Spearn and Council Talk
Monday, April 13, 2015:
Committee-of-the-Whole Meeting (5:00 pm); Regular Council Meeting (6:00 pm)
All Council members were present, with Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Añonuevo and Acting Chief Financial Officer Lois Hunter.
In the Committee-of-the-Whole meeting, Hunter talked about the budget for 2015. She explained the adjustments made to balance the budget: they include a number of minor changes, but those of particular interest to taxpayers’ own budgets are: an increase in the (annual) water parcel tax of $7.46; an increase in the sewer parcel tax of $9.86; an increase in the water utility base rate of 84 cents per month for the remainder of 2015, and an increase in the sewer base rate of $2.33 per month for the remainder of 2015 ( both base rate increases beginning in July).
(Page 46of the Water & Sewer Rate Study recently presented to Council, and now posted on the City website here, shows a comparison of Rossland’s water and sewer rates with those of other municipalities in the region. In your editor’s opinion, Rossland’s rates seem generally competitive.)
A motion to approve the draft budget as recommended, including amendments, CARRIED unanimously.
Councillor Marten Kruysse commented that he really appreciated Hunter’s presentation of information and hopes that next year they can start with “the big picture” and then move into more detail. Hunter noted that different people have different views about whether it is more helpful to start with detail and move to the big picture, or vice versa.
At a previous meeting, Council had passed a resolution to ask staff to tell Council what the impacts would be of an overall 5% reduction in City expenses. At this meeting, a motion to rescind that earlier motion CARRIED, as most councillors had decided it was the wrong approach; only Councillors Kruysse and Lloyd McLellan were opposed to the motion to rescind.
Discussion on the next budget: Mayor Kathy Moore invited more thought on the budget process and suggested an earlier start. Councillor Aaron Cosbey suggested that it would be ideal to be able to finalise the budget by the end of December. Moore suggested starting in August; McLellan suggested September; Hunter said it depends on how quickly Council is willing to make decisions; Moore noted that Council needs information as a basis for decisions. Council discussed timing of its next steps — strategic planning and starting the 2016 budget process. Kruysse indicated that he thinks the budget process for 2016 will go much more quickly; Moore suggested, do their strategic planning in June. Hunter noted that if decisions are made during the strategic planning, there’s no need to wait until September to make certain budget decisions. Kruysse said that having the strategy behind the numbers is important.
Moore adjourned the Committee-of-the-Whole meeting, and Council members took a brief break until the Regular Council Meeting began at 6:00 pm.
Public Input Period:
Jill Spearn thanked Council for the work they are doing on behalf of Rossland, then spoke about her letter to Council; she said she had no ill intentions in contacting council about the City’s loss of long-term employee Tracy Butler and how that happened; she said she had been alarmed, and that her alarm no doubt came out in her letter. She acknowledged her share of responsibility for the “rich” contracts for senior City staff members, as she voted to approve them. Spearn said she was not opposed to Council addressing the contracts; she was upset that council had not passed any resolutions to “terminate” contracts.
Moore responded that council had many discussions, but had passed no resolution because that was not needed for her meeting with Butler and Public Works Manager Darrin Albo; that the letters shown to them were unsigned and only DRAFT, and there was no intention or desire to terminate the employees. The intention was to let them know that Council would be discussing a plan to require re-negotiation when their current contract terms ended in two years.
Spearn felt that Butler wasn’t given any opportunity to negotiate. She reiterated that there was no resolution; Moore agreed that there was no resolution, because she was not terminating any contract, she was just having a conversation, as a courtesy, to give Butler and Albo advance notice of what Council would be discussing in camera. Once that conversation had taken place, Butler’s actions pre-empted the need for any resolution.
Spearn asked what the next steps would be — she referred to what it will cost the taxpayers to pay out Butler, and spoke of how Butler and Albo are “true Rosslanders” who have worked very hard for the City. She said she is concerned about Albo being off on stress leave, and about the City being understaffed.
