Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
February 2nd, 2012

Rossland CAO Victor Kumar recently responded to Andrew Bennett’s emailed questions regarding the process leading to the grant application submitted by the city for a four season pool. The questions and Mr. Kumar’s answers have been re-arranged for readability below:

Bennett: The over-riding issue is that a grant was made available in September with a Dec. 28 deadline. Council was not given the opportunity to debate the grant until Dec. 19.

Kumar: Unfortunately this is your own opinion and you are entitled to such an opinion. From our governance decision-making process Council or any member of Council had ample opportunity to debate the issue from the time the announcement was made and up to December 19. Staff presents reports when all the information has been assembled. The announcement was made in September it did not have all the grant guidelines at the same time.

You can research that and would discover that there was a gap in the time from the announcement and the application guidelines being made available. From the announcement date it did not prevent any member of Council or any of the general community organizations in advancing any project for grant application through a resolution of Council.  I strongly recommend that you familiarize with the Council Procedure Bylaw and in particular the process of adding items to the Agenda, the Order of Business and the role of a member of Council in advancing items in any Council meeting.

Bennett: By the time it came to council, they had only one choice: accept the grant as you wrote it, or dump the grant entirely. Despite grumbling about process and misgivings about the project itself, council reluctantly passed the resolution so they’d have a shot at some money at least.

Kumar: These are perceptions. There were three options given to Council and the suggested list of projects included for Council to consider in the options. Council did not grumble. A Council if it “grumbles” (debate) does so by a resolution. A member or members may wish to grumble, debate, make statements and this is the normal process in a democracy leading up to a decision of Council. You are entitled to report the statements of members in a discussion leading up to a decision, however, to be objective, the reporter ought to state that the decision of Council gets implemented by staff.).   I strongly recommend you read the staff report accompanying the Grant application included in the Council Agenda. There were three options with potential list of projects presented to Council to discuss and debate. The grant application also included 3 options-{ year around enclosed structure(Option 3-Not viable), a 7-month open improved facility (Manageably viable-Option2) or 3-month improved facility(very viable-Option 1)} My role is  to provide options and to recommend a staff option and it is up to Council to either accept, decline, or take another course of action. This is the basic democratic process of decision making in a local  government. The key role of the City Manager/CAO in a Council- Manager form of local government all across BC and in most North American Cities, Towns, Villages who use Council-Manager form of local government is to present options and recommendations for Council’s decision.

In my personal observation an objective reporting would have stated that Staff presented options to Council on projects as well as options within the grant application. Council democratically debated and made a decision. The staff report was included in the Council package and it was available to you and on the City’s website.

Bennett: As you set the agenda, perhaps you could give me a clear perception of why you chose to leave council out of the decision-making process?

Kumar: A reasonable question to pose by a reporter would have been “ How is a decision made in the democratic environment of a local government|?” It appears to me that you have already drawn your own conclusion that I made the decision and “chose to leave council out of the decision making process”. I made no such decision and neither did any of my staff members. I recommended a staff option and gave other options as well and within the grant application in itself there were three options. You have to provide me with evidence that I made a decision regarding this project rather than your own statement. If I had made a decision I would not have gone to Council and would have sent the grant application without Council’s consent. I made no such decision. Council made a decision by a resolution in a democratic environment. I highly recommend to you to familiarize yourself with the City’s Council Procedure Bylaw to have an understanding of how the agenda is set, the role of a Councillor/Mayor/Council/CAO and the democratic process of decision making in a Council- Manager form of local government.

Bennett: I have just returned from a meeting with Mayor Granstrom in which he stated unequivocally that the $25,000 spent on architectural and engineering work in preparation for the grant application for the pool was “in the budget.” When Coun. Moore asked on Jan. 3 where the money spent on the design could be found in the financial plan, Deb Timm responded that it wasn’t there.

Let me clarify your perceptions and statements contained in your message: The amount spent was not for the preparation of the pool grant application. This amount was spent to carry out the assessment of the infrastructure for future repairs and improvements for the pool’s continuity of operation as a safe public facility and as part of the City’s Five Year Financial Plan.  We have conducted assessment of all our infrastructure in the last two years for financial planning purposes. The pool is the last major facility that was not undertaken as it was part of the Rossland Pool Society asset and did not belong to the City and was not recorded in the City`s Financial Statements and Capital Asset Ledger . As this facility is being turned over to the City, it is prudent and forward thinking to have the necessary information for the financial planning purposes as well as for future decision making.

Bennett: How does $25,000 get spent on a project that council didn’t know existed? Is there a line item for such things? My understanding of the situation is that the money to pay the engineers and architects was cobbled together from “excess” leftover from other “similar” line items.

Kumar: We have done no pool design work whatsoever. Only a very preliminary conceptual computerised drawing was created with the bulk of the money spent on the detailed assessment of the mechanical, electrical, safety and structural work required to repair and improve the existing 70+ years facility including improving safety and accessibility. A detailed design or detailed engineering has never been undertaken.

