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Council in Focus: Two For One

Updated: Jan 26

Regular Council plus Committee of the Whole in one night

January 23, 2024 Edition

Event: Regular Council Meeting followed by Committee of the Whole (COW)

Time: Public meeting: 6 p.m.

Agenda: HERE and HERE

Video link: HERE

Present at the council table were Mayor Ken Berry, Councillors Neville Abbott, Jaime Cunliffe, Marcus Reuter and Michael Broughton, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Ross Blackwell, Public Works Manager (PWM) Karl Buhr and Financial Officer Joe Chirkoff and Municipal Coordinator Marina Blagodarov. For the COW meeting, Buhr joined via Zoom.

Regular Council Meeting

The regular meeting was posted for a 6 p.m. start, but the open, recorded portion of the meeting did not commence until 6:15 p.m. Poor video and sound transmission hampered online comprehension of the initial meeting, but this was later improved. There was one resident in the gallery, and 11 online.

Breaking with precedent, public participation was addressed first, and the closed portion of the meeting was moved to the end. As a result, several village residents tuned in via Zoom well after proceedings were underway.

Public Participation:

  • Kambiz Azgordegan restated his oft-voiced concerns regarding the formation of a parking committee and his request for the return of signage to the parking lot in lower Kelvin Grove. After some back and forth with Mayor Berry, Azgordegan was told his time was up and that he should make an appointment with staff, regarding these operational matters. Azgordegan insisted that he was entitled to more time. In response Berry called a recess and physically left the table. The issue was apparently resolved offline and the recording of the meeting resumed ten minutes later.

Adoption of Agenda:

The agenda was shortened by Councillor Broughton's withdrawal of a request for decision regarding the jetty at Lions Bay Beach Park (LBBP). The agenda was adopted with Broughton's changes, as well as the changes to the usual order of operations noted earlier.

Committee Reports:

  • Broughton brought forward a Lions Bay Beach Park (LBBP) Information Report (page 3), and provided a printed update to members of Council. He explained that in spite of costs increasing since the grant was offered, the province has declined to provide more funds. This means that some items in the original project will be dropped, including the jetty and beach remediation, due to increased costs.

  • Buhr offered an update on the jetty and beach remediation as a potential project. He said that after a meeting with Scott Christie of Foreshore Technologies, it's clear that the jetty will have to be demolished and rebuilt. He said Christie has promised an environmental report to show that there will be no impact on marine habitats, as nothing will essentially be changed. Buhr said Christie suggested that a pair of underwater attenuation berms could help minimize wave impact on the beach, and would mean that less yearly remediation would be required. He said that the berms would reduce erosion and the cost savings could mean the work would pay for itself in about eight years. He noted he's asked Christie to create a design, which would then become a project that could be offered to tender. Buhr says the estimated budget for the project is $100,000, but that some already budgeted items (such as the beach rock wall repair) may well be melded into the cost. There was some discussion about a kayak entry point that was directed back to the committee.

  • Returning to the LBBP project, on Blackwell's recommendation, Council put forward a motion to accept that the LBBP plan has been rescoped to include a new washroom, playground, covered pavilion, hardscaped seating area, landscape upgrades and a rebuilt kayak area. Reuter expressed concern that Council are being asked to support a project based on a written overview with no specific documentation. Blackwell noted that it is the job of staff to review the specifics on behalf of Council. Abbott said that he is prepared to take recommendations from staff, but this recommendation came not from staff but from the committee. The motion passed with Abbott and Reuter voting against. Blackwell noted staff do not have the capacity to manage this project and recommended a project manager be engaged. Broughton then brought forward a motion that staff offer a bid for tender of the rescoped LBBP improvement project. Following discussion of the increased costs, change of scope, availability of materials to council, the respective purviews of council vs. staff with regard to requests for proposals (RFPs) and approval from the granting authorities, the motion ultimately passed, with Reuter voting against.

Mayor and Council's Reports:

  • Berry submitted a report with regard to the first two meetings of the Lions Bay Parking Task Force (Page 5).

