An illegal homeless encampment cost Nanaimo taxpayers nearly a little less than half a million dollars once it was all cleaned up.
The City of Nanaimo spent a total of $466,194 on costs associated with Discontent City, according to financial statements obtained by the News Bulletin through a freedom of information request.
Costs will likely be significantly higher as legal fees were redacted by the city, which cited solicitor-client privilege in its response. Policing costs associated with Discontent City were also not included, though they were requested by the News Bulletin.
Discontent City was established on 1 Port Dr. in May and was dismantled in mid-December following a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that allowed the city to evict the occupants and destroy the homeless camp, which became home to more than 300 people.
Staffing was the biggest expense according to the statements, which show that staff time cost the city $225,537 in wages. The city also paid $68,155 in cleanup costs and $15,229 for “outreach” costs. A communications consultant cost taxpayers $45,797 while compliance with fire safety orders cost $10,843.
Other expenses listed include $8,290 for traffic control services, $1,245 for totes, $3,416 for portable toilets and $6,371 for what is listed as “fence inspection/issues and site access.” The removal of the front gate at Discontent City in June cost taxpayers $872.
In addition to the nearly $500,000 spent on Discontent City, a $301,000 closure plan for the Port Drive camp was approved by councillors in October. Those measures included needle pickup, downtown security, garbage pickup, additional security and cleanup in the downtown core and increased parks staff.
Laura Mercer, the city’s acting director of financial services, told the News Bulletin that all figures provided are final totals for costs associated with the Discontent City from the time it opened until it was shut down and fully dismantled. Mercer also said she could not provide an estimate for policing or legal costs and doesn’t know whether they will be disclosed in the near future.
“I couldn’t give an estimate but I would assume once the legal is all wrapped up on this, it might be something that is released,” she said.
The City of Duncan estimated legal fees associated with a court case involving an illegal tent city, which was dismantled after roughly one month, to be around $25,000 according to the Cowichan Valley Citizen. In that case, the City of Duncan, retained Dominion GovLaw, the same legal firm hired by the City of Nanaimo during its case against Discontent City.
Policing costs associated with a now-closed homeless camp in the District of Saanich have been estimated at somewhere between $315,000 and $547,000 according to the Saanich News.