City councillors have agreed to spend more than $300,000 on extending a handful of services to try to keep downtown safe and clean.
During an in-camera meeting on Monday, councillors approved extending a range of services currently provided by the city until the end of the year as well as adding more staff members. The additional expenditures will cost the city $301,000 and are part of the city’s closure plan for Discontent City, according to Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay.
The initiatives extended until the end of the year include needle pickup, downtown security and garbage pickup, which will now occur six times a week.
There will also be extra staff. Council, as part increasing service levels, has agreed to hire one additional security guard, one additional downtown cleaner and one additional individual responsible for needle pickups.
The costs associated with those initiatives are $190,800.
Meanwhile, park custodian hours have also increased to allow for a least five full-time workers to work night shifts and one full-time worker to work during the day for the rest of the year. That will cost taxpayers $90,000.
Three park auxiliary workers, who are currently seasonal employees whose positions were to be eliminated at the end of November, have also been made full-time for the month of December for a cost $21,000.
The B.C. Supreme Court recently granted the City of Nanaimo an injunction against Discontent City, an illegal tent city located at 1 Port Dr. The camp is expected be shut down by Oct. 12.
Coun. Gord Fuller said he’s generally pleased with the extended services. He said the services combined with the impending closure of Discontent City will come at a “considerable” cost but doesn’t know what that cost will be.
McKay said the increased service levels were needed, calling it a “real good start.” He said it is hard to predict what additional services might be needed following Discontent City’s closure and beyond December.
“We won’t know until we know,” he said. “That’s what it boils down to.
However, one thing is clear, occupants of Discontent City will not be welcome to camp on the lawn at city hall according to McKay.
“We are not going to be welcoming to anybody on city hall property,” he said.
Costs associated with Discontent City have exceeded $130,000 since the camp first formed in May.