Nanaimo Operations Centre Project

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*** UPDATE - February 12, 2024 ***

At a special council meeting held on Monday, February 12, City Council made the decision to cancel the current Alternative Approval Process (AAP), abandon the Nanaimo Operations Centre Phase One Borrowing Bylaw 2023 No. 7362, and direct staff to return to Council at a later date with options to fund the project. The decision comes after it was determined that an error had occurred at the start of the current AAP.

In a news release last week, the City indicated an error was identified where response forms were not made available upon notice of the AAP. City staff have reviewed the process, sought legal advice and have concluded that due to the response forms not being made available on the initial day of AAP notice (January 17, 2024), the requirements in the legislation have not been met.

For more information, read the staff report (https://pub-nanaimo.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=52849)

*****

Nanaimo Operations Centre Project

Like a 101-level introductory course, we'd like to introduce you to the facts about the Nanaimo Operations Centre Project and the potential borrowing of 48.5 million dollars to finance Phase One. Hello, sticker shock!

48.5 million dollars? That’s a lot of money...

But then, 91 square kilometres is a lot of city, connected by a lot of infrastructure that serves a lot of people, and it’s all maintained by our Public Works and Parks teams.

But… why so much money and why now?

The short answer is that Nanaimo’s Public Works yard is 60 years old. The original Public Works buildings were constructed in the 1960s and then evolved as the City of Nanaimo population grew from less than 45,000 in 1980 to over 100,000 in 2021. The original facilities have exceeded their expected useful life. It isn’t just due - it’s overdue, and costs for a replacement facility continue to go up as time passes. The project is a straightforward, functional and fit-for-purpose facility that will meet Nanaimo’s needs for today, tomorrow and many decades of growth to come.

The long answer is a much deeper dive into the needs of our community versus the current Public Works Yard versus the costs of development. Let’s get started!

Choose Your 101

To finance the project we are seeking approval from residents to borrow the money through an Alternative Approval Process (AAP), which runs from January 18-February 20, 2024. Learn more about the Alternative Approval Process on the City website.

Got a question?

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions section to see if we can answer it there. If you have more questions, ask away by emailing EngineeringInfo@nanaimo.ca or calling us 250-755-4460, Ext 4230.

*** UPDATE - February 12, 2024 ***

At a special council meeting held on Monday, February 12, City Council made the decision to cancel the current Alternative Approval Process (AAP), abandon the Nanaimo Operations Centre Phase One Borrowing Bylaw 2023 No. 7362, and direct staff to return to Council at a later date with options to fund the project. The decision comes after it was determined that an error had occurred at the start of the current AAP.

In a news release last week, the City indicated an error was identified where response forms were not made available upon notice of the AAP. City staff have reviewed the process, sought legal advice and have concluded that due to the response forms not being made available on the initial day of AAP notice (January 17, 2024), the requirements in the legislation have not been met.

For more information, read the staff report (https://pub-nanaimo.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=52849)

*****

Nanaimo Operations Centre Project

Like a 101-level introductory course, we'd like to introduce you to the facts about the Nanaimo Operations Centre Project and the potential borrowing of 48.5 million dollars to finance Phase One. Hello, sticker shock!

48.5 million dollars? That’s a lot of money...

But then, 91 square kilometres is a lot of city, connected by a lot of infrastructure that serves a lot of people, and it’s all maintained by our Public Works and Parks teams.

But… why so much money and why now?

The short answer is that Nanaimo’s Public Works yard is 60 years old. The original Public Works buildings were constructed in the 1960s and then evolved as the City of Nanaimo population grew from less than 45,000 in 1980 to over 100,000 in 2021. The original facilities have exceeded their expected useful life. It isn’t just due - it’s overdue, and costs for a replacement facility continue to go up as time passes. The project is a straightforward, functional and fit-for-purpose facility that will meet Nanaimo’s needs for today, tomorrow and many decades of growth to come.

The long answer is a much deeper dive into the needs of our community versus the current Public Works Yard versus the costs of development. Let’s get started!

