Budget Committee, March 31, 2021
Meeting recap (the important stuff):
Budget Committee passed the $32.7 million Department of Parks and Recreation budget today. In her presentation, Executive Director of Parks and Recreation Denise Schofield said that COVID had a big impact on revenues, but overall councillors praised her department’s ability to change and adapt to fluid public health guidelines.
Almost all of the additional budget requests presented by Parks and Rec passed because they are predominantly one-time expenditures that can be covered by things like the larger share of the gas tax the city is receiving this year. Councillor Outhit moved that they add $600,000 for the city to put on events in the two downtown cores, Dartmouth and Halifax, as well as $150,000 in grants to give to community events. They were joined into one motion and passed unanimously, so they’ll be re-debated in the budget ‘parking lot’.
Mayor Savage put forward a motion to add $250,000 for the Discover Halifax recovery plan, which was pitched to council as the start of the meeting by member of the public and president of Discover Halifax Ross Jeffer. It also was added to the budget ‘parking lot’ by unanimous vote.
The HRM operates seven big multi-purpose recreation facilities, and due to COVID restrictions they are facing a $1.7 million shortfall. Historically these facilities have operated at a loss and council just picked up the tab at the end of the year. But a few years ago they were required to have their budget shortfalls be presented to the Budget Committee as part of the budget process to increase transparency of city spending. The Budget Committee added the shortfalls to the budget ‘parking lot’, with every councillor voting for except for Councillor Cleary who was absent for the vote. As part of this discussion Councillor Cuttell wanted a breakdown of how the city spends its money on the other rec facilities that aren’t the big seven. That passed unanimously, so a briefing note will come back to the Budget Committee.
The committee also decided to kick in for a public art piece at Queen’s Marque to the tune of $125,000, pending final approval in the ‘parking lot’ fight. It was supported by everyone, although Councillor Blackburn’s vote, if cast, didn’t appear to be recorded. Mayor Savage supported it by saying the pandemic was a hard time for a lot of people, including multi-million dollar waterfront developments. The “impactful” art piece will look like this (which on a personal note, if this is impactful art, it’s possible I just don’t get art?).
While most of the committee decided to not pass the other budget overs since it’s likely they’ll be funded through other means, Councillor Russell felt it was important to add the multi-service youth centre, a.k.a. ‘The Den,’ to the ‘parking lot’ list. He said even though it’s likely to be funded and a report is pending, the service is needed in the community and should be added to the budget since it’d be an ongoing funding commitment. That also passed unanimously.
Who said what (paraphrased):
Russell: First up, public speakers, you each have five minutes!
Karen McKendry: I’d like to speak about the Parks and Rec budget, I’ve been following the strategic priorities and how they fit into the budget. I want to talk about the strategic priorities as it relates to acquiring parks. We know the strategic priorities. A major way to meet these priorities is to expand our parks. Parks are only talked about in strategic planning as community building, not the environmental benefits. All of the key performance indicators for parks are related to community building, not environments. Regional parks are supposed to be eco-local as well, according to the city’s planning documents. How can you see if the parks are contributing to the environmental benefits if there’s no tracking of it? If it’s not in the budget? This year only Blue Mountain is listed as a priority for park acquisition, why only the one? If acquiring parks is a priority, where is it in the budget? If staff needs more resources to acquire parks is it in the budget? How do you determine the amount for park land acquisition? And how do you measure progress to these priorities?
Russell: This is not a question and answer, it’s to give your opinions, that’s the role of councillors. If you have these questions you should forward them to us to make sure your questions are answered. (Geez, no wonder people don’t like calling in, if the chair just slaps ‘em around.)
Ross Jeffer: I’m the president of Discover Halifax, I want to speak in favour of special support to event planning. We’ve been working closely with the tourism industry to help received from COVID. Tourism contributes $1.3 billion annually in direct spending. We’re expecting serious losses this year which means people lose jobs and the city receives less taxes. To mitigate this we have a COVID recovery plan. A lot of our financing comes from hotel levies, we get 60 per cent of that levy. The revenue from the levy will be reduced by 85 per cent, which means we get $2.2 million less, and the event funding reserve loses $1.3 million. The money in the Parks budget will help offset that.
Mancini: Good to see you Ross, we all know how tough it’s been for the tourism industry, could you speak to the opportunity that’s in front of us with the vaccine? The film industry has been booming here because we’ve been doing a good job with this.
