Editors Note: Updated on 01/24/2016 to make some changes, grammar/spelling and introduce some more lines of content to add clarification
– EIRP Program reinstatement
– The EIRP program was introduced in order to reduce the amount of infrastructure deficit that the City had under its belt. Every city has a deficit and many have followed Thunder Bay’s lead in reducing this through a designated tax allotment of between 1 – 1.5%. We have seen much progress towards reducing the infrastructure deficit with the Thunder Bay plan. We saw the negatives associated with it last year when council and administration decided to defer the program. Road projects were delayed, scrapped or seen their scope reduced in size. I want this program to return and start to invest in the Infrastructure that the City of Thunder Bay needs. Many projects have been put off for years and we need to see them finished; every year delays means a huge increase in the cost in the next year. I would like to see a change where the program focuses on more complete projects for example: when your ripping up a road your changing the sewers, storm sewers, internet lines, roadbed, sidewalks, beautification and then the resurfacing. These total projects get the most amount for the money when we look at these projects. It also avoids the issue of ripping up roads only to redo it a couple years later for sewer or water issues.
– Transit Operational funds/pilot project/transit land use
– Transit is one the of the best ways to get more for your infrastructure dollar and help to improve the environment. Thunder Bay is a very large city with very low density which means that it takes more money to provide a reliable service to Thunder Bay transit users. I would like to see more money allocated to Thunder Bay transit in order to help make the system run better and improve the way it operates. A more reliable services means more people will use it and create a cycle of use.
– Transit A) Thunder Bay transit uses a lot of fuel and per person it takes on average 6 people on the bus in order for it to be environmentally neutral. Thunder Bay also has very high cost associated with fuel which means that City of Thunder Bay operations can be negatively impacted quite heavily by rate hikes. Thunder Bay transit alone spends $44,000 for every penny that the cost of a litre of diesel goes up which steals money from the service as a whole. I would like to see Thunder Bay Transit run a pilot project on electric buses in order to reduce this cost. While they have a higher initial price cost the savings in the end in diesel will more than make up for the cost.
– Transit C) Thunder Bay has a very low density meaning that it has to stretch farther and work harder to get people to ride these service. Working with the planning department the City should work to create reduced tax zones around transit routes which would be available for high ride, medium rise and higher density buildings. These people would be more likely to take transit and would increase the ridership numbers for Thunder Bay. It would also increase city density and reduce the cost to the city’s infrastructure.
– Sports Assets
– The City of Thunder Bay needs to commission a report on how it can be improving, replace or eliminate some of its venues like baseball diamonds, arenas and other sporting venues it operates. Many of the rinks for example are built to 1960’s standards, standalone facilities, are extremely cost ineffective and don’t meet the needs of their users. Grandview and Neebing arena are too small, costly and don’t meet the needs of its users. A 2006 report on city venues recommended these 2 for closure and replacement as they were costing the city almost $1 million dollars between the 2 of them. We need to see venues are that are more flexible to the needs of the residents, meet accessibility needs and work with city growth into future. Looking to other cities like Orillia where their venues are multipurpose. The rotary club has 2 sheets of ice, space for a resturaunt and other related shops but it also has attached on the land other sporting facilities to act as a draw. If the ice is down then the sports field bring in people to keep the facility active and full of life.
– Consumption Tax:
– We have all hear people say “I don’t use that facility why should my taxes go up in order to pay for that service” etc. etc. They are in some means right why should they pay the full cost of a service which they neither use or benefit from. Someone out in McIntrye doesn’t likely benefit from an improvement to a ball diamond in Westfort and someone in Neebing doesn’t benefit from a rink improvement in Grandview. I believe that the people who get the most benefit out of a venue or an asset that the city owns should pay for it repair and operations. While there is the cost to rent the venue it doesn’t pay for it annual costs. I believe that the city should implement consumption tax to help with repairs. For example, a rink rental is roughly $200, we would reduce this price by 5% on the operational side of the budget. This would leave the cost to rent ice at $190 and if we were to use the consumption tax of 15% this would bring it to $218.5 of which $28.5 would be directly saved for that venue. The cost would bring down revenues to the operational city budget but reduce the capital city budget by 10% more than loss of revenues. Which would be a positive for the city budget to reduce capital costs. This concept of adding money to these specific venues will reduce the capital cost at these specific venues and they would free up money for other venues that maybe are not as often used. If the city rink runs 6 am – 11:59 pm which is 18 hours a day and the rate of $28.5 I saved up per hour. After a day of use the consumption tax has added $513 ($28.5 x 18) and a month they add $15,390 ($513 x 30). Which means every 2 months they make enough money to purchase a new scoreboard and the $185,000 a year the tax generates for the venue goes into much needed repairs and upgrades.
– Electric power:
– The City of Thunder Bay through Thunder Bay Hydro have invested a lot of money into solar power production. Yet, the city itself still relies on traditional gas/diesel engines to power its fleet of vehicles. Not every vehicle needs to be electric but it would be a good investment for the city too look at green vehicles and introducing them to the fleet. Introducing charging stations in parkades, city sites, parks and other items to increase their use by the public. The money saved through electric vehicles reduced non-renewable energy resource consumption would be huge and provide the savings necessary for the city to reinvest in other items. Many charging stations have a small cost associated with their use and this can lead to revenue for these items but it also allows people who may be considering green vehicles more peace of mind when it comes to the purchase of environmentally friendly vehicles.