Cosby thanked her for being concerned and for coming to talk to Council; he also said he really wished she had spoken to Council first to get information. He said there was no plan for Butler to leave; her leaving was not wanted or anticipated. He explained that Butler did not want to continue to work for the City knowing that her current contract would not be renewed, and she resigned; Council gave her 15 months as a parting gift in honour of her 20 years of service. Cosbey acknowledged that Council should have foreseen her reaction. Moore acknowledged that she should not have used the draft letters; she should have engaged in conversation only. As for having another person present at the meeting with Butler and Albo, the plan was for Cosbey to be at the meeting too, but he was delayed in travel.
Delegations: Encompass Benefits
Council is investigating ways of saving taxpayers’ dollars on City expenses. To that end, Terri Eriksen and Corrie Omand spoke to council as a delegation on behalf of Encompass, a group benefits/disability insurance company. Council will consider the information they provided, gather more information, and make a decision at a later meeting.
Council then adopted (as a block) the minutes of 16 Council meetings from March 10 to April 7 — special meetings, a regular meeting, CoW meetings, and consultations, and all recommendations contained in them: The motion to that effect CARRIED unanimously.
Motion to adopt policy 03 – 05 (Personal Expense and Travel Policy) as amended : CARRIED unanimously.
Discussion on grants the City is putting in for infrastructure projects: a motion to apply for a $2 million grant to assist with the Washington Street project CARRIED unanimously. Another motion to apply for a $1 million grant for the Spokane Street infrastructure project CARRIED unanimously.
A motion to support Golden Bear Daycare Centre Landscaping Project by providing written consent CARRIED unanimously.
A motion to approve a development permit application for 1492A Kootenay Avenue, subject to conditions listed by the Planner to protect the riparian area along Trail Creek, CARRIED unanimously.
A motion that zoning amendment bylaw 2581 for 3975 Red Mountain Road be adopted CARRIED unanimously.
A motion that zoning amendment bylaw 2582 for 1678 Third Avenue be adopted CARRIED unanimously.
Council then discussed a number of minor items of business. For the most truly enquiring minds, here are most of them. Council decided to:
· put off a decision of the treatment of the Queens Street retaining wall until next year;
· provide financial assistance for Rossland girls to play softball in Trail, from the budget amount set aside for Trail Recreational Program (TRP) activities;
· review the City’s policy for funding for the TRP at a later meeting;
· find out what the Regional District pays other municipalities for fire hydrants before entering into the proposed agreement;
· release the remainder of the funds granted to the Rossland Chamber of Commerce, to enable them to complete their dissolution process;
· appoint Joanne Drystek as the City’s designated contact person with the BC Heritage Registry; this will relieve Planner Stacy Lightbourne of that obligation;
· release 25% of the funding granted to the Museum, as interim funding before the City budget is finalized;
· release funding to WildSafe.
Councillor Andy Morel reported on his attendance at the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society and noted that Rossland’s Deanne Steven is the new chair of the Tourism Committee.
Cosbey and Moore met with the Broadband Task Force and indicated that they are “very close to some exciting news”.
Moore reported that she is very happy to have reached an agreement with Darrin Albo that she thinks will benefit both Albo and the City. She announced that there will be an Earth Day event at Harry LeFevre Square on April 18, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm, with music, kids’ event, and more. She also announced that there is a chance that Rossland will not be hosting the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Government’s convention next year — that Rossland’s host role may be postponed until 2017 or 2018.
The meeting adjourned to an in camera session pursuant to s. 90 (1) (c) and (j) of the Community Charter; labour relations and freedom of information. Your reporter strolled home in the dusk, pondering how a meeting of only three people can give rise to such disparate perceptions of just what happened there; and, to avoid thinking about that any longer, made plans to dig up more of the spotted knapweed from the adjacent road allowance. And to plant more peas, soon.