Nanaimo uses e-Town Hall forum to discuss potential deal on foot ferry project

NANAIMO – City hosts second e-Hall meeting to gauge public opinion on foot ferry and its proposed partnership deal.

Nanaimo city officials will put the $2.5-million question of Island Ferries’ proposed partnering agreement to the public during its second-ever e-Town Hall meeting.

Nanaimo city council is launching an e-Hall meeting on Island Ferries on Monday (Dec. 2) to help gauge the public’s appetite for a 60-minute foot ferry service and a deal that would see the city forgo thousands of dollars in revenue over the next five years.

It is also creating a new policy to help guide future e-Hall meetings.

The city has been seeking taxpayers’ feedback on Island Ferries’ proposed foot ferry since plans were first revealed in late October. Now people will have the chance to join a live discussion on the service and the company’s bid for a partnership deal with the City of Nanaimo.

According to Island Ferries’ managing director Bob Lingwood, a deal is critical, not only providing start-up support and long-term tenure for the company but showing investors the importance of the service to economic development. Under the proposed agreement, Nanaimo would help the company incubate by crediting it $500,000 a year for a total revenue loss of $2.5 million. After five years, the city would collect its full revenue shares of $700,000 annually from the lease, passenger fees and parking. The ferry service is also asking for a 20-year lease and site servicing to the tune of $125,000.

“This is an opportunity for council to sit down and listen to what our community has to say about an important issue we may be funding later,” said Coun. George Anderson. “I don’t see why there would be a downside.”

Not all city council members were on board with the latest effort to engage. Coun. Jim Kipp said the passenger ferry e-Hall is coming on too short of notice to inform people about what the proposed deal entails, while Coun. Bill Bestwick urged caution on the kinds of topics for which the city hosts large events. Putting on e-Halls can give the impression the city is advocating for something it hasn’t yet chosen to do or invest in, he said.

A new policy is expected to help address concerns about how and when the city uses e-Hall meetings.

The technology is still new for the city, which held its first meeting – the second of its kind in B.C. – last March. During the e-Hall, residents’ questions and comments are streamed to a live council meeting via social media, phone and webform.

The ferry service e-Hall  starts at 7 p.m. Dec 2. For more information, please visit www.nanaimo.ca/goto/townhall.