  • Berry submitted a second report with regard to the Lions Bay/TransLink Connector Task Force (Page 9). This was followed by discussion of whether the task force meetings should be publicized in the Village Update in future, and a motion was made to that effect, which passed.

At this point, a motion was made to move into the closed part of the regular meeting.

Committee of the Whole (COW) Meeting

Back in the public forum, Mayor Berry declared there was nothing to report out of the closed portion of the regular meeting, and it was officially adjourned.

Berry then welcomed everyone to the COW meeting, with the sole objective of addressing the draft budget. Before the agenda could be adopted there was considerable discussion as to the length of time and number of meetings required to tackle this task, as well as the best order to address the various topics, including the Utilities element. A suggestion was made that COW meetings be held on January 30 and Feb 6, 13 and 20 from 6-8 p.m. and to extend this evening's meeting for a further hour.

Discussion then turned to the budget, and began with Schedule A, (Page 3). For the remaining hour, discussion topics included:

  • Bottom line on draft budget is currently $5.2 million, with staff asking Council to prioritize the costs. To be balanced, this figure must be $0, with expenses being offset by a combination of taxation, grants and debt.

  • The definition of amortization. Established that Council have $1.1 million, if no further debt or tax is undertaken.

  • 2023 property tax increases in other local municipalities fall in the 7.6-9.5% range, with Lions Bay taxes having increased by 6%, with staff suggesting Council consider a similar increase (Page 6). Blackwell said it's cheaper for taxpayers in the long run to increase taxes than it is for the village to borrow and accrue debt interest against that borrowing.

  • A third of last year's provincial grant of just under $1 million was spent on paving, with the rest remaining in general surplus.

  • On page 7, there is a typo in note 14 regarding LBBP, which should read $1.07 million.

  • The general fund, projected to be $1.5 million (Page 9), is made up largely of salaries. (Some reference was made to Chirkoff's on-table materials, which gave more detail to councillors than was available to viewers online.)

  • Some anomalies arose due to the number of CAOs in 2023.

  • To Abbott's question, there have been no budget staffing level changes, but Chirkoff explained that past changes to vacation pay accrual were capped, but had to be paid out first. (Correction: After further query from Abbott, Blackwell acknowledged that there is a staffing increase request from one part time Administrative Assistant position (0.6 full time equivalent [FTE]) to a full time position. Blackwell further clarified his remarks via a phone call with The Watershed that as this position has effectively already been functioning as full time, they are asking that this position continue to be budgeted as full-time going forward.)

  • When discussion of payouts to CAO arose, Blackwell reminded Council of the sensitive nature of this information in an open meeting.

  • Descriptors of legal fees were identified as inaccurate, but apparently are not subject to correction in an open meeting.

  • Audit costs are going to be higher than the figures noted, with Chirkoff estimating the final costs will be about $120,000 in total. Reuter pointed out that this is triple last year's costs.

  • With regard to Public Works, some discussion arose of the difference between capital expenditures (building a new road) and maintenance costs (paving the road).

  • Speaking online, Buhr addressed the number of important projects looming this year, saying it is a chicken/egg situation, as he can't pull off managing them all. He says his priority this year is water and leakage, but there are other vital projects lined up. Again, he suggested a project manager for some of these other projects. He said this is considered an operational cost, and is a way to ensure more necessary projects are completed. Referencing the on-table information, staff report that through efficiencies they can cover almost all the costs (estimated at $75,000) of a new project manager.

And with that, time was called, and the meeting adjourned.

As of this writing, the next Committee of the Whole meeting is scheduled on the Village website calendar on February 6 at 6 p.m. As always, The Watershed welcomes your thoughts. Leave your comments below, or email us at 

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Norma Rodgers
Norma Rodgers

Congratulations kc! I don't know how you managed to document a meeting with such poor sound quality. I need your recap to fill in the parts I couldn't hear.

I am concerned about our village finances. The beach project was to be paid with a grant but now does not include the necessary $100,000 jetty due to rising costs, and taxpayers will be asked to cover it.

We will have to pay triple the amount of last year's audit fees, there were numerous budget item errors brought up in just one hour of last nights' discussion, and still no annual report that was due last June. This all indicates a lack of financial competence. In the past financial reports and…

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