Friday, February 24, 2017

The Argosy claims Best Marketer Award at Small Business Celebration in Vancouver

They are the Champions, Richard and Frances from the Argosy
claim the Best Marketer award at the BC Small Business Awards

One of the two Prince Rupert businesses that made it to the top Five of the BC Small Business Awards has completed that journey with an Award.

As the Third Avenue shop The Argosy claimed the top spot last night in their category of Best Marketer, the energetic entrepreneurs hailed for their work as part of an impressive celebration show in Vancouver .

The Argosy duo received their award at the gala presentation at the Pan Pacific Hotel, bringing to an end a fpir month period that saw more than 525 nominations from across the province entered in the competition.

As the weeks went by and the competition moved through its process, that list was whittled down to five finalists per category, with Prince Rupert's Argosy and Wheelhouse Brewing Company cracking the final rankings.

From there, a Dragon Den's style process took place with the two Rupert groups making a presentation for a panel of industry experts and leading entrepreneurs.

Whatever it was that from the Argosy said resonated with that panel, with the reward from their preparation and presentation delivered on the stage at the Pan Pacific last night.

Learn more about the Argosy from the website here.

Richard and Frances were quick to their twitter feed last night with the good news, and friends and satisfied customers were quick to load up their Facebook page with best wishes from far and near.

For the Wheelhouse gang it was a case of coming close and gaining some valuable exposure for the brand, not to mention a world of experience and network connections for the future.

You can review the full list of nominees and winners for each category here.

The journey to the finals started in October with four Prince Rupert businesses in the running, with Good Times Games and Electronics and Rupert Lawn and Garden joining The Argosy and Wheelhouse in representing the North Coast in the competition.

The two finalists in their categories showcased the region with style and left a good impression of the commercial sector with the large collection of entrepreneurs from across British Columbia,

Through their success both the Argosy and Wheelhouse have shown that with a good business plan, an idea or two and a lot of hard work success can come your way.

To see the path that both Prince Rupert business owners travelled see our items below:

January 25 -- The Argosy and Wheelhouse head to the finals for Provincial Small Business honours
December 15 -- Three Prince Rupert businesses make the list of Ten finalists in BC Small Business Awards
October 31 -- Four Prince Rupert businesses in the running for Provincial Small Business honours

For more items related to Prince Rupert's commercial scene see our archive page here.

Rocks will slide, brooms will sweep! As Mixed Bonspiel launches.

The skaters of the Northwest aren't the only ones taking to the ice this weekend, over on the east side of town Prince Rupert's curlers will hit the pebbled ice in the Mixed Bonspiel.

18 teams have registered for this weekends event which features three days of curling action starting this evening.

The opening ends takes place this evening, with the Curlers returning to the ice Saturday for a full day of sweeping, shouting and rock throwing until it's banquet time.

Saturday's social night features a catered dinner courtesy of No. 1 Catering, while Much Gusto Will be on site as weel for breakfast and lunch time snacking.

Through the tournament there will be door prizes, along with a 50/50 draw every evening as well as a Quilt Raffle as part of the off ice activities.

Sunday brings the Finals set to take place from 2 until 4 PM

The Mixed Bonspiel heralds the waning days for curling on the year, with March set to host the Men's Marine Bonspiel from March 10 to 11.

You can find out more about what's happening at the Seal Cove Rink from the Prince Rupert Curling Club's Facebook page

More items related to Curling on the North Coast can be found on our archive page here.

Sakting Showcase takes over the Civic Centre this weekend

One of the last opportunities to check out the progress of the skaters of the Northwest for the year comes up this weekend, as the Prince Rupert Skating Club hosts the West Area Jamboree.

The fun competition will feature close to 75 skaters from Clubs around the Northwest, travelling from as far as Smithers.

All of them set to take to the ice, ready to show off the result of a full season of practices and competitions.

The three day event places the skaters into a number of groups, with skaters from Prince Rupert mixing with those from around the region.

All of it making for team building and offering a opportunity to forge new friendships as they take part in the Showcase.

The free event takes place over three three days, with showtimes as follows:

Friday night from 5:30 to 7 PM

Saturday from 8 AM to 6 PM

Sunday from 8 AM to 2 PM

You can learn more about the local club from their Facebook page, which keeps members and those interested in skating  up to date on Club events and news from the skating community.

For more notes on Skating in the Northwest see our archive page here.

For City Council, it's becoming a case of Government by Announcement

The first two months of Council watching for 2017 is offering up some interesting themes and subtle changes from previous years.

As the city's elected officials seem to be shifting towards taking more of their work behind the scenes, than speaking to it during the twice a month Council public sessions, on those occasions that they have twice a month council sessions.

The main result of that shift is that Council meetings have become significantly shorter and bereft of much in the way of discussion on the the major items as has been found in years past.