Choose Your 101

To finance the project we are seeking approval from residents to borrow the money through an Alternative Approval Process (AAP), which runs from January 18-February 20, 2024. Learn more about the Alternative Approval Process on the City website.

Got a question?

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions section to see if we can answer it there. If you have more questions, ask away by emailing EngineeringInfo@nanaimo.ca or calling us 250-755-4460, Ext 4230.

  • Public Works and Parks Operations 101

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    City of Nanaimo operations crews keep our City moving, and while most of the work takes place routinely and in the background, it’s work that we all depend upon. Like breathing, we don't think about why we take in each breath, but if we go for a hard run or dive underwater, we quickly remember. Similarly, we all notice City service disruptions. If a sanitation truck goes down and a recycling pickup is missed, we take note. If a water main breaks and water floods our neighbourhood, we notice that too. If our sewers were to back up - well, let's not think about that one.

    The list goes on! City crews fix potholes, clear tree debris following a windstorm, program our traffic lights, mow our sports fields, make and place street signs, repair streetlights, brine roads to combat black ice, plow snowy roads, monitor coliform in our swimming areas, remove hazardous trees, plant beautiful gardens, sweep dirty sidewalks, trim overgrown trails, repair broken bus shelters, clear blocked culverts… our operations teams keep on top of it all as quickly as they can.

    When’s the last time you thought about where the storm drain outside of your home leads? As long as only storm water flows into it, you don’t need to think about it – our drainage team does that for you. Thankful for the yellow line that separates both directions of traffic on busy streets, or the street signs that mark your road for a parcel delivery? It wasn’t magic that put them there; it was the City’s Roads and Traffic crew.

    In fact, there are five teams that work out of Public Works every day: Roads and Traffic, Water, Wastewater, Sanitation and Fleet Maintenance. With the Nanaimo Operations Centre project, the City plans to bring Parks crews to the yard as well, creating a more efficient use of the property. This convergence is planned for Phases Two through Four.

    There’s logic in bringing together the Parks and Public Works teams in this central location. The City’s Fleet Maintenance team services and repairs every piece of mechanical equipment the City has, from weed-eaters up to our arenas’ ice resurfacers, and further up to our City’s fire and recycling trucks. Fleet maintains more than 400 pieces of equipment including 200 vehicles.

    Phase One of the proposed Nanaimo Operations Centre project includes a new fleet maintenance facility with bays that can more efficiently accommodate our fleet and the City’s largest vehicles. In 2012, the first seismic assessment of all public works buildings was completed. The fleet maintenance building scores the worst and has been flagged as a priority for replacement. It wouldn’t take much of an earthquake to knock it down. Because of this, a new fleet building is the largest component of this phase.

    It's an unpleasant thought, to say the least, but should our fleet maintenance building become unusable, the ripple effect would be dramatic. From cancelled waste collection, to roads and parks that can’t be maintained, to arenas that would shut down because the ice can’t be resurfaced, without proper fleet repair, the City’s service delivery will become more and more limited in the aftermath of the facility’s closure. We hope the big quake never comes, but if it does, we want to be ready and able to respond. Besides being structurally unsound, the size, configuration and functionality of the shop does not serve the City’s modern fleet needs during our normal day-to-day activities outside of an emergency.

    In the meantime, the City’s Parks and Public Works crews will continue to serve the community, as ready as ever to manage the infrastructure that keeps our city moving.


  • Interactive Maps 101

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    Curious about the Public Works Yard and the scope of the work that Public Works and Parks crews do out in our community? Visit these two interactive maps to learn more about the crews and facilities that keep our community moving!

    A Look at the Public Works Yard

    Screenshot of a map with text and images of public works yard and staff working on the side. This image is linked to the map it is showing.

    Located at 2020 Labieux Road, the Public Works Yard is a long and narrow stretch of land across from Beban Park that follows alongside the railway. The very active yard is where all of the City’s fleet is maintained, infrastructure supplies are stored and disaster response is coordinated. Our snow plows, sanitation trucks, hydro-vac truck and so many more mobilize from this yard. Tour through the map to learn more!