Jeffer: We’ve been pretty well off, our economy has been outperforming other economies, but the tourism industry is the other way around. The protections to keep us safe have hindered tourism. Urban centres are impacted more than rural areas, camping is up, for example. We do understand that the health crisis is still ongoing. But we’re forecasting vaccinations will be done sooner than expected. We’re not trying to expedite opening, but we’re trying to make sure we’re ready when it’s safe, so we can get pole position (if you don’t know what this means you absolutely must watch F1 Drive to Survive, it’s amazing).
Russell: Any other questions of clarification? (Is “tell me about the opportunities” a clarification?)
Kellie Allen: I live in HRM 13 and I’m a director for Roots and Boots. Lovelace is doing a good job, and the Adventure Earth outdoor program is doing well. COVID has put strain on budgets, and while I agree with your general plan, I think we need to put more emphasis on outdoor education for youth. Some of our best memories from childhood happened outside. I get the subsidy for St. Margarets Bay during these difficult times, but there might be an alternative. Programs like Roots and Boots have a low cost and foster an attitude of stewardship of the outdoors in children. Outdoor play education is valuable and teaches many valuable skills. It might not seem like it could be year round, but there are winterizations. We had to move parks because there weren’t bathrooms in the one we were using, and now we don’t qualify for municipal money because we had to move to a provincial park. Why not buy parks that we could use instead of building high cost playgrounds that aren’t well used. Rather than maintaining equipment or fields, why not invest in budget friendly outdoor programs. We don’t need much, just permits.
Lovelace: Thrilled with the work you’ve been doing. I think it’s important to highlight the lack of washroom facilities (someone call Lezlie Lowe) without a washroom you can’t stay all day, playgrounds are shorter stays. Are you limited in where you can operate because washrooms are only in provincial parks?
Allen: We’re very limited with washrooms, especially accessible washrooms. Sometimes our younger kids don’t give us a lot of lead time when they need to go. We use buckets in district one.
Wendy McDonald: Difficult to put recreation in a box or business unit. It’s many things to many people. Retention of trees is an important consideration when you’re moving forward across business units. We need to be designated as a bird friendly city, but I digress. We’ve had a new councillor in most of the last six elections. Studies have been done for HRM rec facilities, and we lack functional park land. We don’t have picnic tables or a gathering space. As we don’t have a community developer, it’s almost impossible for us to move forward with plans in the HRM. Indoor rec is bad unless you’re able to be a member of the Canada Games Centre. There’s no rec programming in school gyms. Volunteer community can’t do it all with limited resources, and we’re ageing out (and young people are taking second and third jobs instead of volunteering!) Age friendly communities are a theme I’d like to hear more about and something as simple as more benches would be helpful. We’d love to help, bring your team here to talk, it can be virtual. From an economic and business point of view, you’re excited about growth and young professionals, but they need places to play too.
Stoddard: Thank you for taking the time to speak today. I agree with many of your points. Canada Games Centre is expensive. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said.
Russell: This is for questions of clarification.
Colin May: My wife and I have lived in Dartmouth since 74, and we’re close to the Dartmouth Common, it’s been a big part of our lives. Over the years the number of bikes going through the common has gone up. Signs went up saying “no winter maintenance” but the entrances the cyclists use don’t have those signs. Which seems to mean pedestrians aren’t a priority but cyclists are. The Bicentennial School also got the same signs. The Charter says the Dartmouth Common must have public access for all, and safe and comfortable pedestrian access. I walk through the park at specific times to avoid cyclists who just fly through there without ringing their bell. I’d like to see the Parks department put signs up indicating that pedestrians have priority because that’s what the statute says. In the past years, a number of councillors have heard me talk about this at various committee meetings, but nothing’s happened
Austin: I’ve heard Colin and will be following up with him offline.
Russell: Presentation time!
