UPDATED: News and notes from City of North Vancouver council
City council voted unanimously Monday night for staff to draft a "sustainable and ethical" procurement policy that would, if passed, establish guidelines for who the city purchases its goods from.
The motion, brought forward by Coun. Craig Keating, was initially designed to restrict the city from using any of the $6.9 million allocated in its 2012-2021 engineering equipment project plan from purchasing products from Caterpillar Inc. or its subsidiaries in light of the company's decision to close its London, ON. plant for cheaper American pastures and leave 465 workers unemployed.
After advice from legal staff, however, Keating changed the wording of his motion to ensure it would avoid any prejudice toward a single firm.
"What they [Caterpillar Inc.] did was indefensible. But ultimately the new wording would catch Caterpillar and others," said Keating, in a phone interview.
Sustainable and ethical procurement, added Keating, should consider the social, environmental and economic aspects of every company the city does business with.
Lions Gate wastewater plant to get community treatment
Much has been said about the looming jump in local sewer utility fees as a result of a new Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant, slated for completion by 2020.
But a Metro Vancouver-led engagement and consultation process, outlined at Monday's council meeting, aims to give some voice to the community as plans for the plant begin to crystalize.
For the next year, Metro Vancouver will be involved in what it calls a "project definition" phase, wherein the regional body aims to consult with its engineering teams, local residents and third-party architects, amongst others, to provide input on design aspects of the new facility.
The crux of the process will be a public advisory committee, which, according to Metro Van staff, will be created later this year.
The committee will be comprised of three residents not directly affiliated with the project, three members from the North Shore's chambers of commerce, three representatives from local and regional environmental organizations and two people from the Norgate Park Community Association, the neighbourhood adjacent to the plant's new home two kilometres east of the Lions Gate Bridge. Currently the facility is located just west of the bridge, on Squamish Nation land.
Mayor Darrell Mussatto, chair of Metro Van's utilities commission, stressed the need for planning to begin immediately as "eight years will fly by."
"There are many things to consider like an odour containment strategy," said Mussatto.
"And the building of the plant will take six years."
As for funding the estimated $400-million project, Mussatto said he's scheduled to visit Victoria next week to begin discussing potential cost-sharing arrangements with the provincial government.
"We need to start the discussion on how to pay for this and we need federal and provincial help," said Mussatto.
"Four-hundred million is a big bill and the North Shore will foot the lion's share. But we want to work with the province. We want them to be part of this. We don't want this to be a fight."
Metro Vancouver has, in the past, discussed changing its funding formula by creating one blanket sewage area for the region, meaning all municipalities would be required to chip in equally for secondary treatment upgrades. No change to the current formula, however, has yet been made.
If both the federal and provincial government give money to the project, North Shore residents will still likely see their sewer fees rise to more than $500 per year by 2030. If senior levels of government provide no help, residents will be on the hook for more.
It was the federal government that established nationwide regulations on wastewater treatment plants, requiring all such facilities to provide secondary treatment of the water it handles prior to it being discharged into the ocean.
Secondary treatment removes most solids from wastewater, while primary treatment, basically, runs the water through a screen.
Currently, the Lions Gate and Iona plants require upgrading, while the Annacis Island, Lulu Island and Langley treatment plants are up to code.
For more information on wastewater treatment methods, visit metrovancouver.org/services and select the "Wastewater Collection & Treatment" menu option.
— with files from Jeff Nagel
Rates offered by the Lonsdale Energy Corporation are the cheapest of all district energy systems in the Lower Mainland, according to a report by the City of Vancouver.
In the report, the LEC, which offers a rate of $68.13 per-megawatt-hour, was compared to four heating utilities: downtown Vancouver's Central Heat Distribution Ltd. whose rates volley between $78-$85 per-megawatt-hour, East Fraserlands' River District Energy at $87, the South East False Creek system at $91 and UniverCity Energy at Simon Fraser University at $119.
City council expressed general pleasure with the report after it was presented Monday night but Coun. Guy Heywood did question the comparison between LEC's rates and those of BC Hydro, which, according to the document, charges $83 per-megawatt-hour.
The difference between the two, said Heywood, is that BC Hydro uses electricity, not a hydronic heating system like the LEC. Electricity is converted into heat by people using base board heaters which is easy to meter. Hydronic heating, on the other hand, is not and the LEC has yet to find a reliable method for individual metering.
And, the rate applied to BC Hydro in the report uses a blend of two metrics. BC Hydro charges 6.67 cents per-kilowatt-hour up to a 1,350 per-kilowatt-hour threshold, after which they charge 9.62 cents.
"The problem is, we're trying to do an apples to apples comparison but this is apples to oranges," said Heywood.
This information comes about three months after the city-owned heating utility came under fire from a resident who, with the help of a private consultancy called All Things Energy, claimed the LEC was forcing people to use its services and demanded it be put under the watch of the B.C. Utilities Commission.
All Things Energy representative Kerry Morris also claimed the city was refusing to release details of his client's monthly bills, a figure currently being covered in his strata fees.
At the time, city manager Ken Tollstam said the LEC doesn't release rates to individuals because all contracts are between the company and a building's management. All buildings, added Tollstam, pay the same rate to LEC and then distribute the cost to residents in whatever method they choose.
Calls for the LEC to endure third-party oversight had some traction with council last year and Heywood said this recent report still didn't answer the question of the company's governance.
"I would like staff to send this to consumer advocates and see if they are satisfied," said Heywood.
"Because LEC acts as a monopoly. If they're not satisfied then we could potentially seek BCUC oversight."
— with files from Todd Coyne