    Public Works Yard Interactive Map

    Public Works and Parks in the Community

    Screenshot of Third Street map with text on the side. This image is linked to the map it is showing.

    Nanaimo’s Third Street Sports Corridor provides a perfect location to highlight the work and the reach of both Public Works and Parks Operations crews. From the parks, gardens and fields our crews maintain, to the storm and sanitary sewer, to the many ways we service our roads, there’s a lot of infrastructure in our community that we fully depend upon. Thankfully, our operations crews are on top of it all.

    Public Works and Parks in the Community Interactive Map

    Looking to learn even more about the Nanaimo Operations Centre Project and how a renewed facility will help keep these services going? Check out the 101 run-down below or read through the Frequently Asked Questions:

  • The Nanaimo Operations Centre Project - Public Works Yard Design 101

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    Designing and creating a development plan for an active public works yard is a huge task. Visioning for the site’s necessary upgrades has been underway since some of the yard’s key buildings were determined to be high-risk during their condition and seismic inspections in 2012 and in 2018.

    The original yard, built in the 1960s, looked much different than the Public Works yard today, but despite seismic safety concerns, these original buildings are still in full use today.

    The yard today has a few more buildings than the 1960s, and construction trailers have been used to expand office spaces. These portables were originally meant to be temporary, but it became necessary to not only keep them long term, but to continue adding more with our city’s growth.

    When the City developed the concept for a renewed public works yard, there were a lot of considerations:

    1. Efficiency. Currently, our Parks and Public Works Operations teams are spread across the City at three locations. There’s the Public Works yard on Labieux Road, the Parks Annex on Nanaimo Lakes Road and the Parks Operations yard on Prideaux Street. Bringing these teams together at the Labieux yard creates greater efficiencies, houses most of our operations equipment where it’s cleaned, fuelled, maintained and repaired, and ultimately brings most of the City’s operations staff together under one roof.
    2. Seismic Stability. While we don’t know when, a sizeable earthquake in our region is inevitable. In 2012 the City’s Public Works buildings underwent their first seismic study, and their condition was assessed again in 2018. Based on these studies and assessments, and because the community really needs the City to keep its fleet operational, a new fleet maintenance building is the cornerstone of Phase One of the Nanaimo Operations Centre project. A couple of the buildings will be kept and used for non-critical storage, as they are now.
    3. Active Yard. It isn’t just new construction; it’s building a new facility in the midst of active daily work. Despite major construction, the City needs (and wants) to pick up your garbage on collection days, brine the roads ahead of a cold snap, service your sewers to keep them flowing, repair any broken water mains, and keep our roads clear and our intersections functioning. Building in phases with a well-developed plan keeps this possible.
    4. Fleet Size. Our fleet is large, both in numbers and in some cases, mass. Our fire trucks and our sanitation trucks don’t fit in even our largest service bays, and while our heavy-equipment mechanics have found some work arounds to keep these trucks in service, these work-arounds are inefficient. The City has over 400 pieces of equipment including 200 vehicles that needs to be maintained and repaired regularly at our Public Works shops. The shop bays aren’t suitable to handle the over 4000 repair orders per year that come in, and they definitely aren’t ready for that number to grow with our city’s future growth.
    5. Storm water. The original drainage system installed under our Public Works yard is now at end of life and literally crumbling away. It’s time for it to be replaced, so working the drainage system into Phase One is a priority. This will be an opportunity to make modern rainwater improvements, helping to retain runoff and improve drainage quality in the face of climate change.
    6. Sustainability. With climate change upon us in a big way, the City is committed to making design choices that lead to energy efficiency with a small carbon footprint. From lighting, to insulation, to materials used in construction, responsible and durable choices will be important in the development of the Nanaimo Operations Centre.
    7. Safety in Training. Our current fire training tower depends on wood burning to create a suitable training environment for our firefighters. Converting to a natural gas system isn’t a perfect solution for the environment, but it is the best option available to continue offering life-saving training for our rescuers while improving their safety and reducing exposure to the carcinogens in wood smoke. This fire training tower retrofit is planned for Phase One.
    8. Growth. Our community is growing very quickly, and it seems to be well known that Nanaimo is a great place to live. While that means an increase in the number of resident taxpayers, it also means that demand on the City’s services will be greater over the coming years. The Nanaimo Operations Centre project plans include space and development for increased staff, equipment and supplies to continue to grow with the community.
    9. Location. Bringing together both Parks and Public Works will mean an even busier yard, and the new design is laid out to try and avoid any ‘traffic jams’ in the yard, while keeping office staff together and away from the active work zones. An additional entrance to the yard will help reduce congestion at both the gates and in the yard’s corridors.
    10. Washrooms. When the original staff building was built in the 60s, it was built with mostly men in mind. This included a very large change room with showers and plenty of space to clean up after a day of work in the elements. Today the world is much more equal, and we have some amazing and capable women on staff who deserve a decent space as well. Inclusivity is important to the City of Nanaimo, and considerations for all potential staff members will be brought forward when designing staff building washroom spaces.
    11. Emergency Operations. A city the size of Nanaimo is mandated by the Province to have an accessible emergency operations centre and a backup location. The new staff building will have a multi-purpose room dedicated as a backup emergency operations and communications hub.
    12. Trail vs Sidewalk. The cost of sidewalk concrete is up exponentially over the last few years. "Works and services" are a requirement for all developments. In this case that would be a sidewalk that runs along the outside of the Public Works yard. We saw better value to the community to finish and connect the trail that loops around Beban as an alternative (and more affordable) walking space away from the busy street.
    13. End of Life Buildings vs Usable Infrastructure. While many of the buildings on site are at their end of life, there are a few buildings built in the 1980s and 1990s that are built well enough to keep and continue using to their full potential. These include our stores building, our truck barn and our small equipment and signs shop building. The new infrastructure at the yard is designed around this existing infrastructure.


