The status quo has to go — Part 2

Editor’s Note:

Local resident Bob Melnyk is a keen observer of the local political scene and is both a former City employee and a former member of the City’s Financial Focus Group. He always has provocative observations that force you to think about what is happening in our community.

Due to its length — over 2,000 words — this letter is being published in two parts; the first part appeared on Tuesday, October 14 and the second part is being published today, Wednesday, October 15. I hope you find it as throught-provoking as I did:

 Letter to the Editor:

Continued from Tuesday, October 14…

Council purchased the Century Vallen building (left of the Fire Hall), a wise move for the land, to consolidate it with the rec/pool center. The building should have been demolished. It is a building with lots of issues. The land has value, not the building. The City’s first what-were-you-thinking idea was to upgrade it for the City’s Engineering Department – thankfully, that was shot down. Time passes – we now put a new roof on it this year. For the cost of the roof the City could have purchased four – 40-foot sea cans and placed them in the back of the Public Works lot to store their benches / garbage cans / flower pots / baskets, etc. If it all does not fit – we have too much junk. We (the City) purchased the house to the left of the Century Vallen – at a premium price at the time, but a wise move all the same. It is now used as senior staff housing. No idea what the agreement is with City – ask – it should be public domain. It should be put up for sale (building only) and moved. It then becomes a residential taxable entity. It is one less rental the City owns that competes with the private sector, who pay taxes to maintain it. What a vicious circle! It is yet again the land that is valuable. With the house and Century Vallen gone on the short term, it would create extra parking for the Rec Centre / Seniors Centrer and serve as somewhere to store snow short term during large snow cycles and two less liabilities to pay for.

In the 2008 – 2014 time frame there has been a continuous outcry of commercial taxation being too high. There has not been a substantial increase in residential development. Yet this Council fails to see the potential of infill housing. The City of Victoria, a few years back, knew they needed more rental units. The decided to commit $250,000 to this endeavor. It was relatively simple. They advertised that they would pay up to $5,000.00 to homeowners who would build a legal approved suite in their homes. It was highly successful and at last report, had helped create millions of dollars of taxable residential properties for a $250,000.00 investment. We have no movement whatsoever on Carriage Houses, yet many other places have them and are successful. These opportunities give existing home owners a chance to supplement their income, provides some needed work for local contractors, gives the City more residential tax value, which could then help offset the high commercial rate. Many other communities use these methods, but this Council seemingly does not see this and persists in trying to re-invent the wheel. This does not solve tax disparity, but is a start in the right direction.

Council’s seeming lack of vision has cost Revelstoke

I was a member of the first Financial Focus Group in 2011. The experience was enlightening and worthwhile. It was very clear at the end that Council was not interested in the recommendations and carried on with its own agenda. Spring 2013 brought a new restraint agenda from Mayor Raven. From 2008-2013 it was full steam ahead, to the new agenda. In my world it reads – we are broke, reserves depleted and we have no choice but pull in our horns. That’s not what I would call an encouraging sign of self-initiated fiscal responsibility.

Planning / Development / Building seem to bring a never-ending supply of frustrations to those who wish to enhance, build or participate in this city. There are always two sides to a story, but you have to seriously wonder what is wrong when a person like Steve Platte walks away after a nine year effort to create some serious tax base here, citing “the regulatory and political environment in Revelstoke” as the reason. What do others face when trying to improve their buildings or create a better tax base?

The seeming lack of vision in regards to the value of public participation, be it large and formal or small and informal, has cost Revelstoke. We have a significant pool of citizens with skill sets and experience to draw from. The use of successful businessmen in the equipment area could provide much needed guidance in areas such as purchases. This may reduce poor choices on such things as the procurement of equipment. For example, has anyone seen the new one-man garbage truck in the last two months or the lift mechanism for lifting garbage cans that never made it to that truck? Good thing the 1990-something 2-man truck is still kicking. A more complex issue, which would benefit from large community input. Example, what to do with the Golf Course? Who knows? It could accommodate some type of micro housing onsite for those who love the minimalistic lifestyle and wish to embrace our amazing outdoor offerings. This may offer a solution to the never-ending cash crunch.

Fred Beruschi once summed up the essence of a consultant as “someone you hire who asks to borrow your watch to tell you the time.” Let’s cut out the middle man (consultant) as much as is practical. Let’s get back to the Revelstoke we were known for – a place known for its creative and inventive public participation.

Bob Melnyk
Revelstoke, BC