Monday, May 16, 2022

Reducing vandalism while creating safer and cleaner Langley City public washrooms

One of the ongoing challenges for public washrooms in Langley City parks is vandalism. Another challenge is the utilization of washrooms for activities that result in unsafe environments for all washroom users.

The following photo, which Langley City staff shared with Council last week, shows the latest round of vandalism at Linwood Park.

Vandalism at Linwood Park Washroom. Select image to enlarge.

Park washrooms are essential, and Langley City does whatever is possible to keep our park public washroom open. These washrooms have come to my rescue on many occasions.

Of course, the City doesn’t want to continually repair vandalized washroom or have park washroom users find themselves in an unsafe situation.

As Langley City public washrooms have similar challenges and opportunities as some washrooms in the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation Parks Washroom Strategy has insights relevant to our community.

Example of washroom fixtures from Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation Parks Washroom Strategy

Of the eight best practices in the strategy, the following may be directly applicable to Langley City:

Maintenance - Washroom layout should be designed for ease of maintenance. Surfaces should be of resistant materials that discourage graffiti and allow for pressure washing. Fixtures should have a durable design to withstand heavy use. For fire resistance, select stainless steel for surfaces, replace paper towels with hand dryers, and limit the number of garbage cans inside.

Monitoring & Emergency Response - Besides using durable fixtures and considering harm reduction, attendants can help mitigate impacts at socially sensitive sites. An attendant is a person hired to monitor and supervise a washroom facility to ensure the safety of the washroom user. The attendant acts as the first responder in the event of an emergency and ensures washrooms are well-maintained. In most successful cases, the attendant is a peer or member of the community who has social connections and understanding of the relevant issues.

When I was in Kelowna recently, I noticed that they had attendant monitored and maintained washrooms at their downtown transit exchange.

In Langley City, there may be opportunities for new approaches to monitoring and maintaining washrooms at Linwood, Penzer, Douglas, and Rotary Centennial parks. There is a clear opportunity to partner with Fraser Health and other service providers in our community.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

May 9 Council Notes: Budget, Property Tax, and Upcoming Local Government Election

Langley City Council addressed several housekeeping matters at its Monday meeting.

Council gave final reading to amend the 2022 budget as the City has received additional grant money for projects and some other projects’ scopes have changed. You can read more about these grants and changes in a previous post.

Council also gave final reading to update the 2022 tax rate bylaw. You can read more about this in a previous post.

With the upcoming election this fall, Council gave first, second, and third reading to a bylaw which will improve voting options. Anyone will now be able to vote during advanced voting at the Langley Senior Resources Society. The proposed bylaw will also provide authority for voter registration by mail and voting by mail.

The proposed bylaw will also increase the number of nominees someone needs to run for Mayor or Council from two to ten. This change will help to ensure that there is meaningful support from qualified electors for candidates running.

Currently, candidates can put election signs on private property and at two public property locations (the Gateway of Hope and BC Hydro Right-of-Way on 200th Street.)

While discussing a minor change to the sign bylaw for election signs, Council suggested that we shouldn’t allow election signs on any public property, including these two locations. The rationale is that signs on public property are always subject to extreme vandalism, with vandalized sign parts getting into our ecosystem. Sign clutter at these two locations also means that they don’t effectively promote candidates.

Council did not move forward with the minor change to the sign bylaw, asking staff to look at updating the sign bylaw to continue allowing private property owners to place election signs on their property while restricting election signs on all public property.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Langley City receives clean financial bill of health. Overall expenditures under budget though some exceptions.

City Hall

Annually, Langley City prepares year-end financial statements that must be independenty audited. Kristine Simpson from BDO Canada LLP is Langley City’s independent auditor, and at Monday’s Council meeting, she gave the 2021 year-end financial statements a clean bill of health.

Langley City’s budgeted $53.1 million in revenue for 2021, but actually received $59.7 million in revenue. The City didn’t budget to receive revenue from the casino in 2021, but it received $4 million due to its reopening. The City also received higher than budgeted revenue due to increased development activity, including developer cost charges that must be allocated to specific projects.

Overall, expenses were under budget though some individual items were over budget.

The City’s legal fees were $232,000 over budget “due to increased assistance with labour matters.”

RCMP contract policing costs in 2021 were $402,000 over budget due to RCMP members’ first collective agreement, which included a significant pay bump. This increase was offset by $424,000 in RCMP detachment savings due to staff vacancies and other operational savings.

Overall maintenance costs for roads, water mains, and sewer lines were about $267,000 higher than budgeted. $34,000 of this was due to the flooding in the fall. Some of these costs were offset by reduced labour costs.

Security costs were $38,000 over budget. Costs related to vandalism & homelessness were $54,000 over budget. The City also went over budget by $45,000 to beef up last year’s Christmas displays downtown.

Due to receiving more revenue than budgeted, and overall expenses being under budget, the City transferred an additional $7.6 million to reserve accounts in 2021. These reserve accounts are used to fund future capital projects such as renewing parks, roads, and the water and sewer system.

The following shows the City’s overall revenue and expenses:

Langley City’s overall revenue and expenses. Select table to enlarge.

For more information, please read the complete “Consolidated Financial Statements of City of Langley.

As a housekeeping matter, Council gave first, second and third to a bylaw to align the 2021-2025 Financial Plan with the consolidated financial statements.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Living Well in Langley – A five-year poverty reduction action plan

Innes Corners Plaza

The federal and provincial governments have created poverty reduction plans. Because local governments are best positioned to advocate for and convene stakeholders in their communities, the province partnered with the Union of BC Municipalities to provide local governments with grants to deliver “on the ground” poverty reduction action plans.

The Township of Langley and Langley City, together with the Langley Poverty Reduction Task Group, created “Living Well in Langley,” a five-year poverty reduction strategy.

Kwantlen First Nation “generous contributions to this process, including sharing their time and knowledge and joining as a member of the Task Group.” Other task group members include the school district, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Fraser Health, and social service organizations.

Langley City Council received a presentation of the draft plan yesterday.

The following table outlines actions the Township of Langley and Langley City must take to reduce poverty:

Task Group Advocacy to the City and Township of Langley. Select table to enlarge.

The following table outlines actions that the province and the federal government must take to reduce poverty in Langley:

Task Group Advocacy to the Province of British Columbia and the Federal Government of Canada.

The plan outlines when each of these actions should start in the next five years. For more information, please read the draft action plan.

Once the plan is adopted, the Langley Healthier Communities Partnership, which includes Langley City, will monitor the plan via an annual report, including the strategies that have been implemented or are in progress, changes in indicators of poverty and low income, and emergent issues.

This action plan will likely be finalized and adopted by this summer.