So far in 2017, City council has hosted three public sessions of 41, 57 and 33 minutes and cancelled one public session owing to an inability to finalize items for the Agenda.

The late January meeting marking the second time in three months, that City made note that they had no Agenda topics for discussion in a regular council session.

For the most part, the result of these shorter meetings means that it seems that many initiatives rarely get discussed in public session anymore.

Instead we receive word of them through an announcement mainly by way of the Mayor's Facebook page, which appears to be the go to location for any civic notes of late, the city's own website now receiving only an occasional entry as part of the city's information stream.

The latest glimpse of the new focus from the City's Facebook administration concept came yesterday, as the Mayor celebrated the announcement by the Province that a contract had been awarded to a Penticton firm for the upcoming major road project that will take place along McBride, 2nd Avenue West and Park Avenue to Fairview.

The Mayor added his own notes to the province's announcement, outlining that the city would also be taking advantage of that project's delivery, with Third Avenue to be paved as an add on the main job.

That update that linked to the provincial notice, would seem to suggest that the Third Avenue project will be handed over to the Okanagan firm, though how much discussion Council held on that theme we may never know.

Other than a brief mention in the last meeting from December that the city was considering the project, the Third Avenue plans have not been part of the conversation as part of the three public council sessions held so far this year.

In his Facebook notes, the Mayor makes mention of how the City has saved money and achieved economies of scale, but Council has not shared the details of those observations in public.

Nor do we know if Mayor and six Council members weighed the benefits of tagging on to the province's out of town contractor, against what a local contractor might have been able to offer for the same job, creating local employment and using local supplies.

Maybe there was a lengthy exchange of the pros and cons, but if there was, it was in a session held outside of the regular Council meeting with the decision made outside of the public gathering.

Another example of the new approach to decision making, came with the way that the City has engaged in the Community Grant announcement process.

With the first indication as to how the City was funding those community organizations  coming with the announcement of the three year agreement between the City and the Lester Centre, which was negotiated through the fall.

It has delivered a process which came with few updates provided in public session as to how this new arrangement will change the nature of the funding process, or how it benefits the city and its taxpayers.

As has been the case in a number of past instances, the first word of the successful negotiations came once again through the Mayor's Facebook page and not from the public chamber of Council, with the Mayor and a few members of Council featured in a photo holding the always popular giant novelty cheque for such occasions.

As they announced the new three year contract, Council members did not discuss the elements of the shift to the three year concept during the course of a council session. Nor did we learn if all six council members were of the same mind as the Mayor, as no publicly recorded vote was conducted in Council as they moved forward with the three year contract.

Though one imagines that one hint as to the partial list of the roll call in support of the vote, might come from those that found the time to take part in the cheque event.

Still to be released by Council is an update on what the funding arrangement with both the Museum of Northern British Columbia and the Prince Rupert Library might look like.

With neither of those large scale grant applications making for discussion in any of the public sessions as far back as November of 2016.

To this point, we still do not know if those two groups have also negotiated a long term arrangement as has been completed for the Lester Centre, with little heard from Council members as to what they think of the concept or how that process has moved forward.

As Council discovered back in January of 2016, issues such as Library funding and other grant requests do capture the attention of the public, who at that time were quick to share their opinions at the how the city handles funding issues.

Beyond the big three grant recipients, there is also a list of smaller organizations that receive grant money and as we head towards the end of February, there has been no further background as to the status of that process, or to how much each organization will receive courtesy of Prince Rupert's taxpayers.

With the City now actively moving into its Budget Discussion period, there has been no discussion of themes or concerns as part of the first two months of Council sessions, offering no indication as to a timeline for community consultation on the issue, or what the indications are for potential tax hikes for the July tax property tax deadline.

Considering the length of the scheduled public meetings have been so short since January 1st, and in one case a meeting cancelled, the topic and sample of Council opinion on budget issues could probably have been plugged into an Agenda item somewhere along the line.

Instead, the background information on any of the topics from the public sessions was light, though the announcements continued to flow through social media

Just last week, in a fashion similar to the Lester Centre funding announcement we once again learned of a recent agreement between the City and the Kaien Trails Enhancement and Recreation Society.

It appears to be a project that should rightfully capture the imagination of the community, but one that does leave a few questions to consider, particularly when it comes to turning over civic land to an outside community group.

What input Council had, or questions that they may have asked are left for their discussions outside of the public session, with no indication if all were in agreement on the lease arrangement.

No one would be against the development of a community asset such as the Rushbrook Trail, however the process of moving it into the hands of a community group and what cost, if any that there may be to the city, is something that might have been made part of the public process.

While the Council meetings themselves have become quite shorter, another more prominent addition to the public sessions comes from the the City Administrator, as Mr. Mandryk takes to the microphone to proclaim that "Council is pleased to announce" ...

