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Tension growing in ongoing verbal spar over asphalt plant

Council defers roadwork contract for Alpine Paving

Mayor Ken Melamed's patience is wearing thin in the face of repeated digging and questioning on the long-operating asphalt plant.

Tension grew this week at the public question and answer period, which has become the battleground in the verbal spar over the asphalt plant.

The mayor took a tough stance Tuesday night, refusing to entertain very specific questions on the confusing history of the plant, which he said he has answered before.

"I'm tired of being interrogated up here," said the mayor to Iona Lake, after telling her that her point was moot.

"It's not an interrogation," she replied.

"It is," he shot back.

It was just a month ago when the mayor told the community that the file was closed, and a decision had been made to allow Alpine Paving to continue to operate in the same location on the fringe of the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood but with higher emissions standards.

A handful of asphalt agitators simply refuse to accept that.

The verbal tug-of-war on the public stage is perhaps indicative of another battle quietly going on at the council table.

This week, a majority of councillors voted to send back a report that would have given Alpine Paving the municipal road works contract for 2011 at a cost of about $320,000 plus HST. The contract would have provided a 22 per cent decrease in asphalt unit prices over last year's prices.

There was no discussion on the deferral, just a request for more information. Councillors Eckhard Zeidler, Ralph Forsyth, Grant Lamont and Ted Milner were all onside about the deferral.

When asked after the meeting if he knew there was going to be a vote against awarding the contract to Alpine Paving, the mayor said it had not been discussed in the earlier closed-door meeting.

"I did not know (there would be a motion to defer)," he said.

There's no urgency to the matter, he added.

"Nobody's going to be paving any time before the next meeting."

Tension, however, continues to mount.

"We keep going over and over and over the same stuff," said a frustrated Melamed to Tim Koshul, whom he asked twice to sit down during the public question and answer period - a period that he reminded was a privilege for community members - that kicks off every council meeting.

"I've answered the question on zoning one hundred times."

Koshul, who was looking for correspondence dating back to 1997 between Alpine Paving owner Frank Silveri and the municipality, took his seat in the council chambers, as someone from the audience muttered "dictator" under their breath.

Cheakamus Crossing resident Gary Carson raised concerns about the description of Alpine Paving in the latest report as "locally owned and operated."

He challenged the mayor to answer where the headquarters and the owner were based. It is common knowledge that Alpine Paving's headquarters are in Burnaby.

"We could argue semantics all night long," said the mayor of the description "locally owned and operated."

When pushed to come up with an answer, he said:

"Why don't you look them up in the business directory?"

Carson's point, though seemingly small, was that the statement was a "misrepresentation of fact," an issue that the No Asphalt Plant group continues to explore as it delves into the history of the plant.

When Dave Buzzard began his questions by asking how "the municipality got blown out of the water in no uncertain terms" in the Saxton lawsuit (see page 12), Councillor Chris Quinlan immediately and angrily spoke of Buzzard's "flippant disregard for this office."

"Please respect this office," he told Buzzard.

  • Council is expected to consider the Alpine Paving contract at the next council meeting.