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Sunken vessel while Marina being watched by security attendant
REPORTING · 23rd November 2011
Merv Ritchie
In 2007 mariners began coming to us with complaints regarding the management of the Marina at Kitamaat Village. MK Bay Marina is owned and managed by the Regional District Kitimat Stikine (RDKS). This is now the only remaining marina available for moorage in the Harbour at Kitimat in Douglas Channel. The manager is Richard Smeal and he has attracted many lawsuits and much acrimony over the years but today the fiasco at MK Bay has reached a level of crisis which can only be referred to as epidemic.

After losing a lawsuit between the RDKS and Snow Valley Services, with serious and embarrassing admonitions from the Judge hearing the case, costing the public significantly, the RDKS has continued to allow Smeal to manage the Marina. Today the RDKS is being issued orders by various regulatory authorities and the BC Electrical Safety Board is currently charging them $250 a day. This has been ongoing since the middle of August. A quick calculation turns this into a current fine of $25,000 simply for not fixing the electrical system. Work safe BC is also involved in complaints or taking action against the Marina/RDKS as is; the Environment Ministry, the Provincial Ombudsperson as did the Supreme Court of BC. The users of the marina are continuing to send their complaints to the local media.

A WorkSafe BC report highlights what the users of the Marina have been complaining about for 5 years, the manager’s attitude. It appears from the WSBC report he even argued with the inspectors claiming they had no jurisdiction over the Marina and flatly refused to comply with their orders.

In regards to the installation of ladders at the marina for getting out of the water in case one fell in the report states; “the facility manager is adamant that WorkSafeBC does not have jurisdiction on the float system and feels that installation of ladders could result in damaged vessels which would put the facility at liability and therefore has no plans for further ladders unless an engineering study is completed.” WSBC continues, “As these issues remain outstanding with very little movement over the past few years towards a resolution and repeated attempts at a consultative approach to resolution and because this employer failed to adequately respond to these repeated consultations and orders issued, an application for administrative penalty will be submitted.”

The inspections and demands continued with WSBC writing in a later report, “THIS IS A FOLLOW UP TO INSPECTION 2011139050081 ORDER 7. THIS IS A REPEAT ORDER AND THE ISSUE REMAINS UNRESOLVED You are required to notify WorkSafeBC, in writing, of the steps to be taken to correct the contraventions cited that require a 'Notice of Compliance' (Decision Code ‘N’). The written 'Notice of Compliance' for all "N" coded orders shall be submitted to WorkSafeBC by 30 September 2011.”

To highlight the significance of the need for the requirements, a client of the Marina wrote, “I can't even attempt to explain all of the exchanges that (my husband) has had with Richard regarding the maintenance of the docks down where the boat houses are. Last year we had a 70 year old guest trip on a portion of the dock, spill the wheelbarrow full of items we were taking up to the vehicle to go home. He fell in the water nearly drowning as the wheelbarrow fell on him. We don't know if the tripping hazard down there has been fixed because we haven't been out to Kitimat since then."

WorkSafe BC has expressed concerns for the workers safety insisting they wear personal floatation devices when on the docks along with the installation of ladders and markings to indicate where these are located. This also has not been complied with.

And just when one might think the attention and the fines might turn the tide, the situation at the Marina got worse.

As early as 2007 the disagreeable character of the Marina Manager was brought to the attention of the RDKS and the concerns continued, were highlighted and were exacerbated. If a safety pyramid was applied to the number of accidents, near misses and safety infractions at the RDKS MK Bay Marina, the only space left open would be a fatality. Is this what the administration is waiting for?

In 2009 the Anna Christine charter vessel encountered numerous difficulties. These are detailed in the links below. In 2010 a presentation was made to the RDKS about the numerous problems at the Marina and the difficulties experienced by the users. In 2011 more presentations were made and the RDKS administration continued to ignore the concerns and even believed those bringing attention to these deficiencies were creating the troubles. In a recent email a suggestion was made how the Electrical inspector only became involved after the Marina Users Group made a complaint to them. The issues have been in front of the RDKS administration and the Board for years. To suggest their inaction on the issues, which might have precipitated a direct complaint, was in some manner wrong, is perplexing.

At an RDKS meeting in September 2010, when we asked about these concerns and the promises of an audit of the facility, the RDKS Director from New Hazelton, Peter Weeber, suggested the complainants had nothing significant to complain about stating, “ Somebody went out of their way to find everything that could be called wrong,” suggesting the concerns were unfounded.

