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E-mail prompts spat at Pemberton council

Sturdy decries ‘unsubstantiated and alarmist allegations’

Pemberton Council broke into a huff Tuesday night as a former councillor alleged that information from an in camera meeting was leaked out through e-mail.

Mark Blundell, the owner of the Pemberton Valley Supermarket and formerly a councillor with the Village of Pemberton, rose during Question Period at the end of Tuesday's meeting and asked whether the village had held an in camera discussion about developing a run-of-river project on Pemberton Creek.

Blundell explained that he received an e-mail that went to numerous people in the community alleging that council was "inappropriately" discussing a request for proposals for a project out of the public eye when it should have been discussed at a public meeting.

He asked whether a breach of confidentiality had occurred and said it should never have been discussed in camera, if indeed that's what happened.

"If you've done it in camera, I'd like to know why you've done it in camera, because that is a public, public thing," he asked. "And I want to know why I got that e-mail.

"If my information is wrong I apologize."

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy responded that Blundell should never have gotten the e-mail and said council never made an in camera decision to issue a request for proposals related to a project on Pemberton Creek.

Blundell's question nevertheless touched off a heated exchange between him and council as he alleged that appropriate avenues weren't being followed in extending the request.

"This is the second time that we've had inaccuracies or inappropriate things happen with this council," he said. "I'm questioning as a citizen that, is administration really giving you the right information at the right times, at appropriate times? Because these things shouldn't happen."

Blundell was also referring to a rezoning last February to limit commercial development around the parking lot of the Pony Espresso. While at second reading, council resolved to have it brought back for the first week of March but staff had a report ready by the second week of February.

Council ultimately decided to deal with it in February instead of waiting for the first week of March - a curious development to Blundell, given that Councillor Susie Gimse wasn't present for the February meeting.

Sturdy went on to clarify that council had received a letter in a July 21 in camera meeting from Summit Power, a company it has contracted to acquire a water license on Pemberton Creek for consideration of a village-owned run-of-river hydro project.

The last Pemberton council took steps to acquire the license through B.C.'s Integrated Land Management Bureau and had Summit Power submit the application on its behalf. Summit and the Village of Pemberton have since been corresponding with the bureau to keep up to date on the progress of that application.

As it stands, the village has a reservation on Pemberton Creek but it doesn't have the water license because it hasn't yet developed a project. The letter from Summit Power detailed a proposal for taking the next steps towards developing a run-of-river project on the creek.

"They came to us and said we're involved, we did the licensing, we think there's a project here," Sturdy said in a Wednesday morning interview. "We would like to be involved, we know you don't have the (money or resources) to do this, here's what we can do to make this work."

Sturdy wouldn't offer any details about Summit's proposal but he said council wasn't willing to simply go with a single proponent. Council then decided to have staff prepare a request for proposals to see if other companies would be interested in helping the village develop a project.

"For the next step to get to a water power development plan, let's put it out there in the industry," Sturday said. "Go to EPCOR, Plutonic, Renaissance, let's see what these other guys have to say about this. We'll see at the end of the day what's in the best interests of the village."

Council adjourned the in camera portion of its July 21 meeting and then rose with report to have staff establish a request for proposal for "development of an IPP on Pemberton Creek," according to minutes from the meeting.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, Blundell said he was satisfied with the explanation but his questions nevertheless created some bad blood between him and council. He never provided council or reporters with the e-mail or the identity of the person who sent it.

"Those were unsubstantiated and alarmist allegations, I think frankly they harm the community," Sturdy said. "He's saying I have them but I'm not going to show you, so in my mind it's just not true. I have in camera minutes, you guys are secretly trying to develop a run of river project.

"That's just bullshit, frankly this is bullshit."