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Decision on Admin Centre delayed until March 18 following outcry

February 21, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Kira Wronska Dorward

The third, and intended to be final, discussion on New Tecumseth’s amended budget took place on February 11.

It has been a very contentious series of meetings at Town Hall, primarily concerning the proposed $17 million new Administration Centre.

The public arrived in full force bearing home-made protest signs in an effort to have Council do away completely with what many feel is a waste of public resources.

With the budget coming in at over $34 million, meaning a 2.66% increase in tax to residents, some people feel that not enough revenue alternatives were discussed by Council and staff before deciding on a final number.

Councillor Lacey again brought forward a motion to discuss a consolidated plan to combine the Beeton Ice Rink project and the Administration Centre, while excluding it from the vote on the budget altogether, which would save the Township $8 million.

In a recorded vote, with five Councillors opposed, the motion did not have a two-thirds majority to pass.

This outcome produced chants of “shame, shame!” from those assembled in the audience, who brandished their signs.

To this turn of events, Lacey voiced the consensus of many assembled that, “we’re on the cusp of doing something that I find ridiculous…I have simply asked for a level of discussion [among Council]…I would ask my colleagues to reject this budget as I believe it will do irreparable harm.”

Councillor MacLellan echoed Lacey’s sentiments, calling the approval of this budget, “a huge mistake” to press onto the admin centre with “little or no public input or discussion.”

It was voted that there would be no reconsideration of the matter for a period of four sessions of Council as stated in the city’s by-laws, when a motion for reconsideration, again requiring a two-thirds majority, could be put forward again at the April 29 Council meeting.

Councillor Beattie summarized the main issue facing Council.

“In terms of the budget as a whole, we have consensus, except for one item which we can’t discuss,” he said, referring to the tabled discussion of reconsideration on the admin centre. “For this reason, if this is the path we’re going to go, I have no choice by to not support this budget.”

Councillor Sainsbury expressed concern that if Council did not approve on the budget and move to begin construction projects within the timeframe of the construction season, “two months down the road, the budget increase will not stay at 2.66%,” implying that construction costs would increase.

She also went onto comment that “regular populism and Trumpism seems to be leaking into New Tecumseth.”

To this last comment there were several audible cries of indignation from the public, to the point where the Mayor had to ask for decorum.

“No one has a voice!” someone from the audience cried, frustrated at the turn of events.

“One issue should not divide a town,” the Mayor continued. “When the majority rules, the majority rules.”

Councillor Beattie responded that, “I just need to point out that 5-5 is not a majority,” commenting on the vote to table to Administrative Centre discussion.

As a compromise, Councillor Harrison-MacIntyre suggested a motion that staff and the CAO come back with alternatives for the budget.

“We need to pull together on something,” she said. “I feel we’ve already looked at the alternatives. If we can get staff to come back with estimated costs during the construction season, there is a chance that…we [can] have some momentum and continue forward.”

Councillor Sainsbury suggested that Council vote on an amended motion that they not move forward until an agreement could be reached with the budget as it stands, including the administration centre. She warned that there would be tax consequences to the Centre in future as a result.

Councillor Beattie, in contrast, opted to come back and vote on the issue in six months.

In a surprise suggestion, Councillor MacLellan pointed out that townships to the west, including Barrie, do not have a designated regular meeting place for town councils, suggesting that a cost-effective option for New Tecumseth might be to use public meeting spaces such as libraries.

In regards to Harrison-MacIntyre’s motion about staff returning with budget alternatives, the CAO responded, “in the last week I’ve sent emails with every option you can think of,” indicating that going back to the drawing board would not be productive.

In the end, Council opted to defer the issue to the next meeting on March 18.

In closing remarks, the Deputy Mayor stated that he would “not vote to pass the budget tonight, as long as the administration centre is in the current form.”

A bylaw to confirm reconsideration of the budget was voted on and passed, and the meeting adjourned at 7:59 pm.



         


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