Denise Schofield: We’re slightly different than other departments because major facilities have their own managers. They’re available to answer questions, but they’re not live. Here are some fun facts:
Schofield: The reason the seven facilities are in our budget is because a couple of years ago the change was made that they had to present their budget to council. COVID had a significant impact on everything we do. New tech has allowed us to do a lot of things efficiently, from refunds to contact tracing. It’s something we wouldn’t have been able to do without COVID. We changed our programming a lot. We’ve turned some of our facilities into foodbank pickups and COVID testing. We weren’t able to do our events in person so we switched to virtual. There are some pandemic changes we should keep post-pandemic. We have plans for economic growth (seems like a weird priority for Parks and Rec), there’s an opportunity for doing events in the downtown core, which could bring some vibrancy back to the core of the city. We are always working on park land acquisition. We’re bringing back the recreation fee bylaw to council. We were asked to do a review because our fees hadn’t gone up in a while, we delayed it due to COVID, so it’s not part of this budget, but will be coming this year. (I’m zoning out during this one, there’s something about hearing bureaucratic jargon being applied to playing outside that really numbs the brain) here are our key performance indicators:
Schofield: Here’s our budget:
Schofield: Our revenue is significantly impacted, 50 per cent down from last year. We expect it to come back this year, but not completely. We can’t offer full programming due to COVID restrictions. So our budget is up 4 per cent over June’s COVID budget. More numbers:
Schofield: Any deficit or surplus our facilities have goes to the HRM. Here’s our employee counts:
Schofield: Here are the changes in our budget:
Schofield: We expect arena revenues to rebound somewhat. We hope vaccinations mean we’ll get a rebound this fall. We’re not expecting the same amount of corporate sponsorship. One of the events that was delayed was the North American Indigenous Games, there are still plans to host the event, but no specifics yet, but we don’t expect it to be this fiscal year. Our budget is designed to absorb the hit of not getting back to pre-COVID levels. Our PPE costs are high because of the nature of what we do. Here are our budget unders:
Schofield: We don’t recommend cutting our student seasonal hiring, the other two would just be deferred until next year. Here are our overs:
Schofield: The $600,000 is for an event to get people back into the downtown core and encourage people to come here once the bubble opens. Our facilities require $1.7 million to break even this year. We don’t have the managers on this call live, but they’re available to answer questions, I also am available to answer questions.
Outhit: *Reads the motion for agenda item 5 as written* I don’t know how we want to proceed with this, but I have a bunch I’d put in the ‘parking lot’. Can we combine some of them so we’re not here all day? *Moves COVID and event recovery* I’m not big on increasing spending or increasing taxes, but sometimes you have to do what’s right. Sometimes there is a direct ROI and I’m happy to put these into the ‘parking lot’.
Mason: I support these, and these are good. There’s nothing on the over list I wouldn’t support, but how do we pay for it? Can we use the gas tax? This over list is almost exclusively one-time expenses, which are the ideal things to spend the gas tax and surpluses on. Is it redundant for us to debate this here when the gas tax report is coming?
Fraser: *Tech difficulties making her sound like she’s dancing with Lil Nas X*
Cleary: That’d be a great audio filter. I support this, as a combined motion or individual. It’s important that we support our business community and outdoor COVID safe events. There’s no group suffering more than those in hospitality and tourism (CITATION NEEDED). *Tech difficulties* – but it’s not the gas tax anymore it’s the infrastructure ‘something’. We should do whatever we can to help those suffering who need it the most.
Mancini: I also support this. Everything we can do to support these events should be encouraged.
Russell: This is a single motion for $750,000.
Savage: I was going to move these two and the Discover Halifax one. There’s not much we can do to specifically target businesses that are suffering. The inequities of COVID are one of the main things highlighted. The city thrives and lives with the downtown core. We had hotels in Halifax that were less than 15 per cent full last year. It’ll also help other industries like our musicians. Most of what Schofield is looking for are one-time asks. Fraser’ll come back in a month or so and tell us how we can fund some of these things.
Fraser: Is this better? (It is, she no longer sounds like a cartoon Satan.) There are a number of things that we’ll be looking at with how to fund. There are a number of things we’ll be looking at when we come back on April 20, but yes, there’s the possibility here.
Mason: Because they’re all one-offs we may want to put them all on the over list to be included in Fraser’s report.
Cuttell: This is really focused on the regional centre, which leaves out communities on the periphery that also have tourism, like the Passage. Is there a little flexibility in that fund to expand? In the overs, we also had a presentation by Neptune, is there a way to also support orginizations like Nepture which could help? Will those grants be available to support things like Neptune? And is there any way to expand the support outside of the regional centre and/or how the regional centre is defined?
