi-weekly pickup work? It’s a significant cost savings, but it has to work for people.
Lovelace: There are many communities in the HRM that are on bi-weekly pickup and it’s fine. I understand it’s difficult for some folks but there are ways to mitigate that.
Cleary: On this one there are no bag limits on blue bags. In terms of storage, it’s easier to store rinsed out bottles and cans than organics. The way the budget was going is that we’re increasing taxes and holding services. We need to cut somewhere if we want to add all of the rest of the services. When it comes to storage, how full are people’s blue bags now? (In this household, normally small, unless we run out of SodaStream refill canisters and get lazy, then it’s canned fizzy water galore.)
Purdy: I am interested to read a briefing note.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous
Russell: Welcome back, Anguish, Hensbdee’s questions.
Anguish: We’re getting reports from the province, and we won’t take things as is where is and take steps to protect the city. We have three new hires to deal with this stuff. The standards in these areas will be HRM standards, but there will be growing pains. Ross Road realignment, I’ll defer to Dente, but Taso is working with the province to potentially reduce the speed in that zone.
Stoddard: Do your staff monitor contractors when the contractors do road safety? There was a boy who almost got hit by a plow during a repaving. And detour signs, there were detour sign pointing people in a circle. Is there any way to get contractors to prioritize projects? One of the streets was supposed to be paved in the summer but the contractor fell behind and ended up doing it when school was in instead.
Anguish: We’d love more budget for construction inspections. Our inspectors are few in number, but try and get around to every site. It’s hard to be everywhere all the time. When we get reports they’re pushed through 311 quickly. We do tell our contractors how to manage projects. Each project has a pedestrian management plan, typically if it’s our project we’ve approved the plan and it should be acceptable. In terms of moving the work, last year was hard. It does happen sometimes that contractors over commit. Everyone’s told the work needs to be done by September, it doesn’t always happen, but that’s the requirement. I don’t know about these specific projects though.
Deagle-Gammon: Around trees and power lines, the pruning schedule, is it based on what can be done or what is needed? School zones and parking, on Fall River Road it’s ridiculous. It’s very concerning especially now that they’ve added pre-primary. Does the briefing note look at schools? The speed radar signs, there are two that we should have in our district, can I recommend a place for them? Traffic services told me it was their job to decide. Waverly Road is loved by cyclists and runners and it’s treacherous (even for motorcyclists). Is there a plan for that?
Anguish: There are no bag limits on blue bags, just to come back to your question. Pruning is decided by need and limited by budget, so yes. The traffic calming is all from the list, if it wasn’t on the list it didn’t make the AO. There’s a lot of confusion about the signs, it’s an evidence-based system, but it doesn’t negate input we receive from councillors. Waverly Road, if there’s nothing on the list for capital projects, then there’s nothing planned.
Mason: Capacity for large buckets, there are a couple of areas I have concerns. I’m worried we can’t keep pace with active transit, what is the pacing for the regional centre bike lines, I’m fine with a memo on that to answer questions. Herring Cove functional plan is going to come soon, and I don’t think we should push it until Cogswell is done. I didn’t make a fuss of it during capital, but it’s critical transportation infrastructure. So I worry about capacity in the engineer shop and the sign shop with how long the parking sign changes took. We’re being hammered on social media all day because reducing injuries and fatalities by 20 per cent is not the end goal, zero is. We need to change the pedestrian stickers. I think on the road safety piece, there’s amazing work that’s been happening this year. We’re doing almost as much this year as we’ve done in the last three years, which is amazing. I’ll come back for the funding gap.
Anguish: I’m failing at answering Deagle-Gammon’s questions today. You’re not seeing some of the roads because they’re provincial. We can lay out the rest of project timelines for bike lanes. Large projects, it’s the most frustrating aspect. It requires you to amend the four year capital plan. We have to work with you to understand how fast you want to move, we are scaled to deal with the next four year plan, but it’s driven by budget. Vision Zero, I’m sorry to hear that people think we think 20 per cent is enough. We have next steps, and I’ll give you a briefing note, it’s all about the money. Pedestrian recall is to eliminate the beg button. Recall gets rid of the need to push the button. That’ll roll out in the spring. There will be stickers on the buttons so people will know not to push them. I don’t think we told you what the full list was, I’ll fix that.
