The new Council's first Public Works meeting was a 2.5 hour meeting during which Councillors debated the downtown bus lane, asked about LRT, approved fast-tracking new LED lights to receive provincial incentives, and moved forward with new natural gas transit buses.
The downtown bus lane is expected to be killed at Wednesday's General Issues Committee meeting, and Councillor Ferguson wishes to see more staff leadership on LRT and rapid transit.
It was a productive meeting which set the stage for the next four years, capturing almost all the major themes - including snow clearing - the committee will face. The meeting began with an overview presentation of the organization structure of Public Works.
Here are the highlights with video:
Vote on Wednesday
Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins to kill the downtown bus-only lane pilot to revert back to a "fully function lane though the downtown."
"Is this something we can offer up as an early Christmas present to Downtown merchants?", asked Collins as he opened up discussion on the bus lane.
The response from staff was that a staff report is forth coming in January.
Collins said the cost of the bus lane was budgeted at $300,000, but is over-budget.
"At least out of the account, we have spent nearly a half-a-million", Collins said. Collins stated the numbers came from the City's finance department told him.
Public Works General Manager Gerry Davis is confirming the costing numbers to Council on Tuesday.
He and his staff do not believe the project is over-budget and strongly refuted the numbers to media.
Bus Lane to Be Ended Before Christmas: Vote Wednesday
Collins is working on a motion to end the bus lane for Wednesday's Council General Issues Committee.
The motion is expected to pass, and be ratified by Council on December 17th.
On December 18th, City crews can start "bagging" the bus only lanes - which will end enforcement.
This vote will occur prior to Council receiving a report measuring the effectiveness of the bus lane.
"Normally I like to hear reports before I make decisions," said Terry Whitehead of the bus lane. "But I think my mind was made up a long time ago on that particular venture".
The 12 new bus shelters for the A and B Line routes passed very quickly.
Councillors spent significant time debating the purchase of 24 new 40' natural gas buses - which Council already approved in principal this spring when they voted to covert the fleet to natural gas due to raising diesel prices.
With the recent drop in diesel prices, some Councillors sought to review the decision to use natural gas.
The debate centred around the capital investment in a new natural gas compressor, the cost of maintaining natural gas buses, and natural gas fuel compared to the currently dropping price of oil.
The City is already committed to the construction of the new natural gas compressor - and has purchased 18 new 60' articulated natural gas buses.
Staff expect that in the long term, natural gas fuel will be lower cost than diesel fuel.
The cost of maintaining natural gas buses is lower than diesel, staff said. They stated natural gas technology is more mature than when the City decided to discontinue its natural gas bus fleet in the 90s.
Lloyd Ferguson pushed for a tabling motion to have staff report back in January with a review of fuel pricing forecasts.
The tabling motion failed on a 4-4 tie vote.
In favour of tabling: Duvall, Ferguson, Merulla, Vanderbeek
Opposed: Collins, Conley, Jackson, Whitehead
Councillors then voted on the purchase, which was a 6-2 vote with Ferguson and VanderBeek opposed.
Councillors started the meeting with a delegation from Grant Sharp, a safety specialist with Hamilton Health Sciences, regarding street lighting in the area of General Hospital.
Sharp asked Councillors to fast-track LED lighting conversions in the area of HGH to improve safety at night. He cite four instances of staff slipping on ice not visible on sidewalks due to lighting conditions, and a mugging of a nurse behind the hospital near Birge Street.
Council voted to prioritize the lighting changes as part of the approval of fast-track conversions approved later in the meeting.
City staff noted the LED lighting conversion will no increase the amount of lighting in the area as LED lights provide the same output as high-pressure sodium lights, it is only changing the spectrum of visible light.
City staff state many of the lighting problems in the area of the hospital were on HGH property and HGH has made lighting changes which City staff believe address many of the concerns.
The City will accelerate plans to convert 10,000 high pressure sodium lights with LED lights prior to December 31, 2015 to qualify for $3-million in energy saving incentives from the province.
The cost of the installation is $5-million to $5.5-million.
It is expected the City will save $700,000 per year in electricity costs, which will be redirected first into the reserve account used to fund the conversion, then become operational savings.
The cost recovery, with incentives, is estimated to take 2.9 years. Without incentives, it will be 7.8 years.
With the City's recent history of late and incomplete major projects, the deadline is noteworthy. If the City does not complete the installation of the majority of the 10,000 lights before the deadline, the incentive is completely lost.
In 2011, the City lost $5.7-million in federal funding for the Stoney Creek and Westmount recreation centres when the projects ran late and missed federal stimulus funding deadlines - despite deadline extensions.
The 10,000 lights being replaced are 200 and 250 Watt lights along primary and major corridors. There are 45,000 street lights across the City.
These lights represent 28% of the inventory, but consume 48% of the energy usage for street lighting.
2016's capital budget plan included the replacement of these lights.
The City has already replaced 1600 lights with savings of $170,000 a year in energy costs.
Let's start with the housekeeping. It was the first meeting of the PW committee meaning they needed to elect a Chair and Vice-Chair.
Clr Sam Merulla will chair until January 2016, with new Clr Arlene VanderDeek as vice-chair. Traditionally, the vice-chair becomes chair in the following year. If tradition holds, VanderBeek will lead the Public Works Cmte in 2016.
This was the first PW meeting for new Director of Transit David Dixon, who was previously with the TTC, and new Director of PW Operations Betty Matthews-Malone, who comes to Hamilton from Niagara Region.
Attendance: All Councillors attended the full meeting. They are: Collins, Conley, Duvall, Ferguson, Jackson, Merulla, VanderBeek, Whitehead.
Pasuta observed the full meeting, and will join Public Works in January after Council ratifies his request to join.
Green attended the public delegation related to Hamilton General Hospital and the Public Works overview presentation. Green is not a member of Public Works.
Media present for the entire meeting: Matthew Van Dongen, Sam Craggs, Kevin Werner, Ken Mann, Joey Coleman.
The following items were passed unanimously without debate:
- Volunteer committee minutes
- Volunteer committee budget submissions
- Note: Cycling Committee is requesting a $2000 increase, funded from reserves, for the 2015 year. They will be printing new editions of the Hamilton Bike Map, and this will cost $2350.
- Concession Street Reconstruction (U. Wentworth to U. Sherman) earlier timeline and use of area-rating funds.