Schofield: The event grant, that’s intended to support any events or orgs that apply, anywhere in the HRM. Events are being impacted differently because of COVID, and the $150,000 is for everyone in the HRM. The $600,000 is HRM putting on events, in downtown Dartmouth and Halifax, that would be higher if we moved it around the HRM. It’s cheaper to just set up and leave it there. We focused on the downtown cores because of the increased impact in the core because of a lack of tourism and people going into work. That’s across the country, downtown cores have been hit the hardest.
Cuttell: And access for funding to Neptune?
Schofield: It’s a different grant program, but we could decide today or through this process to do it, but there’s a staff report coming back. It’s unlikely Nepture would apply for this $150,000, but they could. They apply for the professional arts program.
Kent: Thanks Councillor Cuttell for the shoutout to the Passage. I’m all for supporting economic development opportunities. I appreciate the downtown core impact. Do we have information about what the impact is on the outside of downtown core? Woodlawn Commercial Area? Baker Drive? Passage? There are so many commercial areas that aren’t captured in this. This might not be a conversation today, but I’d like to know what the impact is. There are a lot of small businesses that operate out of their homes and have to go elsewhere to sell. I don’t want to lose track of the small business impact. It’s not as large scale as the downtown core, but they are being impacted. Halifax and Dartmouth downtowns are great, and I like the HRM doing the event. The $150,000 COVID grant, will it be restricted to only the outside of the downtown? Downtown is already getting the $600,000, can we reserver some of the money to non-downtown core? Is $150,000 even enough? $150,000 is not a lot, it won’t go very far, especially if all of the HRM can apply for that money. I’d consider amending that motion.
Schofield: I think some of that work is being done to figure out the full impact of COVID, outside of the downtown core. It’s an evolving situation. This funding is part of the discussion from a broader event recovery working group. There’s no limitations right now because it’s a work in progress, but you can structure it like that, but I would recommend flexibility. My recommendation is to make it as open as possible, but it’s up to you.
Austin: I feel I sit somewhere in between, we’re like a dense urban area instead of a downtown. We should think of this as a city building exercise. Our big selling point is that we are the big city experience in Atlantic Canada. We’re primarily going to be getting tourism from Atlantic Canada this year, we’re not going to get them to get here with stuff they can get at home (lighthouses, oceans, beaches, how banal). We’re the big city experience, and people when they come here might get lunch in Sackville (will they? I mean I love Sackville, but… will they?).
Russell: The question!
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous
Russell: Main motion.
Mancini: The Discovery Centre under, is that just for this year that we don’t pay for it? Was there a five year agreement for the Discovery Centre? The multi-district facility request, is that included in your budget? One of the assets that’s missing from the slide is our dirt pump tracks, we have to maintain them every year, but we don’t maintain them until later in the year, but they need it right after winter, can we do that?
Schofield: Discover Halifax has an agreement, but it’s contingent on the budget. It will have an impact, but each year the funding is pending council’s decision. The $1.5 million is included in our budget, but the $1.757 million is not. If you want them to break even without impacting their programming, that’s what it costs. If we recover faster we may not need the full subsidy, but based on current restrictions and our crystal ball, that’s the amount they’ll need to stay balanced. Bike pump tracks are considered bike tracks, right now they’re in that category.
Mancini: Is there a budget specifically for them or are they lumped in? People try and fix them on their own, which isn’t always great.
Schofield; We didn’t have staff to do the maintenance last year. With the climate changing and it getting nicer earlier we’re looking at how best to manage our personnel because sometimes they’re still on the snow plan even though spring has come early.
Savage: It’s not very often I see an over list and feel like I can approve them all. I’d like to move the Discover Halifax to the ‘parking lot’. I don’t think we need a briefing note since we got a report last month. We can’t push public health, but I’d rather be ready for events this summer and not be able to do them than be able to do events but not be ready.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous
Austin: Fee review, is there something in the budget for the amount? I assume there will be some budget impact. It’s political hot potato because there are winners and losers, even if it makes sense in the macro.
Schofield: We’re going to bring it back in 2022, to give people warning because there’s always a season starting.
Austin: Duly noted, difficult decisions to come. The One HRM membership, it makes no sense that you need individual memberships to each facility, where are we at?
Schofield: We have a number of things that need to be done. The enabling pieces, like the tech, are mostly in place. We jumped the gun in the past thinking it’d be easier than it is. But we now have most of the foundation done.
Austin: I’ll move the $1.7 million for the HRM facilities to the ‘parking lot’. I think we’re all aware of the impacts from COVID, they’ve all seen drops in revenue, and I think cuts are the last things they need.