Savage: One of the things I like about being mayor is seeing our staff step up with ideas, free parking for deliveries at Christmas, for example. All ages and abilities bike network. Where are we on the things we announced a year and half ago?
Anguish: 18 of 55 kms are constructed. We have a few years left in funding and in the schedule.
Savage: We paid $4.5 out of $25 million?
Anguish: Yes, very small piece of that investment.
Savage: Macdonald bikeway was part of that, how close are we on that?
Anguish: Project management and detailed planning this year so maybe next construction season.
Savage: The feds announced active transit money, are we going to apply for some of it?
Anguish: We’ll be applying and ready to go if we get the money.
Cuttell: The list of schools would be great, glad to hear we’re getting that. Traffic calming, how is TPW working with HRP? What good are the signs if no one pays attention to them? How does that communication work? Going back to water quality, a lot of our water management is about quantity, not quality of water, I don’t want to add another briefing note, but can I get some better understanding of what we look for in water management? The pet waste in parks, I was so excited, the mitigation on the front of that, do we need more garbage cans in parks? More pickups? We need to tackle that (I don’t think that’s what this is about). The urban forestry piece, $10-30,000 per tree in the urban hardscape, how do we make this make sense? We can’t be spending $30,000 on a tree, that’s how much they cost on Argyle Street.
Anguish: What you received in your briefing note is what we would do if we got the $1 million, I’ll get you the full list. Pet waste, is parks I’ll let them deal with the garbage cans in the park. But there’s a long overdue report about dog poop in parks, but it’s a human behaviour issue. The cost to put a tree into an urban hardscape costs a lot. Almost all of the trees we’re talking about today are not that. Except Spring Garden, and you should talk to Dente about that. The stormwater question, what’s the question? I understood the context, but not the question.
Cuttell: In the stormwater management, they look at the quantity of water but not the quality of it. We have plans to capture stormwater, but I don’t understand how it fits into stormwater management and treatment, but it’s not a budget item so I don’t want to eat too much time.
Anguish: HRM has above the ground, Halifax Water has it when it goes below the ground. This year we’re doing street sweeping, which should help, but also increases sediment which can clog things and cause issues. Halifax Water, right now, is not really concerned with quality of stormwater, but we’re starting to look into it. Our first foray is on Prince Albert Road. It’s uncharted territory.
Morse: Major projects like Bedford Highway and window exchange. Can you talk about the timings for those as we’re talking about pushing them out? The Dutch Village Road planned for next year, will it be completed next year? It’s been on the books for a long time. There’s a neighbourhood in my district is hilly and has no drains, how do we get drains into them?
Anguish: Bedford Highway, regrettably, we want to get started, it’s sitting at the edge of the 5th year without being constructed. We’re worried about the condition on the Bedford Highway. There’s no curb left to work with in some places for example. None of us are satisfied, but money is a driver in this. Windsor Street exchange, feel good about that, we delayed it due to the port, because they were behind schedule. And there were other issues with access, with other work. So we did more planning and have more breathing room. Dutch Village Road, there’s a question, confidence level? Don’t want to do that in public. But seriously, my confidence level is high that’ll it be done next year. The issue with non-accepted streets, if we don’t know who owns the street or if it’s a private street, it’s hard to make an investment into it. We did get greenlit to do it, but it’s a budget constraint. We had it as an over, but it’s kind of not quite high enough to rate.
Mancini: Painting lines, you brought it up earlier. We had lines painted in September, can you touch on that? Was there any data from the impact on our facilities from the green bin change last year? Not having a waste collection on the Dartmouth side is ridiculous (IS IT EVER! TWO HOURS OF DRIVING TO THROW OUT TOXIC WASTE NOT INCLUDING THE WAIT!). Is there talk of putting a facility in Dartmouth? Tree pruning, I’m still not clear on it, there are trees that have been dead for three years, I don’t understand the tree warranty.
Anguish: Line painting, overall we had a good year. Traffic was reduced and the weather was good. Green bin impact on facility, there was no impact per say, on production or flow through
Mancini: Negative or positive?