  • The Nanaimo Operations Centre Project – Phase One Financing 102

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    Construction costs have escalated wildly in the past four years across Canada. While we wish we could go back in time and build this when costs were more affordable, we can at least move forward before they get higher.

    The City has divided the development of the Nanaimo Operations Centre into four phases. Here’s a look at Phase One, which involves borrowing up to $48.5 million:

    • Foundational work including a new fleet maintenance facility, truck wash facilities and utility servicing for future phases of the NOC Project (max borrowing $40 million)
    • Stormwater Management infrastructure at the yard and next door at Fire Rescue Station 2 (max borrowing $4.5 million)
    • Fire Training Tower Fuel Conversion to convert the tower from burning wood for training scenarios, which is hazardous and environmentally poor, to an efficient gas system (max borrowing $1.25 million)
    • New trail to complete the circular route of trails at Beban Park, in place of an otherwise necessary sidewalk spanning the length of the Public Works Yard (max borrowing $2.75 million)


    It’s worth noting that these potential amounts include allowances for cost overruns and inflation, and the City will only borrow what’s needed, when needed, and will only use the funds for this phase of the project. However, we can only ask once, so we need to ensure that the amount will be sufficient.


    Foundational Work Stormwater Management Fire Training Fuel Conversion Beban Park Trail
    Construction $22,000,000 $2,700,000
    $775,000
    $1,700,000
    Project Delivery*
    $6,900,000
    $540,000
    $155,000
    $345,000
    Allowance for Inflation
    $5,800,000
    $400,000
    $150,000
    $250,000
    Contingency
    $5,300,000
    $860,000
    $170,000
    $455,000
    Maximum Borrowing
    $40,000,000
    $4,500,000
    $1,250,000
    $2,750,000

    * Project Delivery includes costs for design, insurance, third-party utilities (hydro, telephone), permitting, etc.


