Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Brandon's water tower, transit fares and other council bits

I was at last night's Brandon city council meeting to catch the debate about the water tower. I spent a fair bit of time at Brandon City Hall in a previous life but this was my first council meeting. Here's a bit of what I learned !


Water Tower

City council voted 9 - 1 in favour of
Counc. Isliefson's (Riverview) motion to remove the Brandon water tower from the city's 2012 demolition list.

The tower
has been part of Brandon's landscape since 1930 and decommissioned in stages in 2001 and 2005. Earlier this year council voted to spend $275,000 to remove it in 2012. (For a history of Brandon's water tower.)

Since that time, a number of people in the community rallied behind the structure. Many were from the city's East End community as the tower sits directly behind the ca. 1931 East End Community Centre.

When questioned, the city engineer said that the reason behind the demolition was the simple fact that the utility had no more use for the tower. In keeping it, the ongoing costs would be the occasional paint job and liability insurance, (which a city report says is $200 per year).

Though there are no current structural issues, he did recommend that the city have an engineer's assessment done which could run around $20,000.

Congrats to those who rallied for the tower !

Transit Fares

With the aid of an SNC Lavelin computer model and some community consultations, Brandon Transit may be recommending big fare reductions.

The current regular fare is $2.15 but when passes and free transfers are added in, the amount of money BT gets per ride is only 91 cents. Reducing the fare to $1.15 and eliminating free transfers, if the projected increase in the number of short haul riders is correct, would bring in the same amount per ride.

Another reason for getting rid of the free transfer is that BT's on-bus conflicts are 2:1 transfer related. No transfers, less hassles.

The report was presented as information only. Final recommendations will be made to council later in the year.

Political Way-Back Machine

A familiar face and voice at the council meeting was Jim McCrae. Yes, the former Justice Minister and Manitoba Attorney General is the (now mustache-less) councillor for Ward Five: Meadows.

Slick Presentation

Full points to Brandon City council for a slick and easy meeting setting. There are many lessons that Winnipeg's council can learn from, (though I admit that I have not been to a Winnipeg council meeting in a couple of years so I could be a bit behind the times as to what is offered.)

The council chambers are fitted with a couple of large monitors. Whether you're a member of the public appearing at Citizens Question Period / delegations or for administration reports, presenters can use visual aids through a laptop set up at the podium. Everyone in the room gets to follow along.

The monitors simulcast the Westman Cable feed of the meeting so if you have a bad seat in the gallery you can catch all the action. (I'm not sure if councillors are issued with video challenge flags to review controversial decisions.) The visual presentations noted above are also part of the Westman broadcast.

The council chambers have four permanently mounted, discreet video cameras. Regardless of who is speaking you get a full-frontal head and shoulders shot. None of this overhead view of the back of a councillor's head while they are speaking stuff that Winnipeg offers to viewers.

The on-line meeting section is easy to find, navigate and read. You don't have to be a council insider - even a mere schmo-citizen can easily find the information they need to follow what is going on.

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