Anguish: I’ll check. There is no plan for a second facility at this time (BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO). It seemed logical to cancel hazardous waste to avoid contact during COVID, but the pent up demand for that depot was huge. There is no plan at this time to put in a second facility.
Mancini: If we don’t make it easy for people to throw stuff out it ends up illegally dumped.
Anguish: We have a guy who does warranty and contract work.
Mancini: I’d like to put on the floor the budget over for the mobile household special waste pickups.
Austin: What would this look like, how many more would this provide?
Anguish: Six more.
Austin: Scattered throughout the municipality
Anguish: Yup, if it goes ahead we have recommendations for location.
Austin: Before or after the ‘parking lot’ meeting?
Anguish: At ‘parking lot’ meeting.
Cleary: There are 12 events, and this would make it 18?
Anguish: I’m going to call a friend.
Andrew Philopoulos: Can you repeat the question?
Cleary: How many are there currently?
Cleary: Are they spread out?
Philopoulos: Yes they’re spread out where they’re needed.
Cleary: Where would the new ones go?
Philopoulos: We’d add second ones to popular locations like Sackville or Mic Mac Mall.
Deagle-Gammon: From a calendar POV, is it seasonal? Or year round?
Philopoulos: Seasonally, usually, due to weather conditions.
Lovelace: How are these community events communications and education events as well?
Philopoulos: Telling people what we accept and why it’s important for them to avoid landfills is part of what we do. We also try and promote alternatives to the depot, like you can drop off paint at the EnviroDepot (Today I Learned).
Cleary: When garbage is collected now, it’s brought to the facilities, is it opened and inspected before going to a landfill. Like if someone put batteries in the garbage?
Philopoulos: At Otter Lake there’s a front end processor. We catch some of it, batteries and propane tanks for example. But it’s pretty small. The best way to catch it is the dropoff.
Cleary: There’s a study about how many batteries are bought vs recycled (because we treat them as disposable). If we have a limited amount of money to spend are there better ways to teach people how to deal with their waste?
Philopoulos: Yes, like reminding people to bring their batteries to recycle when they buy new ones.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Cleary, Morse, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee, Kent, Purdy, Austin, Mancini, Mason, Smith – Nay – Outhit, Savage – Abstain – Cuttell, Stoddard (not present) – Motion passes
Lovelace: We need some support on Herring Cove Road. We have to create safer roadways. Paved shoulders, we need to figure out how to make shoulders safer. Are we going to get more radar speed signs? We also need to talk about washrooms on the active transit network, where are people going to go the bathroom.
Anguish: Herring Cove Road is moving forward. Paved shoulders are not a provincial road standard, so they don’t have it. But that’s why we did it in Mineville. There’s some kind of communication issue with the radar speed signs, it’s a lot of administrative work with these signs, so we’ll get back to you with that. Public washrooms, we’re working to get something in place, sorry that I don’t have a better answer on that one.
Cleary: Washrooms on trails disproportionately impacts women and children. And I’m putting a motion in the chat for the budget over for transit stop clearing for $2 million. $2 million seems like a lot of money, why is it so much?
Anguish: Volume of stops, there are a lot of stops. We’re pretty solid on the number.
Outhit: I’d like to see more about the 24 hour standard. The feedback I get isn’t that snow clearing isn’t happening at stops, but that we don’t have shelters.
Mancini: Fraser are you here?
Jane Fraser: Yes.
Mancini: You sent us the budget adjustment list so far we’ve added $2 million to the ‘parking lot’?
Mancini: So we’re at $4 million over budget at this point?
Mancini: We’re up to $4 million dollars already. Councillors are saying they don’t want to increase taxes or cut services, but the margins are pretty slim.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Cleary, Morse, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee, Kent, Purdy, Austin, Mancini, Mason, Smith, Outhit, Savage, Lovelace – Nay – Savage – Abstain – Cuttell, Stoddard (not present) – Motion passes
Hendsbee: I gotta turn down my other meeting. Glad we’re looking at more hazardous waste dropoffs. Street light inventory’s been an issue for me, where are we at with that? Some rec centres still have old lights because of the disputes in ownership. I’m glad you’re putting more lights in North Preston, but can we dim our LED lights in the evening for communities that want starlight? I’m glad our billboards will be reviewed. I can’t wait for the rural active transit plan to come into effect. I hope we have a contingency fund for storms. Non-accepted streets, I need more detail on that, we’re starting to accept streets that aren’t up to red book standards.
