After trying and failing to get a referendum on the issue in time for the last municipal election, the Prince Rupert City Council has decided take on the problem of replacing the city’s RCMP headquarters and fire hall.
This time there’s no deadline looming for a borrowing referendum so the city council wants to take its time with this one; making sure that residents understand the issue and have their say before the community commits to an expense that could run into millions of dollars
After an hour of intense debate on how best to proceed, the council decided to hold five special meetings of council throughout the spring to discuss the issue in detail. Each of the meetings will deal with a different aspect of the emergency building issue in detail, the idea being to give residents as much information as possible while giving people enough time to digest what they’ve heard and form an opinion.
Here’ are the dates and topics of each meeting: March 5 – Why are we considering this issue; April 2 – What are the advantages and disadvantages; May 7 – When does it need to be addressed; June 4 – How would the buildings be financed; June 18 – Where would it be located. All meetings are scheduled for 7:00 pm.
Public participation is what the council wants. Any scenario for replacing either or both of the aging emergency service buildings in the city will cost millions, and with kind of money on the table, the council says it wants as many informed opinions as it can get, not to mention that even borrowing the money for the project will require voter approval in the form of a referendum.
Ideas flew around the council chamber on how best to get as many residents as possible involved in the process. City staff – who originally came up with the idea to draw the issue out over the next four months – originally suggested that the special meetings be included as part of the council’s regular Committee of the Whole; a council meeting where residents can ask questions directly to the council members.
Public consultation meetings are poorly attended more often than not, with this in mind, staff saw the existing Council of the Whole meetings as a convenient way to give people a platform to give the opinions and ask questions about the project. This idea was scrapped in favour of stand-alone meetings because of concerns that it would make an already long council meeting even longer.
The exact details for how people will be able to participate in the meetings hasn’t been entirely hammered out yet. Meetings will start with a presentation on the night’s topic and there will be time for people to speak and ask questions. There was talk of a phone bank and email to take questions from residents not at the meeting. Council also want to have it televised like regular council meetings, streamed on the Internet and videos saved on the website for people’s future reference.
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