Coming up at City Council: August 24-28, 2015

Council really hit the ground running on Monday with a big discussion on the Metro Line LRT. That topic looks set to dominate the news next week too, as Council discusses the City Auditor’s report on the delayed project. The other topic you’ll probably hear some grumbling about is the report on what to do with our city’s entrance signs. Replacing them could take two years and cost up to $2.5 million!

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Metro Line LRT

As it was last week, the biggest item before Council will no doubt be the Metro Line LRT. On Monday morning Council will start with a special Audit Committee meeting, to discuss the City Auditor’s report on the issue.

Metro Line LRT
Metro Line LRT testing on August 21, 2015 at 106 Avenue and 105 Street, photo by Sharon

There are some pretty shocking things in the report, including the fact that senior management at the City seemed to be completely in the dark about potential delays until late 2013, as Mayor Iveson wrote about. Delays in planning were identified as early as January 2010 and construction delays were identified as early as August 2010, but these delays were not adequately communicated.

One of the key issues identified was the decision in February 2010 to split the Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) signalling contract and the civil construction contract. This meant that the construction activities were not coordinated and that contributed greatly to the delays. On top of that, the contractors involved seem to have agreed to timelines that were unrealistic and unlikely to have been met even if everything else had gone smoothly.

In addition to identifying a number of lessons learned, the Auditor made three recommendations:

  • “That the General Manager of Transportation Services ensure that for all major projects consistent principles and methodologies of Contract Administration are adhered to including quality assurance and quality control activities.”
  • “That the General Manager of Transportation Services ensure that project roles, responsibilities, lines of communication, management of working relationships, and decision authority levels are clearly defined, assigned, and communicated for all major projects.”
  • “That the General Manager of Transportation Services in conjunction with Financial Services and Utilities’ and the Corporate Centre for Project Management staff develop a standard corporate reporting methodology for major capital projects which includes schedule, scope, and budget status as well as overall risk assessment and quality management.”

City Administration did accept all three recommendations. They’re still going to get grilled hard by Council though.

Entrance Signs

The other item I’m betting will have lots of Edmontonians talking is the update on our city’s entrance signs. I wrote about the history of our current entrance signs here and discussed some thoughts on how they should change here.

Edmonton Entrance Sign

As Council previous directed, all the “City of Champions” placards have been removed. So the signs just say “Welcome to Edmonton” now.

The report identifies four options for changing the signs, ranging from low cost to high cost:

  • Option 1 would range from $150,000 to $175,000 and would replace the existing signs and flower beds with an internally designed sign.
  • Option 2 would place a new facade on the existing sign base, which could be developed internally or externally. The cost could range from $500,000 to $600,000.
  • Option 3 would completely replace the signs with an open competition for the design of the new signs. The cost could range from $1.2 million to $2.5 million, and it could take up to two years for the project to be complete.
  • Option 4 is a hybrid recommendation, where some signs could be cheaper and others could be more expensive.

In part to facilitate construction of Anthony Henday Drive, some signs have been removed over the years, and the report says it could be an option to look at adding some of those back.

Where would the money come from? For option 1, existing operating budgets would be enough to cover it. For any other option, an increase of funding or a delay to other projects would be required.

Employees or External Consultants?

One of the reports on the Utility Committee meeting agenda compares the incremental cost of City employees to the cost of hiring consultants. Here’s the key table:

employee vs consultant
(CEA is the Consulting Engineers of Alberta)

As you can see, the hourly incremental rates for City employees range from 42-51% of the hourly rates for external consultants. The report states that based on the above comparison, “increasing internal capacity could be more cost effective than retaining external consultants.” But not in every case, apparently. “There are situations and specific value to retaining external consultants,” the report says.

The report concludes: “Drainage Services will continue to be vigilant in hiring internally while practicing due diligence when retaining external consultants.”