Anguish: Street light issues have been on the books for a couple years, and the CAO got me meetings with Nova Scotia Power in mid-April. Billboards will be a competitive process. Non-accepted streets are different than the private streets in your area, we’ll meet about that shortly, they’ll have to come through council.
*Break until Friday morning*
Russell: Welcome back! Going back to our speakers list, Councillor Kent!
Kent: Just wanted to start with the blue bags and green bins, I just want to be clear that we haven’t made a decision yet on garbage collection. I’ve been getting a lot of public feedback about it. I’m still very concerned about reduction in waste collection, but I look forward to the briefing note. The briefing note about traffic calming and the $1.5 million, can I ask about that? How married are you to the list of budget adjustments? The traffic calming in district 3, I’m not seeing much for Eastern Passage, is there any flexibility in the streets getting calmed?
Anguish: The direction from council was very specific to follow the existing ranked streets so that’s what we’ve done. Is there time to change it? I’ll leave it to you. If you want to start changing the list we might not be able to make as many changes
Kent: Thank you for making sure you’re taking into account our considerations. It’s not always easy for us to communicate with our constituents the limitations of this process. But I appreciate your team’s work to make sure we’re able to communicate better. It’s hard for us as councillors to always make that clear in this process.
Stoddard: About the recycling and blue bag issue. Everyone’s against it. They’re worried about pests and raccoons. Semi-detached homes might not have enough space. I just wanted to make sure these concerns are aired.
Russell: I’ve also heard from constituents and 100 per cent are against it, so that’s how I’ll be voting.
Purdy: My comments are the same. I’ve heard from one person who’s for the change, but everyone else is against this. So how do we share this with Anguish?
Anguish: Just to clarify, we brought you budget overs, things you want we can’t afford, and budget unders, things we can do to save money. One of the briefing notes is about the budget under, of reducing pickup. So you just vote on this at the budget adjustment list, it’s completely under your control. If you want to cancel the briefing note, let us know, we can cancel it. I’m not sure the value of staff receiving this input.
CAO: Brad has summed it up well. If the question is how do you get your citizen’s feedback back to staff and council, this meeting is the place for that. Or you can vote on the budget adjustment list based on the feedback.
Purdy: Thanks, I was under the impression that the briefing note was going to be assessing the residents impacts, this makes more sense now.
Mason: Process, unless someone wants to put a motion on the floor to get rid of the briefing note this is not a good use of our time. City staff are advisors, we are deciders, sometimes we need to make hard decisions. And the people who call us are the people who don’t like stuff. The people who like stuff don’t call, so of course those people are going to call you. And final piece, Mr. Chair, it’s inappropriate for you to tell us how you’re going to vote from the chair. Capacity, we have major projects coming in, a lot of them. I don’t think we can wait five, six, seven years for these projects. Herring Cove is $21 million ‘only,’ so we should expedite this. We have a funding gap because we’re building complete streets, which is great, but my question is, should we provide direction to staff to start closing this funding gap? I think we need to start raising the budget for paving, which reduces our other capacity for everything else. So how do we have this conversation if we’re doing multi-year budgeting? It’s scary to me, because if the roads crack and we start to lose the gravel and stuff underneath the costs skyrocket.
Anguish: The auditor is very concerned about this as well, and there was the recommendation to set the standard with council. We need to do it this year, and it’s coming this year to council. We thought we could have it ready for this year but COVID.
CAO: Anguish is right, we need to get real about the paving condition index, we have issues with our current network, and we’re going to inherit more next year. We’re going to need at least $5 million a year more for our existing roads. Then we have to add the new roads network. We got one-time money for doubling the gas tax from the province. We have some strategic capital reserve, we’re going to need to set aside money from that bucket for exactly this. We have tools to solve this, but it’s going to take some resolve and discipline (So…. we’re screwed).