Mason: Ditto, and also we have now instituted supporting MDFS and recognizing they need to be subsidized. I think this is more about accounting honesty. We either admit we might need to pay it, or just pay it on the back end. Things might be open by the end of June with the vaccine schedule, but I think this is a cost we have to bear.
Smith: Why do we have to add it to the ‘parking lot’ instead of having it in the main budget.
Schofield: Transparency, and if we put it in our budget we’d have to cut other areas. Because of the decision a couple of years ago these budgets have to come separately.
Smith: The previous subsidy column is the money we’ve already given?
Schofield: Yes, that was ‘normal’ operating, the $1.7 million is additional COVID expense.
Smith: Additional net new funds, what’s that?
Schofield: That’s just specifically which facilities require which amount.
Smith: The full amount is $3.2 million, but the $1.7 million is just the new funds?
Lovelace: When I look at the previous subsidies, is it an issue where year over year the St. Margarets Bay Community Centre isn’t sustainable? There are no HRM rec programs there. This year has been challenging. Where is the line of transparency with some of these facilities? Where is the business plan to make sure we’re not giving half a million dollars to an organization that could sustain itself?
Schofield: These facilities were designated as alternate service deliveries because the community is able to meet the needs better if they’re running it. But it’s our facility, if it needs a new roof, we’ll do it. These facilities used to run deficits, but we wouldn’t know. And some of them were adding for profit entities to break even, and we didn’t know. Recreation is something that is subsidized and won’t necessarily break even. We don’t need to account for some things in our buildings because other business units do it. In these facilities they need to pay for everything and then they need to come to council with these numbers, so you can decide if it’s something you want to be funding. The recreation business plan is a bit new though so we’re tweaking it but now we’re able to tell you what these facilities are doing. This is a transparency and accountability process for these facilities.
Lovelace: It’s pretty minimalistic, but I appreciate it.
Cuttell: The issue about these facilities is they’re kind of fuzzy. They’re HRM owned but community operated, it’s murky. We have a large number of these community run facilities, and they’re very important to the community. At the best of times there’s an inconsistency with the service delivery of these communities, they have different levels of capacity and ability. Is there something in the budget for facilities that agreements with the HRM in how we support them in adapting to COVID? These are important facilities in the HRM.
Schofield: The ones in the budget are not the community facilities. The other groups have agreements with the city, we’re modernizing their agreements and there is some funding. But there is funding.
Cuttell: Is there additional funding for COVID?
Schofield: Yes, some. They don’t have a huge ability to raise money. The amount of funding these facilities got last year was $2.4 million.
Cuttell: And that includes the seven big ones needing the $1.5 million?
Cuttell: How do I get more information on how specifically they’re funded? Do I need a motion?
Russell: Unless Schofield will do it without a motion.
Schofield: I think a motion is best for transparency.
Lovelace: I’d want it too.
Russell: We’re a motion within a motion, can we do this?
Outhit: I think you can send it to the ‘parking lot’ with a briefing note request.
Traves: I think that’d be easiest.
Lovelace: I’d second that.
Russell: What are you looking for?
Schofield: I think it’s a funding breakdown of all of our partner facilities.
Lovelace: I think breaking down the $2.5 million for the facility agreements would give us a better idea of what’s going on, on the ground, in our districts.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous – Motion within the motion for the funding breakdown passes
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Deagle-Gammon, Hendsbee, Kent, Purdy, Austin, Mancini, Mason, Smith, Morse, Cuttell, Stoddard, Lovelace, Blackburn, Russell, Outhit, Savage – Abstain – Cleary (absent from the vote) – Motion for briefing note on the $1.7 million for the seven multi-district facilities passes
*Break for lunch*
Blackburn: I have a question about ball fields. They’re a challenge every year, the Monday – Friday grooming schedule doesn’t line up with weekend tournaments.
Schofield: Prior to COVID additional staff were approved, but we didn’t hire them last year due to COVID. We’ll get them this year though.
Staff: Yes, we have plans to do more and better maintenance this year, especially during tournaments.
