By Liz Dadson
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Committee or committee-of-the-whole? That is the question.
And Kincardine council still doesn't have an answer.
After over an hour of discussion and debate last night (Dec. 9), the new council members were no closer to a solution to their proposed governance structure.
The proposal came to the council table last week
Council dispensed with the tri-committee model because it's far too complicated - so it came down to the current system versus a committee-of-the-whole system.
While the current system allows for extensive public participation, it also has many levels of red tape through which a decision must travel before it reaches council for approval.
Meanwhile, a committee-of-the-whole system is more efficient and effective but does not allow for as much public input.
Ed Roberts of the Tiverton and District Ratepayers Association told council that it should not dispense with its volunteers who sit on these committees because they provide extensive knowledge, and have many years of experience and expertise that nine councillors couldn't accumulate.
The association wants council to wait a full year before changing the whole system, given that there are many new council members. It also asked that a management review be conducted by a professional."Council needs all the honest, unbiased help it can get," said Roberts.
Karen Ribey, who has served on the cemetery committee for nine years, noted the major accomplishments of that group: planning, building and dedicating the columbarium in the Kincardine Cemetery; creating of a mission statement; purchasing land in Tiverton to expand and square-up the Tiverton Cemetery; working on the need for a scattering garden in Kincardine Cemetery for those who wish to do so; and participating in Doors Open for the first time.
"Without community volunteers, it would be very time-consuming to gather information and could ultimately result in a decision of council with few facts about the issue," she said.
June Rapp sent in her concerns that council is getting rid of the volunteers from the committee. "These people are the backbone of our community," she wrote. "They serve the council and the public - some of them with years of experience. They are there because they are interested in the committee they sit on, and they are the eyes and ears of council."
She asked who gets the savings, estimated at $38,000 by the treasurer, and she expects that council would get less money because councillors would attend fewer meetings.
"There is a community not far from here that got rid of the committees and is now trying to get them back, but all the good people that they let go were hurt and felt betrayed," wrote Rapp. "Think about that when you make your decision."
Don Jones of the Kincardine Airport Governance committee, also noted that this committee is a necessary governing group to ensure the Kincardine Airport is positioned to provide a quality service to the local aviation sector.
Among the many accomplishments, he said, are fiscal responsibility, updated infrastructure renewal plans, installation of weather cameras at the airport, airport vicinity mapping zoning bylaw, improved customer service through installation of the airport GPS runway system, and installation of a fuel cardlock system.
"We feel that the Kincardine Airport Governance committee is a necessary oversight group and should continue as a means of governance for the municipality," he said.
All members of council agreed that volunteers are a valuable asset to the municipality and they should be integrated into whatever system is chosen.
The majority also agreed it did not want to stay with the status quo - the current hybrid system. Councillor Randy Roppel was the sole supporter of this system.
Councillor Kenneth Craig proposed council retain the economic development committee and recreation committee separate from a committee-of-the-whole system which would include building and planning, corporate services, public works, and tourism.
"There are too many user groups, activities and facilities in the recreation department for our recreation director to keep tabs on everything," he said. "And economic development deals with the business world and has connections that council can't develop over a four-year term."
Most of council agreed with that idea.
Councillor Jacqueline Faubert said, as a volunteer herself, she knows the system is broken and needs to be fixed. However, she is not convinced that the current committee system is the culprit for all the problems.
"The system is redundant and often defeating," she said, "but changing the structure is not going to address all the problems we have. I'm willing to try something different, but I won't commit to long-term change without some short-term evaluation, and I'm not willing to lose our volunteers."
She encouraged using public advisory committees to the fullest extent.
"Having heard from the public here tonight, council is very foolish to make any major changes in the way we do business," said Roppel.
Councillor Maureen Couture said the committee-of-the-whole proposal is not understood well by the public.
should be publicizing it with big ads in all the media so people know
what we're doing," she said. "We have to inform the public. This system
will be more efficient, save money and save time."
She agreed that economic development and recreation committees could stand on their own.
Mayor Larry Kraemer suggested council not fill the committee positions for six months until it has completed the budget and then consider what system to use. He said public input can be done through advisory committees which are already part of the current system.
"We all need to be in on the major capital decisions," said deputy mayor Anne Eadie. "We were elected to make decisions and to be fiscally-responsible. If we're going to do that, we have to be in on the decision-making at the start. People can still be part of committees."
She said there is some fear that the municipality is doing away with its committees and volunteers which is not the case at all.
Eadie said that the newly-elected council has been considering the different models of governance since they were introduced at the orientation session. "I think we've had adequate time to come to a decision. I agree that economic development, and recreation should remain standing committees for now."
Council finally agreed that it wants to change the governance structure and will continue to debate the issue at the Dec. 15 meeting.
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Thursday, December 09, 2010