The Director from Kitimat, Bob Corless, stated in regards to the Marina “On August 13 [2010] when the meeting was held in Kitimat, we took a tour of MK Bay Marina, some of the Directors hadn’t been there for quite a while, they were quite impressed with the condition of the Marina, that it was in good shape and were wondering what all the hollering and screaming was about. And I have heard comments, I can’t remember from who, that they really did to zero in and try to make look bad certain aspects of the marina that in person certainly didn’t appear to be all that bad.”

During the February 2011 RDKS meeting when asked about performing an audit on the operations Corless, stated, “In regards to the audit, I mean the parameters of the audit, what are the parameters going to be? There’s all kinds of questions just to do with that audit right? The audit they want is one that oversees all the operations whether it be the store, whether it be the floats, whether it be … all that stuff right. So who does that? Who knows everything about marinas? There was some time spent on that but we haven’t got there yet."

And this admission should have had all the RDKS board members acknowledging their own shortcomings and found a competent organization to investigate the entire fiasco.

The various authorities paying attention now to the Marina suggest the RDKS has been completely negligent in their duties to properly manage the Marina. This is almost an insult added to the deficit the operation now runs. Currently it is facing consistent 6 digit losses annually, last year at just under $500,000 in the hole and the year before $350,000.

As Corless stated the request for an audit is in regards to the entire operation. Some complain about the integration of the Marina sales efforts with liquor sales outlets in Kitimat. Big Jims Liquor store hosts items on consignment and this issue has also been raised as cheques have been written to the liquor outlet from the RDKS. With all the various facets of this public facility, one running at a half a million dollar deficit; facing fines and penalties from regulatory agencies of the Provincial Government, lawsuits and complaints running for 5 years, not to take a complete and thorough, even a forensic audit, would be a sign of an administration complicit in an act of obstruction in an attempt to thwart or interfere with a full investigation.

Last week an email was sent out from the administration suggesting this information shouldn’t be out in “the public domain” stating “some people seem to be spreading this info – interesting?”

The questions should be asked and the public should be wondering, why after five years; the debt, the mismanagement and the lawsuits continue. The most serious concerns raised are the bullying tactics. In the winter of 2009/2010 a boat sank at the Marina while the Marina was apparently being watched by a hired caretaker. The electrical power had failed, battery died and the bilge pump couldn’t work. This heightened the complaints from specific individuals. The Manager has been accused of being vindictive and this was what precipitated the lawsuit and the admonition by the judge hearing the case.

So this past week when a user involved in bringing these issues to attention found his electrical cable unplugged he became suspicious and found even the tie straps he used to secure his cable had been cut.

Now even the lights are out at the Marina, at least as of last night.

Apparently the RDKS is in negotiations with the Haisla over the use of the lands around the Marina and the management of the Marina. Of course all of this and all the previous land use arrangements are also kept secret.

Read the many previous stories and watch the video exchanges by clicking on the links below.

April 2010 presentation to the RDKS board table here.

September 2010 on Richard Smeal and Snow Valley

Kitimat Daily story on MK Bay Marina

RDKS loses first salvo

Here is the text of the many letters sent to the RDKS regarding the concerns at the MK Bay Marina.

Open letter to RDKS Members Function Committee Chairman,

It has been sometime since my last report to you on observations made at the MK Bay Marina. Things are not changing in my opinion to help out with the deficit there.
Now the marina is being charged $250. per day for not complying with the BCSA authourity (electrical inspector). This is over $20,000 to date. The WSBC authority is also in the process to levey fines against the marina for non-compliance. The unneccessary Tug Boat court case and its costs. The Ombudsman issue. The huge deficit.
Is this responsible management? This needs to be addressed! The Function Committee is in a position to do something right now. If you are re-elected the problem will still be there. If not re-elected will you have a clear conscience you have done everything you could to correct this problem for the citizens and tourist alike? What is it going to take to have someone step up to the plate, take a stand and correct the ongoing problems with our Marina?

Lots of work has been done on the adjacent properties that do not belong to the RDKS at the marinas' expence and will not bring in revenue for the marina. Recently I have seen at least 2 semi truck loads of what appears to be salvaged concrete slabs and blocks delivered to the marina with what appears to be Rio Tinto Alcan numbering on them. For what purpose I am suspicious of. Some may be for anchors, but 2 truck loads? What is the cost of blocks, trucking and unloading?
A fairly large area of brush has been cleared near the Marinas' North entrance. I am not sure but this maybe on lot 98 belonging to Rio Tinto Alcan down to the waters' edge. Today I saw an excavator parked in this area. Is the manager planning on doing another project? Is there an approved business plan per policy manual for another project?