Lovelace: One of the things I’ve been struggling with is the public awareness of assets. We have some things, like the GIS tool. Public parks in subdivisions don’t belong to subdivisions, so anyone can use them. How do we raise awareness? How do we make complete parks that are accessible to everyone? Can we change our thinking to what a complete park looks like? Tomahawk Park couldn’t add stuff for younger family members because it was too close to another play structure. How can we add value for everyone who uses the park, not just one age group? Glenhaven Park was sold to the detriment of the community. When we do sell them, I hope there’s broader community outreach because the community was blindsided.
Schofield: For public awareness of assets, we’re updating the registry, Parks and Rec is a relatively new department, we’re only about five years old. So we’re working to update our asset list, social media can be a challenge, but also a benefit. We’re doing a bunch of things to get people aware of things that are in their backyard that they might not be aware of. What we call park standards, depending on the type of park, regional or community, has different standards or are focused on different things. We’re updating what those standards are though. The Glenhaven Park, I’m drawing a blank, but I think we sold it to a community group via Administrative Order 50. We bring it to council and council decides to do it, or not. We haven’t done that a whole lot, so we haven’t nailed down the process yet.
Lovelace: I think that’s part of the problem because it’s now owned by a private business, but each district should have an asset map.
Mason: The federal comparators from Parks aren’t in the budget. We’re funding Park and Rec to about half of the national average. (cough cough reallocate the police budget cough cough) It means we’re under funding these assets. The national comparators are important to me, as flawed as they are. The Discovery Centre, is that just cutting the full amount? People still need the money from these programs. I don’t support moving anything here that is requiring a staff report. Where did we leave the Queen’s Marque piece? We sent that away but I can’t remember what we asked for, pre-COVID?
Schofield: We moved away from the comparators because they were incomplete. The Discovery Center is aware of this potential, but they are struggling. Everything we do is valuable, so nothing is an easy selection, but it’s about giving you options. The Queen’s Marque piece, you directed that it’s part of this budget. So that’s why it’s on the over list, you directed us to consider it in the budget, so here it is.
Fraser: The comparing, the amount of work that was involved to include the data comparing budgets wasn’t worth it. It was a lot of work for non-scientific non-data. They’ve made some changes and we’ll look at it again to see if they’ve gotten better with their data. We’re also getting better at being able to do these benchmarks ourselves.
Russell: Hendsbee might have had to go to another meeting, are you here?
Hendsbee: I’m still in the other meeting.
Smith: Universal access piece, related to facilities outside of the HRM, like the YMCA. Are we calling it universal access?
Schofield: One membership.
Smith: One membership, can we get non-HRM partners into it? One of our busiest assets, like the Oval, did the online system do what we wanted it to do?
Schofield: The one membership, we’re talking with the Y about future plans and how can we partner better. We’re looking at expanding it but our initial focus is the HRM. We’re also looking at expanding our online booking. It’s in our future plans but it’s more important for us to get it work in the HRM first. The commons master plan, we were close to wrapping it up but got hit with COVID. We’re hoping to wrap it up this quarter so we can give it to you. The Oval wasn’t supposed to be a booked event, so hopefully we don’t have to do it in the future. But the biggest thing we learned was adjusting the booking times so not everyone was booking at the same time. We were thankful we had the software when COVID hit, otherwise we’d have been refunding people with cheques, and we could do contract tracing better. And we were able to adapt the software to meet our needs even though it wasn’t designed to deal with it.
Deagle-Gammon: There are so many strategies that are interconnected, how do you prioritize?
Schofield: A lot of what we do overlaps, either with strategies for us or because a lot of other departments do work for us. We have three main priorities, short, medium and long term. So we’re always working to make sure they align, instead of overlap. A lot of what we do is so interconnected we spend a lot of time trying to make sure we get it right so we don’t leave big gaps.
Deagle-Gammon: Rural recreation strategy, if it’s online, how do we get it to them if they’re in an internet desert?
Schofield: I’m calling a friend, Angela Green.
Angela Green: Rural rec strategy, we realize it’s challenging, we’re putting posters up with links or ways to connect to the survey. We’re also making paper copies of the survey available to be distributed by community groups. We’re also hoping that we can do it through councillor newsletters, and local newspapers.
Russell: The one membership model there’s a bit of an odd duck in the Sackville Sportsplex, it’s HRM owned and operated, would it be included? What about the other community facilities? What do you need to implement it? I’m happy to talk offline if that’s a better avenue. We have three items with a staff report coming but also budget overs. If we don’t approve the money at this point, where will the money come from? I’m interested in the multi-service youth centre.
