The spending of yet another quarter million dollars on the Centennial Park project was agreed to by Sarnia’s council at the Sept. 11th meeting. The city manager, oops ~ CAO, explained that the money was needed to cover costs of fencing, security and vandalism and were outside the tender. My experience in construction and tendering and, in asking people in the industry, is that these costs are generally included in project estimates and covered by the contractor, not the customer. Were invoices for these costs submitted to council? I would certainly want to know just how this quarter of a million dollars was being spent, item by item.
Councillor Matt Mitro questioned why council was agonizing over this ‘pittance’ considering the cost of the overall project.
Councillor Mike Kelch stated that he felt, from the beginning, that the cost would be ten to twelve million, based on his 41 years’ experience in industry. Did he bring this information to council before they agreed to proceed with this ongoing project?
Councillor Bev MacDougall commented that council needed to remember who they were there to serve and whether or not people liked the decisions made, they were made. Ah yes, so they were.
The $250,000. apparently came from Federal Gas Tax money, which, if my understanding is correct, is for fixing roads, not for providing fencing and security for a park. There are certainly many roads in Sarnia in dire need of repairs or redoing.
Councillor David Boushy was the only councillor who did not support this latest request for more funding from the city manager.
I noticed the similarity of council behaviour in a recent meeting of the Lambton Shores Council. CAO Kevin Williams brought a recommendation to council to hire a full time fire chief to oversee the existing five fire chiefs in the municipalities. He informed council that $100,000. was already allocated in the 2017 budget and that no further funding would be required. Two of the existing fire chiefs indicated that another fire chief was not needed.
An article in the Exeter Times Advocate states ‘there has been concern voiced by volunteer firefighters that Williams has a preferred candidate for the chief’s position but the CAO said the position would be advertised. He was asked whether Lambton Shores Council will play a role in choosing and approving a successful candidate. Willliam’s response was “I am working on other things now and will not be working on this until next week’. There was no discussion of what the $100,000. would be spent on ~ three or four months of a chief’s salary? Purchase a vehicle? Building of an office? No salary range for the position was disclosed. And, believe it or not, council agreed to go ahead even without any idea of associated costs.
Does this sound like a familiar pattern?
The Sept. 14, 2017 Independent of Petrolia and Central Lambton editorial entitled ‘the subtle changes of democracy’ states that we elect people to represent our views. It states that for the past ten years, consultants, usually former bureaucrats, have been convincing elected politicians that you hire good people and take their advice. That can make the people we elect basically yes men and women. It concludes that having competent administrators is good but the will of the people who are represented by elected officials, is still paramount in this democracy.
In the many years that I have followed local politics, NEVER has there been a city manager who refused to talk to the duly elected mayor or a council who has stifled free speech with a ridiculous code of conduct.
Let’s just hope, that upcoming municipal elections will produce sensible, unselfishly motivated people who will do their homework and make decisions to benefit the people who elected them ~ no more ‘yes’ men and women.