A Snapshot of the Nanaimo Operations Centre & the Alternative Approval Process (AAP)

Oct 25, 2023

*** UPDATE - February 12, 2024 ***

At a special council meeting held on Monday, February 12, City Council made the decision to cancel the current Alternative Approval Process (AAP), abandon the Nanaimo Operations Centre Phase One Borrowing Bylaw 2023 No. 7362, and direct staff to return to Council at a later date with options to fund the project. The decision comes after it was determined that an error had occurred at the start of the current AAP.

In a news release last week, the City indicated an error was identified where response forms were not made available upon notice of the AAP. City staff have reviewed the process, sought legal advice and have concluded that due to the response forms not being made available on the initial day of AAP notice (January 17, 2024), the requirements in the legislation have not been met.

For more information, read the staff report ( link))


If we could ask Mother Nature to put the brakes on and give us a break, we would. But the heavy storms are still coming, winters ahead promise more snow and ice, and the threat of ‘the big one’ still lingers. Lucky for us, in Nanaimo, we have Public Works and Parks Operations quietly working in the background, keeping our pipes clean and flowing, our roads clear, and our trails beautiful and groomed.A white truck with an orange plow pushes snow off of a snowy side road
It’s a lot like magic. We turn on the tap, and extremely clean drinking water comes out. We flush the toilet, and bawhoosh – gone. And when we wheel our carts to the curb, our organic waste, garbage and recycling just disappear. Out of sight and out of mind.

In fact, that’s how most of the City of Nanaimo’s operations teams try to work; in the background, with as little disruption to our daily lives as possible. The City’s Public Works and Parks Operations teams aren’t really looking to be celebrated, but we have reached a time when their work needs to be supported or delivering those services is going to be more difficult.

A small crew is monitoring the sewers at a service hatch with a CCTV van

It takes infrastructure to maintain the equipment and fleet to maintain our infrastructure. That may sound ridiculous at first, until we reflect on how connected everything is. When a watermain breaks, the City isn’t sending a team out with shovels. Large trucks and heavy equipment will be sent out to replace the pipe and repair the damage. The fleet and equipment is all maintained in the aging service bays at our Public Works yard. If the equipment doesn’t work, the City can’t respond quickly to an emergency like this.

A wide shot showing the aging service bays at the Nanaimo Public Works yard

The same goes for the City’s fleet of fire trucks, which are also maintained at the Public Works Yard (even though they don’t fully fit in the service bays). Keeping Nanaimo’s priority routes clear during a snowstorm is less meaningful if the fire trucks are broken down. And imagine a City crew trying to remove a fallen tree by hand? Or a Parks crew mowing the fields at Beban Park with a manual lawn mower?

A wide shot of the front of Nanaimo's aging Public Works building

The facilities and infrastructure that make up the City of Nanaimo’s Public Works and Parks yards are far past their usable life and were only ever meant to service a community half of our size – which Nanaimo was, nearly 60 years ago when these old facilities were built.

And so, in front of us are plans to renew, rebuild and revitalize our Public Works yard into the Nanaimo Operations Centre (NOC); a facility that brings our Public Works and Parks Operations teams together in one location, efficient and ready for our growing city’s needs.

A detailed layout and overview of the potential Nanaimo Operations Centre

There is a price tag on efficiency, safety and progress, and those development costs fall to the taxpayers of Nanaimo. Therefore, it’s important that it’s the electors of Nanaimo that decide on whether the City moves forward with borrowing to fund this plan for an updated Nanaimo Operations Centre.

When borrowing large sums of money for infrastructure, municipalities have two options for gaining the approval of residents and taxpayers, and the process used often depends on the nature of the project. Is it a project that is critical to maintain City services, or is it a project that will benefit the community in other ways?

Option one is to hold a referendum. Also known as an Assent Vote, a referendum essentially works like an election and costs nearly $300,000 to run. Option two is a significantly more affordable option; known as an Alternative Approval Process (AAP), residents have an official way to object to the proposed project, and typically a 30-day window to do so; if 10% of eligible voters submit an official objection to the project, Council still has the option to take the project to referendum for approval. If less than 10% officially object, then the City may move forward. Improvements to the Public Works Yard are critical to maintain services well into the future, so in this case, the question of borrowing for the Nanaimo Operations Centre is ideal for an AAP.

A rendering of the potential new fleet maintenance building at the Nanaimo Operations Centre

Phase one of the new Nanaimo Operations Centre is focused on building a new fleet maintenance building, so we can continue to keep our fleet and heavy equipment operational and ready to go at a moment’s notice. We service everything from chain saws to recycling trucks in these facilities. It wouldn’t take much of a quake to knock the current building down, and a lot of the City’s trucks and fire trucks don’t even fit in the bays, so replacing this building is a top priority.

The Nanaimo Operations Centre is tentatively a ten-year project. Here's a look at the different phases:

Phase One (currently in AAP for a maximum borrowing of $48.5 million):

  • Foundational work including a new fleet maintenance facility, truck wash facilities and utility servicing for future phases of the NOC project (max borrowing $40 million)
  • Stormwater Management infrastructure at the yard and next door at Fire Rescue Station #2 (max borrowing $4.5 million)
  • Fire Training Tower Fuel Conversion to convert from hazardous and environmentally poor wood burning training to an efficient gas system (max borrowing $1.25 million)
  • New trail to complete the circular route of trails at Beban Park, in place of an otherwise necessary sidewalk spanning the length of the Public Works yard (max borrowing $2.75 million)

Future phases:

  • Storage buildings,
  • Storage structures and outdoor spaces
  • Heavy fleet equipment areas
  • Administration building
  • Staff parking
  • Secondary entrance
  • Fueling stations
  • Stores and supply building renovations

This is just a quick look at the project ahead. For more details, visit the in-depth Nanaimo Operations Centre Project Page and the NOC Alternative Approval Process page.


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