Schofield: Sackville Sports Stadium used to be a community run centre but was brought back into the fold about 15 years ago. We’d include any of our facilities that operate like the seven major ones. We’re somewhat unique as a city because we have the community partner run facilities, so we have to manage that. For the staff report items, we would outline where the funding would come from in the report. I’ll defer to the CFO to make sure I’m not wrong but I don’t think it’s critical to move it forward today, but if you want to do it you could move it today.
CFO: If you vote for them now they go to the reserve to spent if approved.
Hendsbee: Can we have our boat launches removed from the definition of parks? Parks were closed due to COVID so they couldn’t go on their boats to their cottages. Bike parks, I have one that needs some TLC, I spent some district capital funds, but it might need a top up. Can we accelerate the gap between park planning and implementation?
Schofield: The bike paths, we didn’t have our seasonal staff last year. We have a plan for this year. Boat launches, I think that’s better offline because it sounds like a bylaw amendment to bring back to council. I think it had to do with how the provincial order and our bylaws interacted. Park plans, we’ve got a lot of parks we still need to do plans for. But we want to make sure we’re not getting rid of good parks for new parks. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. We’re looking at it for next year’s capital budget.
Mancini: I was going to bring up Gray Arena, but there’s a staff report coming back (make the neutral zone bigger, it suuuuuuuuuuuucks), so I’ll leave that. Thanks.
Schofield: It’s a planning report coming back, it’s planning and development, not me.
Cleary: I’m going to put an over in for the Queen’s Marque. I’m not sure how many people have looked at the report that came to us in September of last year. This is a small portion of the cost, and it’s by a world class artist on an amazing piece of land. I think it’s important to put it in the ‘parking lot’ and have a discussion about it. I don’t think we can forget and neglect our contribution to the public realm.
Mancini: Can I get a clarification, this is in your budget as an under? Is it not already in your budget that we can cut if we want?
Schofield: It’s the next page, the grant is on the unders page, this is for a specific piece of art.
Mancini: Thanks for the clarification.
Hendsbee: Don’t we have a public art policy? I thought the developer had to pay for it as part of their structure cost.
Schofield: This is to supplement the developer fund. It’s a very impactful piece, so to get such a well renowned piece they requested additional funding.
Savage: This is at a development that has $6 million in public art money, and this is cost shared. We have a public art policy. It’s a tough time for a lot of people including multi-million dollar waterfront developments, and I think it’s worth supporting.
Mason: The ideal for the public art policy was to commission public art since if you wait for people who have money to do it, then you only get a certain type of art. I think this is worth supporting.
Cuttell: Why is this in the Parks and Recreation budget? Is that where public art lives?
Schofield: Yes, it falls under culture and events, which is Parks and Rec. The report request came to us, so it’s in our budget.
Hendsbee: Where are we on the public art policy? If we have a public art fund, it should come from new development.
Schofield: We have a public art policy and we updated it last year. Getting money from development is tied to the regional plan work Denty’s team is doing. There is some additional legislative work that needs to happen, but I can’t remember exactly who needs to do the legislating.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Hendsbee, Kent, Purdy, Austin, Mancini, Mason, Smith, Cleary, Morse, Cuttell, Stoddard, Lovelace, Russell, Outhit, Deagle-Gammon, Savage – Abstain – Blackburn (absent from vote)
Cuttell: I know there’s been some negotiation about municipal assets on lands leased from the province, is there a backlog or work that needs to be? The rural rec strategy, is there going to be any opportunity for more stakeholder engagement? Is there an opportunity for councillors to have more input?
Schofield: The land lease report is being finalized, you should have it shortly. We’re always in negotiation with the province though. The city isn’t allowed to spend money on land we don’t own, so it’s about determining that if we have a long term lease it counts as ownership. Rural rec strategy survey, it launched today so it’s getting max coverage today. There will still be time for stakeholder and councillor engagement. COVID has changed how we do engagement, the survey is just the first part of it.
Cuttell: Provincial land lease report, are there financial implications for the backlog of maintenance on these properties?
Schofield: Yes, but it’s primarily capital.
Lovelace: With regard to some of the vandalism, I really appreciate the rapid response to complaints. Where does vandalism and safety fit into the budget? The washroom strategy is really important in providing the complete facility. Rail to trails, 32km, nowhere to pee. Tulips, horticulture adds beauty, but we had like 2000 tulip bulbs didn’t have a home to go to, are we being as efficient as we can with our planting. Universal design and implementing it, we need to do it.
