Last October, local news media reported that City of Victoria staff had delayed presenting public-safety reports to council, in some cases for as much as 19 months. On October 27, we sent a letter to councillors about this problem. At a council meeting that evening, mayor Dean Fortin said he’d look into it.
It turns out that staff wrote a memo to mayor and council on November 22, right after the municipal election, explaining the delay. Recently, we got a copy of the memo. Yesterday, we sent the following response to the mayor:
Dear Mayor Fortin,
On October 27, 2011, I sent a letter to Victoria’s councillors, expressing concern about the delays by City staff in releasing safety assessments of public facilities — including a 19-month delay in presenting council a March 2010 report identifying the seismic vulnerabilities of the #1 Fire Hall.
This letter was signed by 32 City of Victoria residents, including myself. For your reference, the letter is posted online at http://johnsonstreetbridge.org/?p=2072
To date, we have not received a reply from the City, or any councillors.
I also spoke to this letter at the October 27, 2011 council meeting. [See pages 4, 7, and 8 of the linked minutes.] Councillor Young expressed concern about the delay with the fire hall assessment. Then you told staff to formally report back on what was known and when it was known. Staff said a report would be forthcoming.
Recently, Derry McDonell advised me that he asked about this report at the February 9, 2012, council meeting. Staff said they’d written a memo in November, and sent it to councillors. On February 10, Mr McDonell obtained a copy of the memo [download it HERE], which he later forwarded to me.
I have since read this memo. I am not satisfied with staff’s explanation for the delay.
At the October 20, 2011, Governance and Priorities Committee meeting, where this matter was first discussed, director of engineering Dwayne Kalynchuk said release of the fire hall report had been postponed because the fire chief had retired, and because revisions had been made to the report. On October 27, I pointed out that former fire chief Angrove remained in office for 16 months after the report was issued in March 2010, and that the report indicated no revisions.
Now I see in Mr Kalynchuk’s memo that he provides no further support for his original explanations, or even any reference to them. Why, then, did he make such statements in the first place?
Instead, Mr Kalynchuk says that “Administration determined it was preferred to have the [fire hall] matter submitted to City Council along with the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre assessment at the same time.”
Who determined that this was “preferred”, and why? What does the Crystal Pool have to do with a critical piece of public-safety infrastructure like the fire hall? And why is staff permitted to withhold such reports from council in the first place?
As you know, in 2010 the City conducted public surveys and a referendum on the fate of the Johnson Street Bridge. If the fire hall report had been promptly released, council and the public would have been better aware that the bridge was not the only piece of public-safety infrastructure in Victoria needing a costly seismic upgrade. Therefore, it is crucially important that you determine exactly why staff “preferred” to retain the report.
We expect you to take this matter seriously. If citizens are to have faith in their municipal government, elected officials must have the courage to demand answers from City employees. Staff need to provide a thorough and credible explanation for the delay in releasing the fire hall report.
With kind regards,
On behalf of City of Victoria residents and taxpayers Jane Bateman, Mark Bateman, David Bodenberg, Carol Callahan-Maureen, Cynthia Callahan-Maureen, Vittorio Cheli, Norman Clark, Marilyn Ferguson, Lisa Fife, Sue Gentry, Joyce Harrison, Rebecca Kennel, Gordon McAllister, Doreen Mueller, Dennis Parsons, Eric Porcher, Mark Powell, Brian Simmons, Andy Sinats, Anne Spencer, Carmel Thomson, Alixe Wallis, Bill Wilson, Rob Wipond, and Jennifer Wise.
When did the mayor actually receive Kalynchuk’s November 22 memo? A week after that date, Stephen Andrew quizzed the mayor about the fire-hall delay on CFAX, and the mayor told him to “wait for the report.” Listen to the interview below.
Podcast: Victoria mayor Dean Fortin grilled about fire-hall report delay on CFAX (November 29th, 2011)
UPDATE (March 13, 2012) This morning, we received the following reply from the mayor:
From: Mayor (Dean Fortin) <email@example.com> Subject: Re: staff explanation for delay releasing fire hall report Date: 13 March, 2012 8:15:34 AM PDT To: Ross Crockford <firstname.lastname@example.org> Cc: Councillors <Councillors@victoria.ca>, Gail Stephens <GStephens@victoria.ca> Mr Crockford Thank you for your letter. I am satisfied with the response from staff. Sincerely Dean Fortin
Dear citizens: are you satisfied?Tweet