Mason: Let’s all keep in mind that any money we put into paving also is putting money into safety.
Lovelace: A question about the redbook. We have a real separation between safety on our streets and the integrity of the road itself, does the redbook not include those features? Or are they ‘a nice to have’ instead of ‘a must’? When we have complete streets we have better communities. Can you speak to how the redbook is used?
Anguish: The redbook is municipal design guidelines, and I’m going to defer comment because it’s in the hands of planning and development, and it’s Kelly Dente’s wheelhouse. But we have a lot of streets to rehabilitate. We need to make sure the design guidelines are being followed.
Outhit: Not all streets that are repaved qualify for street calming. I have World War III brewing about it and the blue bag, green bin issue. If we did want to rescind the briefing note is that a majority vote or a two-thirds majority?
Russell: We went through this yesterday I think it’s a two-thirds vote.
Clerk: It’s a ⅔ vote.
Hendsbee: Point of Order- I made the motion to reconsider right after the motion yesterday, but this is two days later.
Russell: This is the same meeting, and it’s a slightly different procedure.
Outhit: I’ll save this for the ‘parking lot’ brawl.
Cleary: I have a motion to put in the chat, but before I read it, it’s about non-accepted streets. When we amalgamated we took all of the streets, but there were 100 streets that weren’t accepted during amalgamation. In order to do work on the streets, we need to own them, so we need to make sure we have the titles, so we can get the non-accepted streets and bring them up to standard. It was cut from last year’s budget because of COVID. *Reads motion* This is the first step, and we need to do this. It’s been two and a half decades since amalgamation, we really need to move on this. Just the land title search for $400,000, one-time cost.
CAO: Sorry, hit the button on accident, nothing to contribute.
Austin: Where this was an over in the budget, how is this work envisioned to happen? Hire someone to do the title search? In house? I’m essentially asking if we can make it cheaper or spread it out.
Anguish: I can address it in the briefing note, but it’s a completely outsourced project.
Austin: If we’re outsourcing this in two bundles it’s probably more work than we need to do, I’ll vote for the briefing note, but I’m not sure if I can vote for this, this year. Parks and Rec still haven’t presented and they have some hard discussions. I’m okay with seeing the tax bill go up, but others are not, these are the choices we need to make.
Hendsbee: Can I get a list of the non-accepted streets and their current conditions? How long are they? How wide are they? What are they made of? Are they up to our redbook standards? I’d like to know the state of the roads before the title search. Village Road in Herring Cove is really narrow and I wonder how that can be ‘city standard.’ In Clam Harbour there’s a private road the residents want to pave and give it to the city, but the city said no.
Russell: There’s a list of the streets in the motion.
Cleary: You can see the pictures from the report you voted on in 2019 (shaaaaaade). I’d like to know if there are options to phase it out over a longer period of time in the briefing note
Hendsbee: If you look at the report, it doesn’t give kilometres, it’s just names and which district. I want to know the conditions of the roads. That street list is inadequate for the data I’m asking for. I want to know the quantity and quality of roads. It’s important to know how much work needs to go into them if we take them.
Morse: I know at least six that are short, but very steep with no drainage and in the spring it feels like Sackville River. If we at least got some drainage issues addressed it’d be helpful.
Cuttell: What is the issue with these streets? What does ‘not accepted’ mean for the level of service they get?
Anguish: Some of these look and act like an HRM street but the ownership is unknown. Some of them are not great. In terms of servicing them, the problem is what type of investment should be made in them? If a street isn’t up to standard it requires a lot of maintenance to keep it functional. And we service them (plow, garbage) but can’t do a capital investment in something we don’t own. So we just need to make sure we own them, but the conditions continue to deteriorate and we need to start taking concrete action.
Cuttell: Cleary, the motion, you’re asking for is getting information we need to move forward with these streets? I think I’ll be supporting this.
Outhit: I’ll be supporting this, and to add insult services aren’t reflected in the taxes people pay. You mentioned we service non-accepted roads with garbage and plowing, but do you fix potholes and stuff on private or non-accepted roads?
