Thursday, June 4, 2009

Revealing the Facts in the Crowsnest Pass (Crowsnest Centre Chapter 46)

On Tuesday night June 2, we had our regular meeting of the Crowsnest Pass Council.

The definition I have always been given for items to go into camera was that they must be either, Land, Legal or Personnel.
We were presented with an agenda that included four items in camera no question three of them fell under the criteria described previously. A fourth an issue with the Crowsnest Centre and its gas bill with Nexen, did not. Therefore, I moved to take that item out of camera and place it under Other Business. The Mayor disagreed with me so I challenged his ruling, after ten minutes of trying to figure out if our procedural bylaw required a two thirds or majority vote, the majority of council agreed with me the agenda was changed.

What led to this issue? on May 12 because the municipality guarantees the Crowsnest Centres gas bill with Nexen, the municipal accounting department was contacted and told that there was an outstanding balance of $21,720.97 owed to Nexen by the centre.

A cheque was issued for Nexen, now our municipal policy requires the signatures of one member of administration and one member of council on all cheques. I was called and asked if I could sign some cheques. Seeing this cheque for the centre, I requested to know from administration why we were doing this. For several reasons, this almost $22,000 was not allowed for in our budget, the Crowsnest Centre board are on record stating that they would require no financial assistance from the municipality this year. In addition, there have been many articles in the local media telling us how well the centre is doing. Therefore, I refused to sign the cheque and requested administration to bring this to the next council meeting with an explanation.

During the debate under other business, the Mayor scolded me for refusing to sign the cheque, when Councilor MacLeod questioned him as to “would you have signed the cheque?” “No”. “Would you have asked questions?” “Yes”. “So you would have done the same as Councilor Ward?” I could not hear the answer to this question clearly.

Anyway to resolving the issue of the outstanding balance and why it came to the municipality. We were told that apparently the bill had gone to the wrong address! Well these bills are over $5000 per month, you would not notice if your gas bill did not show up? These are a reoccurring payables something that as to be paid on a regular basis. Secondly, if the bills are not showing up and the business is doing well should the bill not be paid the moment it is brought to their attention?
Not over a five-week period, then we find out that the centre is requesting almost $3500 from the municipality, which would assist them with paying this overdue bill. Council had agreed to rebate the centre for the cost difference of running their old boiler versus a new one. Which I personally did not agree with but council did pass that motion so we have to live with it.

During our debate a question arising as to if there are any outstanding monies owed to the municipality by the centre, our Financial Officer tells us that there is. I asked the question how much? To which I am told that she would prefer to confirm the number and give it to us the next day. At that point, I ask is it more than $3500 to which I am told yes. Therefore, I made a motion that we not rebate the $3500 until the outstanding bill is cleared up, at this point Councilor Mitchell states that some of the bills are in dispute. Which may well be the case, but I felt then the municipality’s administration and the centre’s manager should sit down and resolve them. The majority of council agreed.

Now why would this information have not been made public?

Want a reason to visit the Crowsnest Pass

Some very good things coming up in the Crowsnest Pass;

June 20/21 is our annual Bellcrest Days

July 1 Canada Day Celebrations

July 4/5 Sinister 7 Ultra Marathon (Expected to have over 400 participants in just its second year)

July 8-11 Southern Alberta Summer Games

July 16-19 Rum Runner Days

August 1-3 Doors Open Heritage Festival

Many great reasons to come visit the Crowsnest Pass.

Ad Hoc Community (Now named the Crowsnest Advisory Committee or for short CAC)

Members of the Committee
From Council – These were picked at a council meeting when the Mayor requested volunteers, only three members of council stepped forward, kept the selection process fairly simple, if somebody else had stepped forth we would have held a vote.
John Irwin, John Salus, Dean Ward

From Community Futures- These were picked by the board its self only one member of council sits on this board, so council out side of that member had zero input into their selections.
Bill Kovach, John Slupsky, Shane Stewart

From Chamber of Commerce- I was told that they selected their members by a vote of the board of directors, from amongst the members that stepped forth. Again an internal process and from what I know no member of council is a Chamber Director so again zero input from council.
Richard Buckle, Lowry Toombs, Jenine Trotz

The accusation of the Board being dominated by the “old school” people that are unwilling to look at or accept change. Looking at this list in my humble opinion I only see one “old school”, will that individual dominate the other eight?

Public Involvement- yes council asked the board to again look at this issue, and we did most of the board felt it is very important to get the public involved in this process, quickly and effectively. Did the board agree to do this at the board level? No, at another equally important level? Yes

We requested that council approve a budget for up to a $1000 (which they did June 2) to start advertising for members of the public to participate on two sub committees. For two very important issues “Community Beautification initiative” and “Signage Bylaws”. This is a start for this process and will determine how effective CAC will be, hopefully the public will step forth.

At our meeting on June 1st we also approved the Terms of Reference for the committee which in part specified that sub committees will be made up jointly of members from the board and the public, but under no circumstances will the board be in a majority position on sub committees.

Within the terms of reference there is also a provision that the terms must be reviewed on an annual basis, and more often if a majority of the board feels they are not working.

We hope to be reviewing the names for the first sub committees at our next meeting and have the process started in July.

Were individuals promised a position on this board, not that I am aware of, were people encouraged to step forth and join the process? Absolutely, that opportunity will be provided shortly, and yes I am going out to encourage every person that as ever complained to me to step up and put their name in for these committees. Personally I see Community Beautification as one of the biggest issues we face. Do you have any idea how many times I hear criticism about some of the pig pens that are allowed to flourish in this community?

Anyway the CAC is not be perfect, but it as started and between all of us I feel we are going in the right direction and have the chance to do some really good things in the Crowsnest Pass.