Sewer talk, how the CAO was hired, budget planning

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
February 6th, 2014

There has been a certain amount of talk among Rossland residents about the “Delegation Bylaw” passed by Council and adopted on January 11, 2010, and some of that talk has made its way to my ears.

Some people have been under the impression that the bylaw allowed the former CAO to hire his own replacement.   The only information about the hiring process readily available to the public on the City website is in the minutes of the September 4, 2012, regular Council meeting,  and it consists solely of this motion:  “RESOLVED THAT THE PORTION OF THE MINUTES OF THE CLOSED MEETINGS OF JUNE 11, 2012, AND JUNE 27, 2012 OF ROSSLAND COUNCIL BE DECLASSIFIED FROM CONFIDENTIAL TO NON-CONFIDENTIAL REGARDING THE RESIGNATION OF MR. VICTOR KUMAR, CAO AND APPOINTMENT OF MS CECILE ARNOTT AS THE CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER AS OF OCTOBER 1, 2012.”

Mayor  Granstrom agreed to respond to questions, and told me that the former CAO, Victor Kumar, did not hire his own replacement; but that he had recommended Ms. Arnott as a potentially suitable candidate.  On that recommendation, Council decided to interview Ms. Arnott, and after interviewing her, decided that she would be a good fit for Rossland, that hiring her would save the time involved in posting the position and/or the expense of hiring a headhunting firm.  Councillor Moore added the information that Council did delegate to Mr. Kumar the negotiation of Ms. Arnott’s contract, which Council ultimately voted to approve.  Ms. Arnott was hired to act as both the Chief Administrative Officer and the Chief Financial Officer.

As for the delegation bylaw itself, Council recognizes its shortcomings and has plans to replace it with a revision which will be drafted with legal advice.  In the meantime, it appears to be in abeyance.

Committee-of-the-Whole meeting, February 3, 2014

All Council members were present when I arrived, as well as the Corporate Officer, the  Manager of Public Works and the Accountant/Comptroller.

Council heard information on the current stage of Rossland’s 2014 budget planning, asked questions and discussed issues arising.  One of the larger “special projects” items is an expenditure of $204,415  for the broadband investment.  Another item of interest is that Rossland’s Sustainability Commission applied for, and has received, a grant from Columbia Basin Trust for $24,500.  There is also an entry for a “Cycling Infrastructure Partnership Program”.

The City’s Accountant/Comptroller, Lois Hunter, is concerned that she may not be able to complete the preparation for the annual audit in a timely fashion if Council wants to go into great detail in preparing the 2014 budget;  Council agreed to work on the budget until the end of this month, leaving Ms. Hunter (mostly) free to do audit preparation until mid-April.  She has made Council aware that last year, the lack of preparation such as monthly bank reconciliations before the audit commenced cost the City approximately $22,000 extra in audit fees.   Ms. Hunter is “starting from scratch” as she was not hired until the end of July, 2013, and is now the acting senior person in the finance department.  Council members noted that, this year, if adjustments to the financial plan are necessary, they will make those adjustments properly by bylaw.

Councillor Moore asks about Washington/Columbia cost again

Councillor Moore again asked about the full cost of the Washington/Columbia project, and Manager of Public Works Darren Albo offered to contact the contractor (ISL) and see if they can provide the break-out of costs for that project so that Ms. Hunter does  not have to spend time pursuing the question.

The Sewer Service Arbitration

Council reviewed and asked questions about three drafts of a “Conversion Bylaw” — 21 pages of material — that must be developed by the Regional District, with the approval of Trail, Rossland, and Warfield; but if no agreement is reached within 30 days of the first draft being circulated, the arbitrator will “settle the terms of the Conversion Bylaw in accordance with these Minutes of Settlement.”   This gives the parties until February 24 to reach agreement on the bylaw.  The 7-page Minutes of Settlement require the Regional District to install flow meters to measure the amount of sewage from each community, and when that has happened, each community’s share of the costs of the service will be based on the amount of sewage contributed to the system, and any overpayments or underpayments made in the interim will be adjusted.  In the interim, each community will pay a set percentage of the costs:  Trail, 62.56%;  Rossland, 24.9% (up from 20.91%); and Warfield, 12.54%.

During the public input period,  Rossland’s former City Planner, Mike Maturo, and former Councillor Lloyd McClellan commented on the draft Conversion Bylaw and the Minutes of Settlement.  I spoke with Mr. Maturo by telephone after the meeting, and he stated that they ignore the effective efforts Rossland has made to reduce its liquid waste, that the percentage of costs Rossland will pay before flows are being measured is unfair and that Rossland will likely be paying about $100,000 per year more than we should, that there is no provision for interest being paid on any amount overpaid by a community under the set percentages, and much more.  Maturo has sent Council a letter explaining his concerns in detail. [See also this story–ed.]

Discussion went on until a little after 8:00, and the Mayor adjourned the meeting.  Remembering that broken wrist last winter from a fall on the ice, your reporter went home by car, with a sense of shame for doing so.  

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