Anguish: On non-accepted, we have to do road repairs from time to time. We do what we need to do to keep people safe.
Outhit: So if a non-accepted street calls 311 to get a pothole filled, will it happen?
Anguish: We’ll review it, and if it’s needed for safety purposes we’ll do it.
Mason: My district has four, and they’re all different. Two are clouded ownership, one’s on some cottages (in Mason’s district?) and one is a condo that doesn’t want to own it anymore. They are maintained, but not to the city standard, just for safety.
Cleary: I’ve had the experience of having residents calling 311, had staff come out to measure it, it wasn’t deep enough so they didn’t fix it. Eventually they filled it, but it was bad, so the city then filled it. The first step in fixing this problem is the title search.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous
Russell: Back on the main motion.
Hendsbee: I’m worried that we don’t keep the front end processing of solid waste stabilization, I’m worried that we’re going against our moral obligation that we made to our citizens. I’m worried that if we stop making people split their garbage, they’ll stop doing it. I don’t like hearing that our commercial waste is being trucked out of our boundaries, I thought we were supposed to be responsible for it. It’s great for the municipalities that are getting cash for it, but I’m worried that we’re not responsible for it. Do we have a plan for big storms with regards to street damage and tree clearing? Side of road pickup? Dropoffs? Mobile hazardous waste, I’m hoping to get three in my district. We need to bring them back, the sooner the better.
Anguish: Hazardous waste is coming to the ‘parking lot’. There’s no way to predict how bad storms are. We’ve had two plans for recent storms, Juan was door-to-door pickup and Dorian was dropoff, we have them both on the books and can do either. But we’ve learned from it and will act quicker. Front end processor, you’ll have a report next month. Commercial waste export was council eliminating a bylaw.
Mancini: You were at the Transportation Standing Committee meeting where we had a presentation about the maintenance of traffic safety infrastructure. The push buttons they brought up, what’s the expectation? How do they get reported? How quickly are they supposed to be repaired? Does your team have any expertise or understanding about the challenges people who are visually impaired face?
Anguish: The presentation was excellent, and I appreciate their comments. A portion of their presentation was dedicated to issues of the past and some of those have been addressed, and others…. Well, they pointed out the colours of the push buttons on the poles were too similar, it can’t happen and was fixed. The push button being too far from the intersection is true, the standard is 1.5 meters, but we have to decide sometimes whether or not to put a push button on, or put the pole in the right place, depending on what’s underground. We are trying to find that balance. Oh how I wish we could redesign our municipality to get rid of old infrastructure. The biggest piece that they brought forward was the maintenance of things. Inspections are up, the electricians are the ones doing the inspections and can repair things when they get there. Our standard when things get called into 311 is to be there the next day, even if we can’t always fix it. It’s unacceptable that they push a button and don’t get a signal. We’re upping inspections, by using some parking enforcement folks who are out walking around anyways. The other thing that’ll help is the change from three seconds to one second. Sometimes people think they’ve held the button for three seconds but counted too quickly. Removing the three second push will also reduce mechanical failures.
Mancini: What about expertise in your team?
Anguish: I’m not going to get into personal circumstance, but yes.
Mancini: Can you share the workplan response with the Transportation Standing Committee. At Disney, everyone serves the public, so if a manager sees garbage on the ground they’ll pick it up. It’s all of our responsibility to report this if we notice them too.
Cuttell: I wanted to say what Mancini brought up, and my questions have been answered.
Cleary: I love you guys so much I want this meeting to keep going, I have another motion for a briefing note. It’s regarding snow clearing for sidewalks, especially in school zones. I heard stories about kids climbing three or four foot snow banks three and four days after snowstorms. Right now the standards are 36 hours, a day and a half, from when the storm ends. If we really want more people walking around, we need kids to be able to walk to school. *Reads the motion: reducing school zone sidewalk snow clearing from 36 to 18 hours at the cost of $3.5-4.5 million* The cost of clearing P3 sidewalks is $6.7 million? Is that all sidewalks or just the P3? I thought it was only around $1 million for P3 streets.
