Council taking new public works facility to referendum on Oct. 28, 2018

Mayor warns councillors to avoid location debate and whispers of old armchair builders

The City of Quesnel council wants to replace the public works facility, and at its Nov. 28 meeting, discussed the pros and cons on when to take the project to referendum.

On Oct. 25, 2016, council passed a resolution that a referendum be held during the 2018 local government general election for the proposed new Public Works Facility (PWF) project.

City manager Byron Johnson asked council if it wanted to reaffirm the timing of this referendum to be put to the voters during the general election on Oct. 20, 2018.

During his report, Johnson said holding the referendum during the election would provide a larger turnout and it would save the city as much as $20,000 in costs of holding a separate one.

The city manager noted positive changes in the economic environment and the City’s ability to complete large capital projects on time and on, or under, budget could have an impact on the PWF project timing.

Mayor Bob Simpson reminded council it has approved the site location, as well as the overall design, for the proposed new PWF.

He said it’s important the public knows all of the processing mills are moving forward.

“Our foundational industry seems to have a long-term view of our community that they’re making those kinds of investments.”

He added there is more private and small business investments and major projects that are going provide jobs in Quesnel.

“However, I want to say to council and I want to be crystal clear on the record that we can undermine getting a yes or no by how we position ourselves around this project. “Location is not part of the referendum question. I don’t want to have any debate about location.

“But direction to staff, it has to be crystal clear what the process was that got us to that location in our community. We have to get that communication out so we can all point to it, so our communications clerk can insert it in conversations.

“So we need a piece – yes, we’ll look at the Canfor site; yes, we’ll look at the Fining site….

“The second piece is aged-out, tired armchair generals don’t get equal time with professionals who know today’s building code and what it is we’re trying to accomplish.

“For all of us, we get in that trap where someone whispers into our ear who used to be a builder back in the 1950s, knows how to price and tells us we can build it for $500,000, to slap up concrete and a dirt floor. Or come to us and say, ‘ya well if you bend the building code this way, then you can get away with not heating this and lighting that or that kind of electrical system.

“I ask this to come as a political decision to reaffirm. The people sitting at this table who are elected are the weak link in my estimation for actually getting an informed decision at the election in 2018 if we give in to the people who will second guess the project or take us back to “location.”

“So please keep that in mind when you re-affirm your vote today that let’s give our communication folk and our staff the ability to actually position this project properly and let’s not get in the way and become our own worst enemies….”

Council then voted to hold the funding referendum during the 2018 civic election and instructed staff to bring a revised cost estimate for the proposed new Public Works Facility, as well as a public engagement plan and budget, to a future regular council meeting.

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