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City looks to ante up on utility upgrades over the next four years

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
May 31st, 2016

An investment of $24 million is expected to be poured into the city’s utilities over the next four years as municipal government made public its priorities in the City of Nelson’s Strategic Plan for 2015‐2018.

The plan — adopted over one week ago by city council — sets out the city’s direction and priorities for the next three years, including a big commitment to renewal of the assets of the city’s major utilities, albeit in a “cost effective manner.”

However, according to the plan, utility rate increases are expected to be kept to near inflationary increases despite the multi-million dollar price tag.

Those statements, and other goals, arose out of a strategic priorities workshop in October 2015 that identified the priorities of council for 2015-18 — and it was further refined before being adopted May 16, said city manager Kevin Cormack.

“We identified those high priorities (of council) and they are reflected in four areas,” he said.

The main areas include: enhance sustainability of city services and infrastructure; strengthen neighbourhoods; achieve excellence in city governance; and expand local jobs and local prosperity.

To implement the Strategic Plan and link it to departmental work plans, the city also developed an annual Business Plan priorities and budgets to identify the specific actions and resources required to carry out the identified goals and achievements.

The city’s Annual Report identifies progress toward meeting the goals of the Strategic Plan.

“City staff still has to do some work on the measures in terms of how to quantify them,” Cormack said.

The city will develop capital replacement plans for roads, sidewalks and facilities in the plan, including a sustainable funding strategy to renew these assets.

Another priority will be to develop a safe and adequate water supply, along with an emergency water supply system to make the community more resilient to drought events. In addition, the city is expected to develop a secondary source to supplement the Five Mile Creek water supply.

The city is targeting a reduction in water consumption in the city by 20 per cent while allowing for development in line with Official Community Plan targets.

The city will also continue to develop a Solar Farm for Nelson Hydro customers, and will develop alternative energy sources that may include district energy, hydro‐electric generation and/or co‐generation.

In strengthening neighbourhoods, the city will look to complete the Sustainable Neighbourhood Plan for Railtown and implement short‐term recommendations in the plan.

As well, city council will endeavour to complete the downtown public realm plan and implement short‐term recommendations.

There will be further movement regarding the development of the Nelson Landing and Kutenai Landing projects, including the identified amenity improvements.

The Hall Street corridor to the waterfront and a housing project at the Nelson and District Youth Centre will also be completed.

Council will “support the retention, expansion and attraction of business to strengthen Nelson’s economic base” by creating policies and incentives that encourage commercial development, revitalization and optimal use of industrial and commercial land.

In accordance with section 98 of the Community Charter, council must identify municipal objectives and measures that will be used in determining progress on meeting those objectives for both the current and next year.

The five-year financial plan includes the revenues and costs of implementing the strategic and business plans.

Now that it has been adopted by council, the Strategic Priorities will be made available on the city’s website.

Plastic or metal

The city is considering a slight change to its Fire Regulation and Prevention Bylaw to allow the city’s fire chief to accept design, materials and construction that may not meet BC Fire Code standards for marinas.

City council passed third reading on changes to the bylaw for the use of nonferrous (not metal) piping in standpipe systems for marinas.

The British Columbia Fire Code requires that all marinas, docks and wharfs where boats are moored or stored and are over 150 feet in length from fire apparatus location to end of dock must meet the standards that contend that plastic pipe is only allowed underwater, but where it rises out of the water it has to be metal.

There are currently two marinas and one wharf in the city that moor boats. The Kootenay Launch Club is comprised of about 80 boathouses privately owned by members of the club. The Prestige Marina is a privately owned and operated marina with numerous boats and a refilling station located just beyond the Prestige Hotel.

In 2014, former Fire Chief Simon Grypma wrote an order directing the two marinas to comply with the BC Fire Code and install metal standpipe systems.

In 2015, The Kootenay Launch Club complied with the order and installed a standpipe that met the fire code.

The city has installed a standpipe system on its wharf that meets the fire code. Earlier this year, the Prestige Marina approached the city to allow the installation of standpipe systems similar to those currently permitted in other jurisdictions such as Kelowna and Campbell River.

Those jurisdictions approve systems that, based on engineering reports, will perform equally as well but allow for easier installations and retrofit. The difference is largely about the use of steel pipe versus high-density polyethylene pipe (HDPE) for portions of the standpipe.

But the existing bylaw gave current Fire Chief Len MacCharles authority to enforce the code, not allow for the non-ferrous pipe.

“I felt it wasn’t something I wanted to do without council’s blessing,” he said.

The dock might not be able to support the correct type of pipe, said city manager Kevin Cormack.

“It might be quite difficult for the dock to manage a metal pipe system,” he said.

MacCharles said that, if it is adopted, there will be a need to have a fire protection engineer state that the existing pipe would operate the way it should in principle, and whether it would meet the code.

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