What are the priorities at the marina? The fuel dock still looks broken up like it did this spring and we are now heading into the winter stormy season. What if it finally breaks apart and we have an enviromental disaster? What if someone is hurt because of its condition, who is liable?

I heard that the manager was on a trip to the interior to buy a Plow Truck! Is this in the budget plan? What has happened to the Marinas' skidder with a perfectly good snow plow that was used for many prior years? Is the Marina about to clear the Haisla Nations' parking lots for the LNG? No revenue to the marina. Lots of Commercial stuff going on around the marina, what is the benifit to the marina?

What is the deal with the Tookus Inn Lodge and its proposed approximate 120 feet of winter moorage at the marina? I have heard it is going to house construction workers? Is it being charged the going rate for being tied up at the marina right now? Are special deals being made?

The rate payers of the Marina showed you how to make this public facility stand alone with our budget proposal this spring. The region needs this public facility. If you do not want to deal with its problems sell it to the District of Kitimat as they require a marina. With all due respect to the Haisla Nation, they already have a federal dock and marina for their own use. In my opinion all we require with the Haisla Nation is a simple working arrangement not a partnership and more red tape. We the tax payers have not been duly consulted on this secrect deal of partnership. This is the last piece of all tidal property available for boaters to access the Douglas Channel. This is our Jewel of the North lets keep it shiny.

The MK Bay Marina Users Group would like to take this opportunity to wish all the candidates in the upcoming elections for all areas the best of luck.

MK Bay Marina Users Group was formed 4 years ago to help address the concerns of the local boaters and tourists who use this facility, MK Bay Marina. We represent almost 100 members. We have had very limited success in having our concerns recognized and addressed. Six Months after formation, in April 2008 we met with the R.D.K.S. function committee (a group of elected directors charged with overseeing the operation of M.K. Bay Marina). Mrs. Marylin Davies was the chairperson of the committee and disscussions took place regarding the need for a policy manual. This manual would be useful in addressing concerns we had. This was as far as we were able to proceed with this topic. Elections came and a new committee was formed. Once again this is where we are today, election time. It seems we have come full circle. Mrs. Davies you will be happy to know that a policy manual has existed for many years and has finally been made available to us. Why were you not made aware of its existance in 2008?

The existing policy manual contains the possible solutions to most of our concerns in dealing with the regional Marina. In my opinion if this policy manual had been followed the Marina would not be in such a sad state of affairs and debt. The policy manual was discussed with us at the last Function Committee meeting on June 22, 2011 and it was agreed that the corrections needed to be updated properly. It is important that this manual be updated with its corrections and be immediately available to the next Function Committee as a guide. Also, it should be made available to the Clients of the Marina to refer to in times of disagreement or need of help. It is very important for any successful business or function to listen to the concerns and needs of the Clients.

We are once again looking forward to working with the next function committee to be established for the MK Bay Marina after the election. We will be available to help the new committee with knowledge of what we the clients and boat owners require for a successful and good working Marina.

Hello Ted,

I emailed Mr. Smeal and CC you and others about the lighting being out on the Docks. I had to go down tonight after work and drain the water from my tanks and remove food stuff etc. for winter. The Lights on the docks have not been repaired yet. I thought this would be done by now as they had a high reach working on the yard lights the other day at the marina. It may be as simple as changing the light bulbs, they were working before. There are lots of other people using the docks at night. People have to check on their boats and for some, day light hours just does not work.

We pay very high rates to moor our boats there. Nearly 30% increase in the last 2 years. The lock on the gate is stuffed full of something. I could not dig it out without a tool, I did not have anything. The limited security at the marina has been compromised! Is the manager even checking on the docks? What the heck is he doing down there? I would like to expect better service for the clients of the marina. We pay the bulk of the bills. There was lots of work worth thousands of dollars done on the lands, not belonging to the marina this summer but paid for by the marina. We will not recover any money for that. How is that supposed to help the huge deficit already existing.

I checked and the water is still on at the docks. It is predicted to go to -13 degrees C by Saturday. Are we going to be looking at replacing water lines in the spring?

RDKS is being fined $250 dollars per day since Aug 17. for non compliance at the marina. There are more fines coming from different authorities. You where aware of this at the meeting we had at the marina with the function committee. Administration told you then they where going to dispute it. Look what has happened, are you going to spend more money to fight it? Pay lawyers and loose, still have to fix it and the bill still goes up until it meets compliency. The fine may already be more than what it would have cost to comply. What have we hired to look after our assets? This has to stop! Our Marina User Group has had nothing to do with any of these fines. Yet we are being used as scape goats for the Administration to blame. It does not matter who made the complaint. The fact is, it is to do with safety and it is everyones responsability to do something about it, period. I am glad someone reported something besides us and it may save a life of and employee or client one day!