Bennett: Both the Stantec and Matthes reports, in their opening lines, state that their purpose was to design a four season pool. Perhaps my perception is based on incomplete reports? The reports I read were those included in the agenda package. If you could supply me with the complete reports, that will help clarify their purpose as an “assessment”—as required by the column you chose to assign it in the budget—rather than the “design” for a new project that it looks like.

Kumar: Please note that no instruction was given to change the existing foot plan of the pool or to change any depth or to add any lanes other than to add wading area for children and young families and a hot tub( adults and resort visitors). We have provided all the reports. Further this is not a new project. The pool is an existing community facility. Our objective is to improve the facility for the next 70 years.

Bennett: Matthes writes, “The upgraded design for the Rossland Pool facility is based on mandates given to Matthes Architecture Inc. by the City of Rossland to (1) have all public facilities on one level and fully accessible for persons with disabilities and (2) to enclose the entire Building to create a year round recreational facility.”  [Emphasis added.]

Kumar: This was done to look at what the cost would be of placing mechanical units on the roof due to space constraints and having change rooms as part of the enclosed single structure. This is staff’s role to look at options and understand the cost implications in financial planning and future decisions if the project is advanced and at what level the project would eventually be advanced has yet to be decided. If the project is ever advanced in its entirety it would be done in a public meeting with an accompanying staff report with options. No such report has either been prepared or being advanced.

Bennett: Stantec writes, “The purpose of this report is to define structural, mechanical, and electrical requirements as related to the proposed renovation design presented by Robert Matthes Architect.” [Emphasis added.]

Kumar: The foregoing 3 components represent the assessment assignment. The entire report was included in the Agenda package. For your further clarification, please note I provided you with the explanation at what level the design occurred: detail vs conceptual.

Bennett: Which budget items were used to pay for the pool design used in the grant application? Where is this expenditure planned for in the 2011 financial plan? If it is in the financial plan, I do not know why this information would have been withheld, as it would have made a tidy response to my letters to council three weeks ago and two weeks ago.

Kumar: Budget Item. A line item of $40,000 is allocated in the Community and Planning Department for carrying out the general assessment and preliminary engineering of infrastructure within the City.  The attached documentation [attachment included below] supports the amount and its inclusion in the 2011-2015 Financial Plan.

Past Precedents: A similar assessment have been done in the past for the Arena (by Fairbanks Architect) and for Columbia and Washington Streets (WSA Engineering). These assessments were done prior to any consideration of grant applications.  Infrastructure assessments are operating decision delegated by Council through a delegation bylaw and Officer Bylaw. The reports arising from the assessment are all public documents and made available through Council Agenda.

[Note: The WSA reports were authorized by council after they were informed that the Ministry of Transportation was going to repave Columbia Ave. The original assessment of the arena done by Fairbanks was completed when the arena was funded by the regional district (RDKB.) All RDKB-funded facilities were assessed, and the RDKB paid for those assessments. Further detailed assessments and designs for the arena by Fairbanks were approved by council in 2004.]

Clarification; “being withheld” This is perception issue. Nothing is being withheld. It was in the Council packages and available to the press and the general public. You can trace these attachments in the past Council packages.

Clarification Council vs a Councillor; A member of Council does not make a Council and has no authority until a resolution of Council is debated and passed. Council allocated and approved the Financial Plan based on my recommendations including that staff would do all our infrastructure assessment for the financial planning purposes. You might not have been around when this issue was discussed during the Financial Plan.

Grant Application Eligibility:  An application for any grant is made based on the projects that are included in the Local Governments Five Year Financial Plan. If a project is not included in the Financial Plan, the grant application may not meet the basic eligibility criteria. The pool is included in the City’s Five Year Financial Plan  2012-2016 as the grant application is for the fiscal year 2012-2013 and not for fiscal year 2011.

Bennett: I recall the committees-of-the-whole dedicated to finances, billed as “information sessions,” but I don’t recall the 2012-2016 Financial Plan being passed, let alone with new headings for pool expenditures. Did it pass already?  

Kumar: No. It went through for public consultations in December and January where the expenditures are included in the Plan. There was no motion in the Committee of the Whole to remove any future planned expenditure. The Committee of the Whole minutes get adopted in a Council Meeting to confirm the direction and decision of the Council relating to the Financial Plan including any amendments prior to the actual bylaw readings. Hence the decision is advanced in stages until the final bylaw is adopted.

Bennett: I think it’s worth reviewing your promise to Rossland regarding the delegation bylaw: You said, “I have the delegation to do certain things with that, but in the interest of the public I will bring that back to council so they are aware of what is happening. That’s what I mean by trying to make the democracy work and not stifle it. The stifling part would be now that I have delegation powers I go out and do whatever I want to do and leave the rest of the democracy in action. That would be a cause of discontent and conflict in the organization, so I keep it open. There are no secrets in this organization.”

I have not deviated from this promise. Council makes decisions at policy level for me to implement at the operational level ( delegation bylaw). Council’s policy decisions are either made by a bylaw or by a resolution or both. I have not deviated from what I stated as you have written below. In other words give me evidence ( bylaw name or number and copies of resolutions of Council) which I have not followed or implemented.

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