Schofield: Environmental design, eyes on streets and eyes on parks, it reduces vandalism, and we have contracts to deal with graffiti, we have some in our budget, it depends on where it is. Washroom strategy, we have a lot of places to put washrooms. We need to upgrade the washrooms we have first, before building new ones. Tulip bulbs will get dried out if we don’t use them quickly, but I’m not aware of us having any bulbs we couldn’t use. The horticulture team loves flowers and uses all the flowers we get. Sometimes people try and donate flowers or bulbs, so that might have been it. Universal design, it’s absolutely something we’re implementing to standardize what we offer.
*Break for 15 mins*
Savage: A lot of these budget overs are one-timers, which is good. I don’t want to put forward any of the unders, I think they’re important. I’m supportive of the municipality being supportive of the art gallery, but it depends on the terms, so I want to see the report. I think we should wait on Neptune for the staff report.
Smith: The Legend booking software, the flexibility in the software, is that something we can do in house or do we have to go through the developer?
Schofield: All of the changes to Legend came from us. The developer will upgrade and add capability. But we do the implementation. And other cities are using it now too so we can do a knowledge swap.
Smith: So if Dal wants to join the one membership, do we add Dal to our Legend software, or are they buying Legend and integrating with us?
Scholfield: It’s the latter.
Smith: Are you aware of needing to purchase more licensing or DLC for Legend?
Schofield: No, we don’t think so. I’m not sure if it’ll last 30 years like our last method, but it’s a long term thing with no additional costs predicted.
Stoddard: My constituents are passionate about parks and trails, are there any steps to acquire the Blue Mountain Birch Cove trails?
Schofield: We’re negotiating but I don’t want to show our hand because it limits our negotiation power. We’re working on it, I can talk to you offline to give you specific details.
Stoddard: Dog parks and dog waste is an issue, there is going to dog waste pilot in our district, can you talk to me about that?
Ray Walsh: We’re doing a pilot project at the Mainland Common Dog Park, and it’s an inground unit that can hold quite a bit. We have some vendors in mind and are going through the procurement process to see who can take the poo out of the unit. Until then, it’s garbage cans and additional seasonal workers.
Russell: Do you have anything else?
Stoddard: I have time left? Canada Games Centre and their funding, are they just short because of COVID?
Schofield: It’s COVID.
Russell: The overs pending staff reports, I want to talk about them one at a time. At this point it’s easier to allocate the funds now so they’re available if we need them. The multi-service youth centre a.k.a. ‘the Den’. It’s a house at the Sackville Library, and by all accounts it was going incredibly well. It had all sorts of people helping, and youth with challenges would come in with challenges and help them sort through the issues they were having. It was suspended after a year, there was a re-start halfway through COVID, but then got put on hold again, and they’re looking at another soft re-start. We’re going to get a staff report back but I think it’s going to recommended that we continue it. I’d like to make a motion to move it to the ‘parking lot’, dependent on a staff report recommending it. It’s a worthwhile investment.
Mancini: What’s the advantage of putting it on the list now instead of waiting?
Russell: It means the money would be allocated as part of the budget. By incorporating it into the budget now we don’t need to find money for it in the future.
Austin: This is an operational thing and if we’re reasonably confident we want to continue with it, I think we should put it into the budget now. I’d put off the art gallery and Neptune thing because they’re one-offs. If the report comes back and says ‘surprise, it’s terrible,’ then it just becomes a surplus.
M/S/C – Vote – Aye – Unanimous
Russell: I’m back in the chair now, next on the list is Lovelace, on the main motion.
Lovelace: Distances with functional park land. We’re looking at regional centre and urban settlement, but where does rural fit? Urban settlement outside of the regional centre? Where does rural fit, functionally?
Schofield: We have good information on the urban areas, but we don’t have good information for rural areas, so we sometimes have to do more work for park standards and what’s an appropriate distance in rural areas. We need more information to better inform the spacing for rural areas.
Lovelace: Does the bed of a trail count as a built amenity?
Schofield: It can, it’s not always just playgrounds and sports fields, it’s trails and benches too.
Lovelace: These budget discussions are a wonderful learning opportunity.
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 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 Lisa Blackburn (District 14)
N/A – COVID
Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:
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