– By law Enforcement Officers:
– If you knew that come 4:30 pm Monday to Friday, you wouldn’t get a ticket for parking illegally; would you pay? Most people likely wouldn’t and most likely don’t. We need additional parking enforcement and bylaw enforcement to make sure that the city is getting as much revenue as it can from these infractions and fines. It’s not acceptable to have the city unregulated come a certain time because you don’t want to pay people to do a job. The revenues from the tickets would be much greater than the cost and would keep people honest. Businesses in the downtown cores rely on available parking for customers and we cannot have people sitting for hours in specific spots. We also need more bylaw enforcement officers to reduce the amount of time police are spending with silly items like noise complaints, parking, clutter and more. A bylaw officer is paid less than an average police officer and they are better suited to be dealing with these issues. Additional bylaw enforcement officers means more revenue, you free up police officers reducing OT and provide a better service to the city. On that note the city ticket office also needs to stop being so lenient when it comes to traffic tickets and who pays/doesn’t. More often than not tickets were reduced or eliminated by people working the ticket booth. Accidents happen where it is the mistake of the ticket writer, clerical errors and more. We need to hold people accountable for their actions; what’s the point of writing tickets if they get ripped up. If $1000 worth of tickets walks out the door every day because you’re being nice that works out to $365,000 annually. Its unacceptable to be paying people to do a job and not benefit from the proceeds of these tickets. These funds could be used to pay for new services or maintain the ones we have.
– Road Expansion:
– The City of Thunder Bay is a very vast and large landscape meaning the cost of delivering service, infrastructure renewal and more is greater. One item that has come to mind is how the City has been so prudent on expanding exterior roads making it easier for suburban drivers to get around. The people who want the joys of the city life but also the joys of living rural. We cannot afford to continue these policies of expansion outwards and providing additional vehicle capacity on rural roads. Valley road is just one example of a suburban road that was expanded to meet capacity which is helping to promote suburban living. The additional road use is coming from people who are living in newly developed residential out on the edges. This is neither beneficial environmentally, tax wise or smart city planning. We need to do better than this and build our city up rather than out. Urban density and renewal allows us to build on the existing infrastructure that we have and bring in additional revenue. I applaud the city for allowing in late 2015 a project to advance that would eliminate a single house and replace it with a much larger house on the site. The difference in tax revenue is around $15,000 and only benefits the city as it sits on existing infrastructure.
– Residential Development in the burbs:
– While there may not be large chunks of land in Thunder Bay established that can handle new subdivisions we need to be doing a better job to reduce the amount we are allowing expansion into forested and swampland. Northwood is one example of city planning gone bad, we continue to develop into a swampland which helps mitigate floods, collects runoff and promotes wildlife. Yet, we wonder why these areas get so badly hit in storms and then also end up spending millions upon millions for flood reduction and mitigation. Smarter city planning is a must. Looking to other cities and planning we need to try and find ways to make higher density structures and planning easier to process and easier to get through the approval process. If that means they are assigned priority or we create incentives for these projects then we need to do that.
– Conservatory expansion:
– Recently a story came out that the city put the conservatory on its list of projects for the Canada 150-year birthday fund. I must say that I instantly face palmed at this news, the conservatory use numbers is very limited due to its poor hours, lack of maintenance and general issues. The city recently installed a counter to determine how many people are coming to this site and how well it is being used. That money should be held onto if it is given to the city in order to determine if this facility is something we want to hold onto. If a viable business plan can be brought forward with this new building to market the facility, have it become as revenue neutral as possible and meet more citizens needs then we need to do that. If we can’t then this facility needs to be looked at for the cutting block. Its been years since I have personally been to the conservatory but I must admit its a very beautiful site. We have allowed it to degrade to a point where the costs may be prohibitive to continue and operate it.
Editors Note: I must give credit where it is due. There is a citizens action group that has worked very hard to make this facility a more enjoyable and prosperous place along with a lot of city workers. I commend them for this action.
– I would love for the city to keep everything and do everything but unfortunately we can’t so we as a city need to have the discussion on what we can and can’t do. We have assets that we don’t need and we have assets that we cannot afford anymore. We need city hall to look at its assets and make the tough decision to cut items. It will not be politically easy and it will not be clean but we need to make these decisions. I would much rather have the city offer 4 services it does exceptionally well rather than 10 it does mediocre to ok. Items like campground are in my mind not a city service we should be in. That is something that can be offered by the private service and done for a profit. If we can shed some of these items that are on the fringes of city services then we should and reinvest that money in things we are already doing great on.
– Lack of Technology use:
– We live in an age where there is so much technology available that we could save the city millions by doing this more effectively. I am no expert at snow plow operations but we have all seen how a sidewalk plow pass and clean off the sidewalks only to have the road plow come an hour later and undo all his good work. Doing a job twice doesn’t make any sense, doesn’t help productivity and burns money. If we were using more effective tracking services, we could know that Section A is done its good for the sidewalk plows to go through and they won’t have to come back to clear it off again. Or Section C is still a work in progress hold off the sidewalk plows till they are able to finish. Crews could be on the road and receive information on storm sewer work or other work that needs to be fixed with the right technology we could have these crews provide up to the minute updates, do their paperwork in their vehicle and then onto the next call without ever having to come to the office. We need to invest and the workers/admin need to get on board with these changes. Instant communication between the boss and the employees on work that is being done. This could then be passed on to citizens and provide a more transparent and open government. The Government of Ontario has started a program to introduce tracking for snow plows so citizens know when and were they are on the roads. We need more opportunities to improve all our city operations by introducing the right technology in the right hands.