    Click image for larger (pdf) version

    A large project like this doesn’t happen without an impact on property taxes, but if Phase One financing is approved by the public through the AAP, then each phase of the borrowing will be spread out over 20 years. If the full amount is borrowed, then once borrowing is complete, the average cost per household per year will be about $77 (about $10 per $100,000 of assessed value and an average Nanaimo home value of $808,873*).


    Future phases of the Nanaimo Operations Centre project will be funded separately and may also go to an AAP for borrowing. These include:

    Early plans for future phases includes:

    • Administration building
    • Storage buildings
    • Storage structures and outdoor spaces
    • Heavy fleet equipment areas
    • Staff parking
    • Secondary entrance
    • Fueling stations
    • Stores and supply building renovations

    *The average cost per household is estimated to be $77 per year, (about $10 per $100,000 of property value for $808,873 average home value), based on a 4.78% interest rate (Dec 2023). This works out to about 1% of property taxes at the 2024 tax rate)

  • Alternative Approval Process (AAP) 101

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    Reserves, grants, property taxes, user rates, program fees – there are many different ways that the City pays for the services, programs and infrastructure that keep Nanaimo moving. The largest source of City funding comes from property taxation (set at 62% of the total budget in 2024), and when a large-scale infrastructure project is set to come in with a huge price tag, the City – with the public’s permission - can choose to borrow the funds and spread the cost and repayment out over a long term (up to the lesser of 30 years or the life expectancy of the asset). This greatly lessens the short-term impact of raising property taxes over a few years. Long-term borrowing also shares the costs with future generations that will also benefit.

    With our aging Public Works facilities in need of replacement, the City of Nanaimo is seeking the public’s approval to borrow the funds to rebuild the Fleet Maintenance building, retrofit Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s training tower, replace our end of life storm-management infrastructure and ready the yard for future phases of development. Phase one of the overall project could cost up to $48.5 million, with up to $40 million of that ear-marked for a new Fleet maintenance building. These numbers include large allowances for potential inflation and cost overruns – funds that the City will only borrow when needed and if needed.


    Foundational Work Stormwater Management Fire Training Fuel Conversion Beban Park Trail
    Construction $22,000,000 $2,700,000
    $775,000
    $1,700,000
    Project Delivery*
    $6,900,000
    $540,000
    $155,000
    $345,000
    Allowance for Inflation
    $5,800,000
    $400,000
    $150,000
    $250,000
    Contingency
    $5,300,000
    $860,000
    $170,000
    $455,000
    Maximum Borrowing
    $40,000,000
    $4,500,000
    $1,250,000
    $2,750,000

    * Project Delivery includes costs for design, insurance, third-party utilities (hydro, telephone), permitting, etc.

    There are two ways in Provincial legislation that the City can officially seek elector approval to borrow project funds. One is an assent vote (referendum), and the other is through an alternative approval process (AAP). The two processes are very different and used in different situations.

    An assent vote (referendum) works much like a general election and costs nearly $300,000. Voters show up on voting day at a predetermined voting location and cast a vote for or against by ballot. This process is typically used for a project that would be considered a nice-to-have; something that would bring value to the community but isn’t considered essential.

    An AAP is a very different process, and instead of heading to the polls to vote on one pre-determined date, there is a window of 30 days to respond. Electors in favour of the project don’t need to take any action, while eligible electors opposed to the project must complete and submit an AAP form. If 10% of eligible electors oppose the project, then Council must either abandon the project or move forward with the much more expensive assent vote (referendum). An AAP is used to seek approval from the public for when a project is believed be needed for the well-being of our community.

    A functioning Public Works space is essential. Borrowing for phase one of the Nanaimo Operations Centre project goes to an alternative approval process (AAP) starting on January 18. Details on how to oppose the proposed borrowing can be found on the Alternative Approval Process page. The AAP Elector Response Form will be available on January 18, 2024. Opposition to borrowing for the NOC Project needs to be submitted by 4:30pm on Tuesday, February 20, 2024. Electors in support of borrowing for the project don’t need to take any action.


    Learn more about the Nanaimo Operations Centre.


Page last updated: 12 Feb 2024, 05:01 PM