People will find out about this and something has to be done to save our tax dollars and prevent injuries. Please! Excersice your authority and do what you have been elected for and are running for again. Protect our assets and tax dollars from further abuse! You know the problem, please deal with it!


Chairman and Board of Directors:

RE: Suspected Mischief

I just came back from the marina this evening. When I arrived at the marina earlier today to do some repairs on my engine I found my electrical shore power cable in the water and the plug submerged.

Lucky for me the cold snap has just passed. This happened once before and I was very suspicious of how the electrical cable wound up being over top of the dock railing and in the salt water. After I made repairs to the cable the first time I used zip ties to fasten it to the railing again. I want to be assured, if it was an accident that time, it would not be possible to happen again without someone actually cutting ties. Today again, the plug repairs were made. I have re-secured it with double zip ties. Without my constant monitoring a disaster could happen.

Given the current affairs at the marina I am very concerned for the security of my boat. I have a very substantial investment moored at the marina. I expect some reassurance that vandalism will be deterred. With the moneys already spent on security cameras one would expect better. Perhaps a review of the security camera may show the culprit.

Perhaps I am being targeted for some reason that I do not know, but I have only advocated for better security, safety and service at my marina.

Victor Lick

Dear Mr. Nyce,

I’m writing this letter to express my profound disappointment in the performance of the RDKS Function Committee, the group of Directors that oversees the operation of MK Bay Marina. I am an annual moorage client at the marina, and have been for the past decade. I, along with all other clients and customers of the facility, are faced with spiraling and continuing cost increases in every aspect of operation including moorage, electricity, haul-out charges, dry land storage, vehicle parking, trailer storage, boat launching fees and even camping fees. The 2011 budget approved by the Board on February 25 shows yet another increase in moorage fees and service rates by a stunning 18%. This is on top of last year’s 10% and a previous 10% in 2007. Nonetheless, the nearly $500,000 deficit incurred some years ago remains virtually unchanged. The Function Committee, under the guidance of your administrator seem unable to control spending at this facility.

Litigation initiated as a last resort against the RDKS and the marina manager by the tug boat owner could likely have been settled with a handshake a few months ago, if not for the unyielding arrogance shown by the manager and the autocratic attitude of your administrator. I notice from the monthly RDKS cheque register posted on your website that legal fees paid to date have already reached more than $50,000. As well, the 2011 budget shows $80,000 set aside for “professional services” (up from $2000). Does this mean you expect to lose? Are boaters and marina clients expected to pay for this boondoggle as well?

The disregard shown by the Board and members of the Function Committee towards your fiscal duties and responsibilities at this facility is very distressing. Despite many requests, your Function Committee has refused to consult with or communicate in any way with customers. All discussions about marina finances have been held out of the public eye “in camera”, as it seems are all other marina issues.

Imagine if the people of Terrace, Kitimat and the other villages of the region were faced with property tax increases in the order of what we are facing at the marina? Do you think taxpayers would allow you to take the same approach? We are the people directly affected by your decisions and bare the full impact. As our elected representatives we deserve much more.

Michael D. Graham
Electrical panel - labeled as 20 and 30 amp service yet all are connected to 15 amp circuit breakers  - image from 2010 presentation
Electrical panel - labeled as 20 and 30 amp service yet all are connected to 15 amp circuit breakers - image from 2010 presentation
One of two fire extinguishers ready for service  - image from 2010 presentation
One of two fire extinguishers ready for service - image from 2010 presentation
Comment by User of the marina on 24th November 2011
During a special June meeting between the RDKS and the Marina Users Group, (MUG), the public was not informed of this meeting taking place but some Kitimat supporters of the Manager, Richard Smeal, attended including the liquor store owner who hosts items for sale at his outlet on behalf of the RDKS along with drug paraphenalia, Jim Thom.

When asked MUG was told it was an open meeting. When a MUG member went out of the board room he looked back at the door and saw a paper taped to it stating it was a closed meeting. To us the entire meeting seemed like a set up and the actions of the Admin of the RDKS are suspect.
Eye Opener
Comment by c. sandecki on 24th November 2011
This is not the type of thing I enjoy reading first thing in the morning. It makes me want to crawl back under the covers.
But I'm delighted to learn Regional District taxpayers are well enough off to pay $250 per day fine for non-compliance with safety regulations, up to $25,000 so far.
No wonder the Regional District wants this mess kept under wraps.