Project dollars and cents not adding up

Dollar amounts for several projects were estimated at Morrin’s special budget meeting as quotes requested by motions as far back as January were not available.

Prior to the start of the meeting held on Tues. June 11, Mayor Howard Helton asked “So do we have new copies of the budget?”

“I never made any, no,” replied Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner.

Mayor Helton then passed out to residents present in the gallery, copies of the budget he had previously received from the CAO that also included his questions and remarks.

Mayor Helton again explained according to the Municipal Affairs Act (MGA), why two items from the agenda, setting the by-election returning officer and election date at the start of the meeting could not be dealt with at the Special Meeting.

“We have to do that today,” said CAO Plachner referring to those additions to the agenda.

“We only have so much time to do the by-election. You’re putting it behind.”

The by-election is a result of Coun. Bob Graham resigning.

“I’m not putting anything behind. That is the regulation set by the MGA. I think we went over this a while ago.”

“But I sent this to you last week,” stated Plachner.

“No, you didn’t send anything to do with the agenda. I sent the agenda in, in my capacity, for a special meeting which I complied with the MGA,” replied Helton.

“When I got your email [setting the special meeting], I sent it to you,” said Plachner.

“That wasn’t the agenda, that was a memo. I sent the agenda last Thursday,” said Helton.

The MGA regulation states that all items dealt with at a Special Meeting must be on the agenda at the time the Special Meeting is called.

Moving forward to the budget discussion, Mayor Helton asked of CAO Plachner, “In your opinion, are we to expect that [budget] is the budget set in stone, that we are to approve?”

“I would like you to if you don’t want taxes to be raised very high,” answered Plachner.

A back and forth conversation highlighted the miscommunication between Mayor Helton and CAO Plachner as information and budget amounts were missing or changed, stalling the overall budget process.

“What happened to the fact that we had no input in the budget despite special meetings we had prior to this, considering the projects that we made resolutions for that we were going to address, like the paving?” questioned Helton.

“We asked you to get quotes for the paving, we asked you get quotes, in particular the green space and in particular the public works yard.”

The green space quotes did not come in, the paving quotes did not come in,” said Plachner. “You can’t go and drag people here to give them quotes. They were phoned and asked to come many times and they haven’t come.”

“Well, I guess you have to phone the right people that will come,” said Helton in response. “This was started two months ago and it’s taken two months to coordinate some contractors to get us quotes on these projects we’ve outlined some months ago”.

“What would your suggestion be to address those now because we want to proceed with these projects?” asked Helton.

“Those are capital projects. They would have to come out of Capital [Budget], not the Operating,” stated Plachner.

“How do we determine the future now that nobody has gotten council a quote?” stated Helton in frustration.

“You have quotes on the fencing,” said Plachner.

“I have no quotes on fencing,” said Helton.

The gallery had received the quote in the package they picked up at the beginning of the meeting.

“Where is it for me to review?” asked the mayor.

“I sent them to you,” responded Plachner.

“These magical things… It’s like the agenda today and last meeting I don’t have it until I get here. I got a different agenda from what I sent. Last month I had a different agenda than when I got here, you told me you sent it to me. What is going on?”

“I emailed them to you. Have you got them M’Liss?” asked Plachner.

“Seems everybody else has?” said Helton. “I wouldn’t be asking for a quote if I had a quote. This is serious stuff.”

“Yes, it is,” said Plachner.

“Indeed it is, and paving is a major thing too,” said Helton.

Paving project

Council had approved a motion on April 17 to have MPE survey the levels along the west side of the village to determine how to improve the drainage issue at the west entrance to town where water pooling causes potholes to pound out, before doing any pavement patching.

“There was a lot of misunderstanding with MPE regarding the lower end of main street,” said Mayor Helton.

“I don’t think they understand what we were looking for,” said CAO Plachner.

“Is there some way to contact them and get more clarity so it could work in with our plan to fix up that piece down there [entrance to the village]?” queried Helton.

CAO Plachner promised to get that to them by Wednesday and recommended budgeting $75,000 for the paving project.

“The quote for the green space – What kind of figure did we get for levelling that, grassing it, putting in a little fence and a couple items in there?” asked Helton.

“Haven’t got that yet,” responded CAO Plachner,

“Paving repairs is the big one, how are we doing the budget [without these quotes]. How much is that [paving repairs]?”

“I don’t know,” replied Plachner.

“It’s critical,” stated Helton.

“Well, if you want to leave it [budget] till next Wednesday we can pass it on Wednesday if I have this for you, at least an idea,” said Plachner.

“We can do the final passage on Wednesday,” chimed in Coun. M’Liss Edwards.

“Well, we have to because we have to get the taxes done. It’s getting late,” said CAO Plachner.

Recycle bins relocation

Council estimated $30,075 for the public works space although they did not have the drawings showing the dimensions that was requested in a motion by council at the April 17 meeting.

Plachner indicated that Dave Benci, public works manager, took the concept drawing done by Mayor Helton and paced it out as to how you wanted that fence to go rather than doing up a formal dimensional drawing to scale that had been requested by motion in the April 17 regular council meeting.

Mayor Helton opened up the meeting for comments from the gallery regarding the recycling bins and public works space with a great deal of discussion ensuing.

Council had planned for the relocation of the bins to be the southeast corner on town property.

The majority felt it would be better located east of the unused tennis courts although there is no developed road.

“Cheaper to build a road over there than to put up a $40,000 fence,” stated Daryl DeMille.

“Do we want them to be the focal point of your village, people coming into town and they look over the display coming into town, over the ball diamonds then we come to the public works yard?” asked Helton.

“You are not going to offend any taxpayers by putting it over there [next to the unused tennis court],” said Wanda Hampton.

“The aesthetics were to have a fence and slats and trees so it doesn’t look obtrusive,” said Helton.

“It was a dumping ground [before] and they are afraid it will become a dumping ground again,” said Hampton.

Only concern that I kind of have is about the road portion of it. It’s by the ball diamonds and if there’s traffic going by and there’s kids running all over the place, back and forth to the park, that’s my major concern,” said Dennis Schoonderbeek.

“It’s a catch 22,” said DeMille. The consensus of the gallery reached was to put the recycle bins on the east side of the old tennis court.

“To keep peace in the town, the tennis court isn’t going to offend anyone. Like Daryl said, plant some trees,” said Wanda Hampton.

The green space was also discussed.

Plachner package and CAO assistant

Council motioned to hire an assistant CAO and budgeted $40,000 for the position.

“So again these projects, including the CAO package and an estimate for an assistant CAO to be hired would then, in this budget, have to come out of that Unrestricted [Surplus],” asked Helton.

“No, where are we getting with this other CAO? I’m not clear on that either,” said Plachner.

“Well, we are going to hire an assistant CAO for the transition,” said Helton.

“Why is that?” asked Plachner,

“You’ve more than indicated that you are retiring,” said Helton, “Somebody has to be ready. We have to hire someone to come in and work with you. It’s obvious since last November, the back and forth, we’re all familiar with that, that you’re wanting to retire, sooner than later, so that’s why we are going to go ahead and hire an assistant.

“Okay, fine,” said Plachner. “Paying this person can come out of operating.”

“That’s what this meeting is all about,” said Helton. “We needed a pre-budget meeting to get these things worked out.”

“We want to make sure we have enough money in the operating budget to do that,” added Coun. Edwards. “I’m thinking $40,000 would be enough, give or take,” said CAO Plachner.

 

Joyce Webster

ECA Review

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