An indication which usually then involves a release of information from one of the Closed sessions of recent months.

The most recent dispatch from those closed sessions provided for as much intrigue, as it did information. As the Business Advisory committee that Councillor Blair Mirau has been steering towards launch, finally released the names of those that were participating in the project.

Though it was with interest to note that from that release from closed meeting, there was one voice of dissent on that announcement, coming from Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who expressed her opposition to some aspect of the project. However, as the topic was conducted through a closed session, the public did not learn as to the nature of her objections, only that she apparently had some concerns related to the topic.

Now granted not every topic is a significant issue and rambling through proclamations and talking points on others would make for a tedious council session, but there are issues that warrant far more public discussion than is the case now.

And when it comes to such large issues as the Community Grant or Budget process, or information about many of the Civic investments or departments there is clearly a need for more detail from our elected officials.

Councillor Cunningham noted of the need to provide residents with some of that information back in January when he called for more public updates for Council sessions. Suggesting that Council request that department heads and others with pertinent information on civic issues make presentations to city council, a recommendation that so far has gone unheeded.

The impact and optics for council members when it comes to this new dynamic of sharing word of Council's work should be one they might want to consider however.

With all information now seemingly being funnelled through the Mayor's official Facebook page, the remaining six council members are becoming somewhat marginalized

For the most part, the shift of attention is leaving the residents of the city uninformed at to how the six elected officials view things on any number of topics, making the council members mostly there for the background in the eventual photo display.

In recent weeks, the only contribution from the other Council members has been left to the dying minutes of the three council sessions, as they wrap up the night by raising an item, or two that has captured their attention or one they might have some concerns on.

But, by not engaging publicly in the larger issues that they face, they for the most part are slipping further and further into the role of bit actors when it comes to contributions to Council sessions.

Even when residents seek to find information from council as we noted from Monday's council session, the approach seems to be one that doesn't make for the release of information through the public council session, but instead at some undisclosed time later, after the public session has ended.

That process is not one that would seem to serve the goal of providing information to the public in a very helpful manner and timely manner.

With this dedicated reliance of the release of information through a social media portal and not from the public sessions from the hall where the decisions are being made, it at times it seems as though City Council is moving more along the lines of a Politburo, rather than that of a place of Public Assembly.

More items of note from Prince Rupert City Council can be found on our Council Archive page, with discussion themes explored here.

Senior Boys look to advance to Provincials with Caledonia showdown this weekend

The final Zones Basketball Zones championship is on the line this weekend as the Charles Hays Senior Boys Rainmakers look to make a return trip to Langley for the 2017 Provincials in mid March.

Standing in their way, a hard working team from Terrace as the Caledonia Kermodes look to book their own ticket to High School Basketball's Big Dance in Langley.

The two teams will settle it all for 2017 today and tomorrow at the Charles Hays Gymnasium.

The schedule for the double knock out Northwest Zones looks like this.

Saturday 7:30 PM  -- Rainmakers vs Caledonia (if required)
Saturday 1 PM -- Rainmakers vs Caledonia
Friday 7PM -- Rainmakers vs Caledonia

Both the Rainmakers and the Kermodes have been on the radar of the Vancouver sports media for much of the basketball season, as both have travelled south for tournament action through the 2016-17 season.

The Rainmakers have been frequently found among the Top Ten listings over the course of the season, while Terrace has received a few honourable mentions as well as those listings were delivered over the last four months.

Heading into this weekends showdown, the latest AAA BC High school rankings, Charles Hays is listed at 7th overall, a spot that they have held from the last release.

The Final Provincial Basketball rankings before Zones 
finds Charles Hays listed at Number 7

The Senior boys will be looking to join the Junior Boys Squad and the Senior Girls as the representatives of the Northwest for the AAA Provincial tournament in Langley from March 8 to 11.

The Junior Boys are in Langley this weekend for the Junior tournament (follow along here) while the Senior Girls will also be heading to Langley from March 1 to 4 (see our notes here)

You can keep up to date on all news out of the Rainmaker locker rooms from the CHSS twitter feed.

For more notes related to Rainmaker Sports see our archive page.

Payment Due! As city's utility bills arrive with March deadline

They went down to the last few days of 2016 to put the increases in place and now with the arrival of your mail this week, has come the result of those deliberations from City Council and the delivery of the civic utilities bill for the year ahead.

All week, Prince Rupert residents have been receiving the helpful reminder that it's time to pay the first of of the two stage process of tax collection in the city.

The first item on the tax collection schedule comes from the city's water, sewer and garbage charges, which are now collected at the start of the calendar year, leaving the property tax notices to come later into the spring.

The process of increasing the Utility rates began in December when City council discussed their options, which focused on how the City would split the proposed five percent fee increases per year,

Council devising a formula which would see three percent dedicated towards regular operations, while two percent would be set aside for capital renewal of core infrastructure.

