Letter: Do we want more of the same?

Through the bylaws they voted on and enforced, they helped create a fractured community, writes Jack Koochin.

We are coming into a municipal byelection in May, and it’s an important one.

Some of the previous council are trying to get back in. This is to remind residents of just a few highlights of the previous city council’s financial outlays:

• Implemented the Universal Water Meter Program at a published estimate of $1.3 million—just for the first phase.

• Terminated the contract of Doug Allin November 2014 with approximately $192,000 in severance pay. (CBC news release www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/doug-allin-grand-forks-cao-re-hired-after-200k-severance-payout-1.3036646)

• Urban Systems (a professional service providing strategic planning, engineering, environmental science, and urban design services, including asset management) was paid over $780,000 from January 2012 to December 2014 in approximately 45 payments (per Freedom of Information release June 5, 2015).

As you can see, just on these few items, a staggering amount has been spent… but is any of it justifiable?

There has been much talk in city management and council of the failings, pressures and costs of getting our crumbling infrastructure updated. It goes on and on. But what has actually been done? Short answer: virtually nothing in the two terms of previous city government… six whole years.

Why all this talk and no action? And why the millions and millions spent on other useless ventures? Even on the rare occasion when they did actually replace some infrastructure (repaved 68th Ave for over $480,000), they did not replace the water and sewer infrastructure beneath. Makes no sense.

Why spend almost $800,000 on professional consulting and relatively nothing on the infrastructure? Why all the small payments to Urban Systems?

What happened to the millions of dollars from the Slag Fund?  Where did it go?

How much money was spent on the Water Meter Program? How much did it really cost?

City management needs to openly and publicly account for all of this. Why can’t we just go in there and ask for some information and get it?  Why do we have to resort to official Freedom of Information requests? Why all the secrecy?

Starting to see a pattern in all this? The previous council appears to have started a financial trend at City Hall: ‘We can spend all we want, and we don’t have to disclose it.’ Tremendous, reckless waste. Secrecy.

Another issue: some members of the former council did not live within the city. They greatly influenced the lives of people in the city, yet themselves weren’t subject to the bylaws that they voted on. We are forced by them to adhere to sprinkling regulations, to get water meters, and yet they are immune to these regulations.

This is kind of nutty…council members should all be subject to the bylaws they create. Through the bylaws they voted on and enforced, they helped create a fractured community.

When voting in the next election, please keep all of this in mind. Want more of the same?

– Jack Koochin, Grand Forks