No more blank cheques for consultants, vows mayor 

Questions continue about the over-budget and costly service review

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As questions continue about the consultant cost overruns for the service review, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden is vowing it won't happen under her watch.

"This council will be using consultants in a very different fashion," she told Dave Buzzard in response to his question during the public question and answer period at Tuesday's council meeting.

Specifically, council will be looking to staff to do the bulk of the work because it has the professional expertise. Staff can hire consultants for small, more specific information to flesh out its own work.

Buzzard's questions fall on the heels of Pique's story about the true costs of the review, totalling almost $127,000 and not the $88,000 reported by municipal hall.

The municipality realized its error only after repeated requests for clarification on the invoices obtained by a member of the public in a Freedom of Information Request.

Council has also asked staff to be very cognizant of where consultants are located, likely in response to the 18 trips from Kelowna to Whistler at a cost of $715 per trip that was billed to the municipality for the service review.

"I think you can always learn lessons from the past and if you don't you have the danger of repeating the same mistakes. But I think it's really quite self-evident as to how some of those cost overruns occurred, and it was to a certain extent consistent to some of the other practices we've seen in the past about writing blank cheques," the mayor said to the media following the meeting. "Certainly this council is not interested in doing that."

Council retreat to Brew Creek Centre

With just over a month under its belt, the new council has already hit the ground running and this week it will be setting the course for the term to come.

The seven-member team is heading into a two-day retreat at the Brew Creek Centre.

It hopes to come out of the session with a vision and to-do list for the next three years.

"We really do want to come out of the retreat with a work plan and some tangibles," said Wilhelm-Morden.

It will also get an in depth briefing on the machinations of municipal hall.

No official opposition to outside environmental issues... yet

Council is set to take a stand of issues beyond Whistler's border but not until it gets more fully informed.

The majority at the table was reticent Tuesday to support calls from members of the public to oppose Kinder Morgan's plans for expansion of its dock capacity in Burnaby.

The letter said: "Kinder Morgan has been very public about their desire to dramatically increase tanker traffic at the Burnaby Terminal and this change to their contracts will help them so do incrementally with little consultation... A statement of opposition is a symbolic gesture that nonetheless carries weight and furthers dialogue."

Councillor Jack Crompton withdrew his motion to support the opposition after hearing from several of his fellow councillors about their uncertainty in supporting something without full knowledge.

"I'd love to see this again after we've had some time to look at it," he said.

The letter also asked for council to oppose the Northern Gateways Pipeline Project and support the Save the Fraser Declaration.

Councillor Jayson Faulkner supported Crompton in his motion for opposition.

"We don't have a direct dog in the fight, per se, I think it speaks to a bigger issue," he said, adding that it behooves us as a community to take stands on issues like these.

The gateways pipeline project will carry oil-sands bitumen from Alberta's tar sands to the B.C. coast. The government has just started public hearings on the issue.

"Personally, I will march in the streets (against it)," said the mayor of the pipeline.

In the meantime council has charged itself with learning more before making a decision.

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