Bev Audet: We’d have to go back to that report you’re referring to. The report today is based on today’s costs, the costs have gone up though. I can’t really answer that without looking at the previous report.
Cleary: It’s not like we’re doing snow clearing more than once, it’s the same people with the same machines and just moving the window of when it’s done, so why is the cost for this so much?
Audet: This isn’t how this works at all. It’s completely different staffing and equipment. The minute we move the window, our contractors would need more equipment and more people. The most important thing for us is when the plows hit the sidewalks. Even though the stop time is important to judge the standards, it’s about when we start, and priority one streets start at 2cm. This year was challenging with plummeting temperatures, the salt wasn’t super helpful, and the backshifts weren’t able to be as productive and everything was breaking down. Usually, it’s not that cold in big storms.
Stoddard: I’d like to request TPW revisit the missing piece of sidewalk-
Russell: Wrong motion! I’ll put you on the main list.
Kent: I’m going to support putting this in the ‘parking lot’ to get more information to get a decision. I just see the bubble growing and growing in the ‘parking lot’ and we’re going to have to pick and choose. I’m not convinced this one is strong enough to support at a later date. I’ll support this motion for information only.
Cuttell: The whole sidewalk clearing piece is important to me, and I realize it’s important. I think we need to be strategic and figure out who’s moving around and then figure out how to make that easier. We prioritize streets, can we do the same for sidewalks? Right now those two are linked in planning, but they’re used very differently. In asking for a briefing note will that accelerate the staff report we’re waiting for? Or is this briefing note enough to consider the strategic piece?
Anguish: Staff has delivered on the motion you requested about sidewalks. There’s no way we’d be able to turn around what you’re asking for in a few weeks. To clear up the $1 million piece, that was a potential service cut to get rid of some of the contracts. It was an estimate if you wanted to cut sidewalk clearance that year.
Savage: I voted against expanding sidewalk snow clearing because people didn’t want it, they were paying too much for it, and expectations were raised, but we are where we are. We’re going to come back in a month or so with a big list. We are going to have some surplus probably. This is a big amount of money which dramatically more than any of the other things we’ve added.
Austin: Surpluses and found money we should spend on one time big picture expenses, not ongoing operational costs. This is a tax rate piece. When I look at our list, I’m more interested in the transit stop piece if we’re going to do snow clearing. I’m not going to vote for this. Sometimes we’re too prescriptive in our standards.
Mason: I’m hoping staff can outline and restate if we’re hitting a better standard in both regular and big snowstorms. If we spent this money we still wouldn’t hit these standards if we get more than 30cm of snow. On a regular snowstorm we’ve exceeded expectations and I’ve gotten emails about how snow clearing has been good, which is more than I’ve ever gotten before, even if it’s three of them. We can keep plowing money into this, pun not intended (boo), but it won’t make service better.
Blackburn: Clearing standards, where are we compared to the rest of Canada?
Anguish: It depends. There’s the standard the city sets, and the standards cities meet. We meet the standards we set, other cities have higher standards, but don’t meet them. So benchmarking it is a bit harder. We can send that report around, but we’re in the top pack.
Cleary: I’ve talked about sidewalk snow clearing a lot, if you’re ready to give sidewalk clearing back to residents, let me know, I’m ready. Would it be possible to look at instead of the 18 hour option, doing the 24 hour option instead? I too have had residents email me saying we’ve done a good job.
Anguish: I could include this, yes. The key point in the report we delivered on Tuesday is that this has to be negotiated, and we need direction by May, and then we start haggling and equipment needs to be re-ordered, it could be risky. I’m not trying to derail this, but there is risk. But yes, we will look at 24 hours and include it.
M/S – Vote – Aye – Lovelace, Mancini, Mason, Smith, Cleary, Morse, Cuttell, Stoddard – Nay – Blackburn, Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee, Kent, Purdy, Austin, Savage – Does not pass, no briefing note
Russell: Main motion, back to Stoddard.
Stoddard: I would like TPW to revisit the missing sidewalk on St. Margarets Bay Road. I have seniors and physically challenged people who need the sidewalk to work in this area. There’s a trail available, but it’s rough and not maintained, I don’t think they should be forced to use it. We need compassion, and the optics of it are bad.