The latter topic was one of key concern for Council, with the City Manager making use of that December meeting to provide City Council members with an overview of the challenges posed by the city's aging infrastructure components.

December 14 -- City Council poised to approve utility fee increases; looks to find way on asset management planning

To ensure that the utility fee bylaw was passed in time for the start of 2017, the city hosted a Special session on December 14th.

At that council session, concerns over how to best develop the asset management plans were addressed by noting that City Council could develop those guidelines over the first three months of 2017.

Though to this point of the City's council year, those topics have not been discussed during the course of the public sessions held to February 20th. So what approach or plan that the Council members have decided on has not been outlined as of yet.

As for how deep you will be digging into your wallet or purse to cover the utilities bill due as of March 31st, a glimpse on that theme comes from a comparison of our utility bill at the home office of the North Coast Review, those numbers show that the total invoice for 2017 has seen a sixty dollar increase from last years billing.

The second phase of the city's taxation plan will come as we move through the Budget process, which is currently underway at City Hall. How those discussions are coming along however is not yet known, as City council members have not made mention of any of the challenges of budget creation during the course of their public sessions so far this year.

A good guideline as to what may be ahead was delivered in January as the BC assessment notices arrived in the mail, providing Prince Rupert residents with an indication as to how their properties have been valued, BC Assessment explains how those numbers may or may not impact on municipal taxation below.

More background on past civic taxation can be found here, while a look at the themes of the City council sessions and other notes from City Hall can be found on our Council Discussion page.

Mayor unveils Waterfront plan for Rotary luncheon crowd

The City of Prince Rupert has debuted a new 17 foot map/mural
which highlights many of the design options created by the
Ontario based Planning Partnership

The first look at an ambitious waterfront redevelopment plan was shared with members of the Prince Rupert Rotary Club on Thursday, as Mayor Lee Brain rolled out a 17 foot map to provide a visual look at the many features that came out of last falls sessions with the Ontario based Planning Partnership.

As he was speaking to the Rotarian's, the focus for Mr. Brain was on the immediate area adjacent to the Waterfront Rotary Park, with the Mayor showcasing some of the design ideas from the Ontario based urban planners.

In a media release from yesterday, the Mayor observed as to the approach that both the city and the planning partnership had taken as they explored what the future might look like.

“Taking the time to plan ahead for our waterfront and downtown is a step towards securing future funding opportunities,” ...  “It’s also intended to inspire developers, community groups, and residents about available and attractive areas for potential investment and development.”

As for the various development concepts. the area immediately to the West of the Rotary Waterfront Park could one day be known as Rupert's Landing, with the proposals for that waterfront area to include a lookout structure, canopied plaza and an adventure playground.

Public art would be a key focus for the area as well as increased seating and a terraced ledge to lead to the ocean shore. As well, there is some consideration being given to relocating the airport ferry dock and providing for associated parking.

The Waterfront focus is part of the larger development plan that the Planning Partnership came up with for the city after their week long visit, other key elements include connecting the waterfront to the downtown area, making use of a Grand stairway that would link the downtown to Rupert's Landing on the Waterfront.

Other areas of the city that are included in the planning presentation were the Cow Bay and Seal Cove areas of the city, as well as a look at some of the trail initiatives that were bounced around during the workshops of the fall.

The centrepiece of the planning involves a new vision for the Third Avenue Corridor, which would be re-branded into Main Street Rupert, featuring wider pedestrian sidewalks, bike lanes and a covered events area known as Festival Square adjacent City hall to name a few of the features.

The goal of the downtown focus would be to encourage development of Seniors and affordable housing, respecting the current ocean views and to ensure that there is no displacement of existing residents.

No details are listed as to how much all of the proposed options from the vision plan would cost, or how the City plans could be financed.

Also not indicated is what form of a timeline the city would be looking at when it comes to putting the plans in motion, or in what order they might be considered.

The city has provided a look at the presentation through the City's website which offers up an area by area review of what the Planning Partnership came up with.

Included in their online material is a more detailed look at the items noted above as well as a look at the 17 foot long map/mural (which you can zoom in and out of) that the city will be showcasing somewhere in the downtown area as they spread their message on area re-development

 You can examine both the presentation items and the map here.

You can review how those community sessions evolved into the presentation of Thursday from our archive features below.

December 1 -- Four days of planning sessions deliver many concepts for the Prince Rupert of tomorrow
November 21 -- Four days of consultation on civic land use start today in Prince Rupert
October 12 -- City outlines latest consultation plans for a range of planning initiatives
October  11 -- City to make announcement on Third Avenue rehabilitation plans tonight

For more items related to the City of Prince Rupert, see our Council Discussion page.