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HMS Flamborough Head – Financial Mismanagement

HMS Flamborough Head – The City of North Vancouver, during an incamera council session held behind closed doors, and beyond the eyes and ears of the public, voted to scrap the stern of the HMS Flamborough Head. The stern was originally saved to form part of the now failed National Maritime Museum project, and has been sitting around the Shipyard Lands for the past 10 years looking for a new venue. In this search, public and private funds totaling $569,000 has been donated to the project. With councils February 24th 2014 decision to scrap the stern, these invested funds together with an additional $250,000  of City monies are now all converted to a bad investment. See Video Feed (www.nsnews.com/news/city-of-north-vancouver-to-scrap-ship-s-stern) and news story (www.northshoreoutlook.com/news/247339251.html).

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The initial decision to scrap the Flambourgh Head (the “Stern”) was taken behind closed doors because it was alleged that the Stern was in immanent danger of falling over, which made the matter a safety issue which constituted a financial risk to City taxpayers and therefore compelled the matter be decided incamera. At my request a well known marine engineer attended the Stern and confirmed that the Stern was not at this time, or for some time to come, in any danger of toppling over. The real issue of risk was political in nature and resulted from the fact that the Mayor and several councillors had invested so much political capital in pushing the Stern project forward, that to admit defeat and throwout nearly a million dollars of taxpayer and privately donated monies was the real risk which compelled the matter to be hidden from public scrutiny. This fact is confirmed by virtue that the council decision was later brought out from behind closed doors for further debate in open council chambers while the alleged risk continued to exist, which would not otherwise have been possible.

The City’s investment in the HMS Flamborough Head, with out a certain future, was a catastrophic error in judgment on the part of many. The magnitude of the catastrophe only worsened when the investment was then thrown away to satisfy yet another political agenda (“Disney North”), now planned for the site near which the HMS Flamborough Head Stern is stored. The lesson here is that embarking on large capital investments as part of any vision before the outcome of that vision is certain is pure and simply bad management. Given the amount of money then sunk, and the seemingly strong commitment of those who wished to save the Stern, it would seem only fair to have given them a chance to come up with matching private sector funding necessary, not unlike what has been done for both the Museum and the Art Gallery projects. The failure to give the Flamborough Head a chance to resurrect itself may doom those other two projects who’s outcome also relies on private funding support, for it will send a message to all private donors that the City will take their money and waste it, throwing away the legacy premise upon which those donations are made, and putting into question the wisdom of any future donation scheme invovling the City.

Known contributors to the HMS Flamborough Head project include:

City of North Vancouver (Taxpayers) $ 300,000
Province of British Columbia (Taxpayers) $ 150,000
Government of Canada (Taxpayers) $ 40,000
North Vancouver Museum & Archives $ 10,000
Friends of the Museum $ 20,000
Washington Marine Group $ 15,000
Marine Workers & Boilermakers Industrial Union $ 34,000

Sub Total $ 569,000

Hull Scrapping Costs:

City of North Vancouver (Taxpayers) $ 250,000

Total Cost (Thrown Away) $ 819,000

To embark upon public private investments in projects which are subject to catastrophic failure is not the business of any level of government. The capacity to absorb losses of this magnitude simply does not exist at the municipal government level. Throwing away $819,000 is equivalent to giving away a full 2% of the City’s annual budget for one year. In short, the HMS Flamborough Head decision discloses truly bad management on the part of the original City council, and equally bad management on those who would then vote to throw away the opportunity to salvage that investment.

Finally, camouflaging bad political decisions behind closed doors on the premise of risk and safety issue, when the real issue is that public disclosure of the decision may hurt certain mayor and council members bid for re-election is not just improper conduct by City administrators, it is a contravention of the Community Charter Act.

IT IS MY POSITION THAT the City should have allowed time for the proponents of the “Save The (HMS Flamborough Head) Stern” project to seek public and private funding contributions from all possible sources to complete this project. To this end:

  1. I would have supported an extension of time of not more than two (2) years during which the “Save The Stern” proponents could then pursue and acquire funding for this project: and
  2. I would have supported a matching grant for the project under the terms of which the City’s investment would be caped at $600,000 of City funds, payable to an established project leader, only after proof that an equal or greater matching donation amount had been received, and after confirmation that sufficient funds to complete the project as envisioned were then in place, and
  3. I would have supported retaining Mr. Tom Ward of IMC to provide an official engineering report confirming that the stern was safe to remain where it was for, at minimum, two (2) additional years while the project funding process was undertaken.
  4. I will not give my support to future endeavors the likes of HMS Flamborough Head, unless or until a project outcome is certain. I made the explanations and commitments listed at points 1 – 3 above before the March 3rd 2014 vote of City council occurred. I have disclosed how I would have acted in such circumstances because I think it is important for the electorate to understand how my actions would have varied versus those taken by council of the day. I would only have given my support for this further expenditure because we were already into this project for a minimum of $819,000 at the time the decision to scrap the stern was taken. In my opinion, we would have been better off to spend a little more money to save our sunk investment in the project as opposed to losing the full value of all that invested, making the whole business even worse.

Further, I believe we do irreparable damage to our ability to acquire future private donors to various desirable projects when we act cavalier with, and squander those donor funds when under City administration.

What do you think?

What do you think about my position on HMS Flamborough Head – Financial Mismanagement?

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