Jasper Place Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP)

The Jasper Place ARP, Bylaw 17260, is ready for three readings after the public hearing has been held. The ARP covers the neighbourhoods of Britannia Youngstown, Canora, Glenwood, and West Jasper Place, as well as portions of the Stony Plain Road BRZ. Developed over the past two and half years, the Jasper Place ARP “provides guidance on future land use and City investment in Jasper Place, and will help to guide change and growth over the next 15 to 20 years.”

In order for the ARP to become the established planning document for the area, the Britannia/Youngstown Neighbourhood Planning Study, the 100 Avenue Planning Study, and the September 1980 resolution known as “Newman’s Resolution” will all be repealed. Newman’s Resolution states:

“Whereas the large majority of home owners have previously expressed a strong desire to remain single family area, therefore, I move that the area from the lane west of 149 Street to the lane east of 156 Street between 95 Avenue and 100 Avenue remain RF-1, which is the equivalent zoning to what presently exists in the area.”

That’s Kenneth Newman, the last mayor of the Town of Jasper Place. When the town amalgamated with Edmonton in 1964, Newman was elected as an alderman. He retired in 1983. The park at 10802 150 Street is named after him.

jasper place arp

The Jasper Place area will eventually receive three new LRT stations as part of the Valley Line LRT, which provides a great opportunity for transit-oriented development. Other goals of the ARP include: “enhancing the Stony Plain Road commercial corridor as a vibrant, mixed use pedestrian shopping area”, “increasing housing choice by introducing more housing options”, and “providing adequate infrastructure now and in the future.”

Committee Recommendations & Bylaws

There are 11 committee reports on the agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting, including:

  • Community Services Committee recommends that $1.5 million be transferred to the Whitemud Equine Centre for arena replacement and rehabilitation work. Related to that, the committee recommends that the Whitemud Equine Learning Centre Association be allowed to seek facility naming rights.
  • Community Services Committee recommends that $1.8 million in funding be approved for the Fort Edmonton Park Catering Kitchen Project.
  • Executive Committee recommends that Edmonton’s Community Energy Transition Policy C585 be approved.
  • Transportation Committee recommends that the revised Capital Profile for LRT Escalator & Elevator Renewal be approved. This is not a change in funding, just in approach.

There are 28 bylaws on the agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting, most of which are for the closure of vehicular access. Others include:

  • Bylaw 17256 – To authorize the City of Edmonton to finance the Francis Winspear Centre for Music parking structure with up to $25 million.
  • Bylaw 17257 – To authorize the City of Edmonton to lend money to the Francis Winspear Centre for Music, which is necessary for the previous bylaw!
  • Bylaw 17154 – To rezone from RF1 to UCRH at 14035 and 14039 106 Avenue NW in Glenora to allow for the development of row housing. Interesting because there has been a lot of opposition to infill in Glenora.

Other interesting items

  • Three city networks – C40, ICLEI, and UCLG – have come together in a worldwide effort called the Compact of Mayors aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the impacts of climate change. According to a report on the issue, “The City of Edmonton is well-positioned to participate in this initiative.” Participation would not cost us anything, but a separate strategy coming forward during the 2016-2018 budget process would have funding requirements.
  • There’s a recommendation that Councillor Caterina be appointed as the City of Edmonton representative on the AUMA board.
  • There’s a pending motion from Councillor Henderson called Councillor Absence from Regular Council Meetings.
  • There are a bunch of private reports on the agenda for Tuesday, including: an update on Northlands, an Intergovernmental Update on the City Charter, and an update on LRT Advocacy. The report on the Communications Plan for LRT Funding has been delayed until Q1 2016.
  • On the agenda for Monday’s public hearing is an amendment to the Calgary Trail Land Use Study, “to close an undeveloped portion of the east side of Gateway Boulevard immediately between 34 Avenue NW and 38 Avenue NW and to rezone of the lands from (AG) Agricultural Zone to (CHY) Highway Corridor Zone.” This will allow for “the existing berm to be removed and the land to be developed for highway commercial uses.”

Wrap-up

You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

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