Russell: Is this a motion for a briefing note? I’m not sure what you’re requesting.
Stoddard: I’m not sure either.
Traves: I think it’s a briefing note for the ‘parking lot’.
Stoddard: Yes, what he said.
Russell: Do we want to wait a couple of minutes to see the motion?
Anguish: If it helps, we’re aware of this segment. This one requires design work, there’s a ditch. This is in the overlay program to be fixed within 2-4 years. As a budget item for this year, it can’t be done in this cycle because of the design work. It will happen in the current overlay program in the 2022/23 timeframe.
Outhit: If staff is saying it’s in the plan and the planning can’t be done this year it might be moot. I don’t want to vote against it, but it may be worth considering withdrawing it? If staff say it can’t be done there’s no sense putting in it the ‘parking lot’.
Stoddard: If we have a surplus I think it’s pretty important. It’s been on the books for a long time, it’s time that it gets the attention it needs.
Outhit: No one’s suggesting it isn’t important, if staff say they don’t have time, then the money wouldn’t matter, I’ll get Anguish to confirm.
Anguish: We could not design and construct this sidewalk this construction season.
Cleary: I appreciate Stoddard’s chutzpah. We all have sidewalk issues and there’s a process. I’m going to vote against the motion because we have a process to deal with it and I have sidewalks in this process. If we just insert ourselves into this process then we circumvent our evidence-based decision making and would politicize sidewalks, and we shouldn’t be prioritizing sidewalks. I respect what she’s doing, I would do the same without the process, but I trust the process.
Russell: Is the text of the motion correct in the chat?
Austin: I largely agree with Cleary on this one, I won’t be able to vote for this which is a shame for a new colleague who hasn’t really asked for anything yet. I also trust the process, this is more for conversations for the lead to the budget than in the budget process itself.
Traves: Council has finalized the capital budget already, so we’d have to amend the budget. It’s not impossible, but it’d require wrangling
Austin: Point of Order- As much as I’m going to vote against it, capital items in the ‘parking lot’ will still be voted on, right?
Kent: I want to find a way to support Stoddard’s efforts, Anguish, can it not be done because of money? Priorities?
Anguish: It’s because the work hasn’t yet started on this piece. If we advance this right now we’ll pave it, then tear it up and pave it again in a couple years and it’s not efficient. It will have to be designed and will be coming up in the program but if you gave me $1 million dollars tomorrow I couldn’t do it this year.
Kent: If it’s physically not possible can we get a commitment from you to help her communicate what’s happening and figure out if there’s a safety issue?
Mason: My ask to you is withdraw the motion with this new information. We’ve also been trying for years to remove ourselves from the process of improvements. Most of the people in the HRM believe that their street is the most important street in the HRM for traffic calming and they are not right. And a lot of them live in my district. We’ve been doing traffic calming for years and the first one in district 7 is this year because most of my streets don’t actually need it. The over developed wide streets in the suburbs are more dangerous so they need it first. We can change the inputs in the process, but we need the process.
Stoddard: I think with this new information I’ll withdraw at this time, but would like staff to work with me to communicate to residents because they’ve been trying to get this for 8-10 years.
Mason: Question on the main motion. Question on the main motion. Question on the main motion. Question on the main motion, right now.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous
Councillor Paul Russell, Chair (District 15)
Deputy Mayor Tim Outhit (District 16)
Councillor Kathy Deagle-Gammon (District 1)
Councillor David Hendsbee (District 2)
Councillor Becky Kent (District 3)
Councillor Trish Purdy (District 4)
Councillor Sam Austin (District 5)
Councillor Tony Mancini (District 6)
Councillor Waye Mason (District 7)
Councillor Lindell Smith (District 8)
Councillor Shawn Cleary (District 9)
Councillor Kathryn Morse (District 10)
Councillor Patty Cuttell (District 11)
Councillor Iona Stoddard (District 12)
Councillor Pam Lovelace (District 13)
Councillor Lisa Blackburn (District 14)
N/A – COVID
Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:
A former Naval Officer turned journalist, Matt Stickland is committed to empowering his community to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their city a better place.
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