VOP council challenged at AGM 

Public submission calls for financial projections and increased accountability

The second annual general meeting of the Village of Pemberton, held June 16, was an opportunity for the council to acknowledge its accomplishments of the past year. It was also a chance for them to outline their direction for the coming year.

Thirteen residents attended the public meeting, a dramatic increase from last year’s audience of one. One of those audience members made a lengthy submission questioning a variety of issues stemming from the 35-page agenda package.

Mayor Elinor Warner opened the brief, 30-minute meeting, with a review of 2004, citing the document Winds of Change: A Healing Vision, the completion of the sewer treatment plant, improved relations with Mt. Currie and the council’s commitment to finding alternatives to tax dollars for project funding as some of the year’s highlights.

The mayor also pointed to upcoming projects such as the recreation report to be presented to the community on July 11, boundary expansion and the development of a community forest created in conjunction with Mt. Currie, and a joint-community investigation of potential Olympic legacies. After her introductory remarks, each councilor reported on his or her personal highlights of their year.

"We’re working hard to ‘fire smart’ the community," Councillor Richard Doucet, who is also a volunteer fire fighter, said during his report. "We’re up for a pilot project that will make us one of the leaders in the province. We also have a new Emergency Safety Plan for Pemberton, the plan has been updated for the first time in 11 years."

Councillor Mark Blundell pointed out that the current administration had raised more that $5.4 million in tax alternative funding, with much of those funds coming from provincial, project specific, grants. For example, grants accounted for $4 million of the $6 million sewer treatment plant budget.

Councillor Linda Chandler highlighted the VOP’s organizational review as an important achievement and one that would allow for the development of employee skill sets necessary to cope with the evolving community. Chandler cited the upcoming regional growth strategy, due in 2006, and increased dialogue with the surrounding area’s local governments as being of significant impact.

"It feels like it’s been a real team year. It feels like we’ve achieved some things and are communicating," Councillor Michelle Beauregard began. Like the mayor, Beauregard focused on the impact The Winds of Change document was having on both Pemberton and Mt. Currie. She also cites the One Mile Lake upgrades and the allocation of funds for a water park as favourite accomplishments.

After the councilors had made their reports, valley resident Ivan Knowles presented a four-page written submission in response to the AGM agenda package that consisted of a two-page progress repost for council’s 2004 Goals and Objectives, and two pages of proposed Goals and Objectives for both 2005 and 2006.

Kowles’ document, which he read aloud in its entirety, criticized the council for holding too many in camera meetings, having a track record of missed opportunities and most importantly, presenting a forecasting document without any figures attached to the proposed projects.

"I think this document would be very meaningful if they would tie some budget figures to the actual work they are forecasting that they are going to do. Then do a comparison between the forecasts and how it actually turned out. This would eliminate the business of never being accountable for the money you are spending," said Knowles.

The owner of one of Pemberton’s longest operating businesses, Spud Valley Sporting Goods, believes realistic forecasting is as essential in government as it is in business. Knowles, who has a background in municipal politics, believes that the community does not want to see "perfect scores" from its local government, but rather openness and transparency.

"If things turn out differently than expected, people need to know why," said Knowles. "Ultimately nobody’s going to care if you say something’s going to cost $10 and it ends up costing $10.06."

He also believes the VOP could be doing a better job of communicating with its constituency. An advocate for the "no" side that quashed the initial plans for a $3.5 million community centre, Knowles believes the plan ultimately failed because of a lack of community consultation.

"Where the council’s going, I’m not sure," stated Knowles.

What Knowles is sure of is that there is room for improvement, which he says was his primary reason for responding to the agenda with his submission.

Mayor Warner says Knowles’ submission has been referred to the works committee and a response will most likely be made within a couple of week.

"I think (Knowles’ document) shows a lot of concerns and we have to address them. We have to consider those questions and react to them," says Warner. "If there’s things we should be doing and we’re not, let’s get at them."

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