Morrin Council moves forward with $100,000 spend

Deputy Mayor of the Village of Morrin, M’Liss Edwards called a special meeting for the purpose of approving the Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP).

The meeting was held by conference call on Fri. Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.

Mayor Howard Helton did not attend.

In an interview with the ECA Review reporter as to his absence in the meeting, Mayor Howard Helton stated the meeting was non-compliant according to the Municipal Government Act (MGA), Section 194 (1), and (5), and he did not cast a vote to hold the meeting.

The section states the “chief elected official” can call a special council meeting, stating the purpose, from a request by a majority of council.

It goes on to state that “no matter other than that stated in the notice calling the special council meeting may be transacted at the meeting”.

The meeting notice stated that the item of business would be to “discuss the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grant but later corrected it to state it was the Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) Capital Project.

However, when the agenda arrived, said Helton, it had other items of business not listed in the notice of the meeting.

In a follow-up interview, Deputy Mayor Edwards stated Sec. 194 (4) in the MGA states that a  special meeting can be held in less than 24 hours with no public notice, if at least 2/3rds vote in favour. Edwards stated the vote was held by email however, the special meeting was not called by the “chief elected official”.

Edwards and Coun. Wilton were in attendance at the village office for the Special Meeting on with Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner while the public was on teleconference.  

A motion was made to forward  the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to spend the Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) amounting to $50,000 for Morrin to be put towards the village water plant upgrade.

The plan showed upgrading the duty pumps, installing a new regulator valve with new piping and a bulk water truckfill.

Helton explained to the ECA Review in an emailed response that he was of the opinion the MSP Grant Application he received from CAO Plachner on Sept. 22 was lacking in information required by the government.

He stated the application was missing actual quotes (2 – 3 required) with an itemized list in detail, drawings and technical specifications for the upgrade.

He also felt that the MSP wasn’t for replacement of equipment.

“There are just too many anomalies on this project to allow me to approve this application as currently presented,” said Helton. 

As far as the bulk water truckfill included in the application, Helton noted several anomalies including the quote was not detailed and was outdated. There were no costs quoted for installation and commissioning.

The only estimate council has received is the one for the truckfill for $19,492 from JC Industries provided by the village’s former Certified Water Manager, Glen Riep.

Helton expressed his concern that Riep’s cistern cleaning estimate provided by Riep was $10,200 which ended up costing the village $21,700.

Nor did the numbers quoted match what Riep had previously provided to council.

Main street water/sewer repair preferred

Helton concluded that he was of the opinion the MSP application should include the deferred revenue from the MSI Capital in the amount of $790,045 plus the $50,000 to total $840,045 and make up the application to go toward the $840,000 main street water/sewer project.

Helton stated this was a project known to be in an emergency stage due to confirmed blockage of the main sewer which will continue to be an ongoing cost for emergency services.

Helton was also of the opinion if construction on the water upgrades in the current MSP proceeded as of Oct. 31, 2020 (which was part of the application in front of council at the special meeting) without council discussion and the appropriate cost estimates in place and funds available, the village would be committing to costs that would not be funded.

“My goal is to see that the village receives funding that will be most efficiently utilized,” concluded Mayor Helton in his correspondence to the ECA Review.

Motion for $50,000 support to  new school build

Deputy Mayor and Coun. Wilton also approved  a motion for $50,000 to the Friends of the Morrin School to be paid over a period of three years from the MSI funding.

Julie Robison, representative for the Friends of the Morrin School had previously told council they had three priorities, to include the community, inspire learning and literacy and promote inclusivity.

Another motion at the special meeting was made to donate $200 to the Morrin School for an award and this was also approved.

According to the MGA only what is advertised to the public 24 hours prior to a special meeting can be addressed at that  special meeting. 

Only the MSP was to be discussed at this special meeting.

Helton stated “To date, to my knowledge, council has neither received a  has no knowledge of finances for the village because “we have never received a bank reconciliation statement in 2020, actuals-budget (2020) statement nor the Audited Financial Statement for 2019. These are resources that council need to be aware of before any financial commitments are determined.”

Municipal Affairs requires that the 2019 Financial Statements must be approved by council and sent to Municipal Affairs by Oct. 1, 2020.

“It is sad when administration and members of council decide to act with such disregard for the MGA regulations and without knowledge of the village’s financial position,” stated Helton in his response.

“How can we spend money when we don’t know what money we have to spend,” said Helton.

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