Sunday, 2 October 2011

RE: EMERGENCY PIER LIGHTING REPLACEMENT

This was an interesting exercise in priority setting, fiscal management, and decision making none of which were particularly well done.

In short, Council was told the pier lighting was in such bad shape it was a safety hazard. Moreover, if they didn't want to lose a large(?) government grant, they had to get the work done before October 31st.

From reading the report , one would have thought the grant was about $100,000 and from Council's discussion it was evident that was what they thought.. Fortunately, the Director of Finance, seeing where Council was going with it, pointed out that in fact, the grant was not $100,000 but was actually $30,000.

While not mentioned in the report or during the discussion , except as a comment by the Mayor, the arches were never intended to be up year round. They were erected as a temporary Christmas decoration , were put up annually the first week in December, and were taken down at the end of January. Unfortunately, somebody made a bad decision to keep them up year round a couple of years ago, and not surprisingly the lights corroded . If you look at them it is obvious they were meant to be temporary, and on  a nice summer day they are singularly unattractive and detract from the appearance and heritage nature of the pier.

In their panic to deal with the crisis, Council managed to entirely bypass the fundamental question of whether they need to permanently replace the temporary arches with very expensive (around $300,000)  specially designed arches or simply go back to the light poles which  have been there for more than 30 years. There is no question that the poles had to be replaced. Thirty years (plus) in a marine environment would necessitate that. The option of replacing the poles alone would have cost about $100,000 (a lot less than the $415,000 they decided on) and would have been eligible for the grant. But that option was not even looked at. Moreover,  the corrosion didn't just happen in the past couple of weeks - this was a problem that should have been foreseen and should not have been dealt with in crisis mode.

Instead, Council allowed themselves to be stampeded into making  a hasty decision to replace temporary arches with permanent ones. They were able to keep the  $30,000 Federal grant, but spent $385,000 of the taxpayers' dollars to do so. A poor financial decision by anybody's standard. 

It is precisely this lack of financial acuity that can eventually put the City into a position where we are no longer financially self-sustaining and must join Surrey. That's not a situation I want to see develop, because...


"White Rock Matters".


4 comments:

  1. Wayne, has the project to spend $400K on the lights been approved? Is it too late to reverse it?

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  2. Rob, Yes it was approved. The Mayor can bring it back for reconsideration as long as the staff have not acted on it. But I suspect it would have been started because they were trying to beat an October 31st deadline for the grant. So no hope for reconsideration.

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  3. Rob, I spoke too soon. Upon re-checking the legislation I found it has changed in the last little while. The Mayor can bring it back for reconsideration within 30 days. So the restriction about doing work on it is no more. I will suggest that to her, but she usually does not get much support. Still worth a try though.

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  4. Thanks for checking Wayne. Perhaps she can make some noise about it and stop the madness.
    We already have "Da Bears" as one former mayor's legacy. Surely Catherine won't want a mocking legacy of her own...

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