By: Korie Marshall, Editor

I am quite disappointed in the behaviour of some of our local residents at the first meeting last week of Valemount’s Public Works committee.

Maybe they are unaware of the process of council and committee meetings; that a committee meeting is public, to view and listen, but it’s not an opportunity for them to speak. And it is also not the first, nor the last decision.

More than one resident at the meeting on Friday asked if it was scheduled that day to make Councillor Reimer and Mayor Townsend look bad, insinuating that our CAO Anne Yanciw was doing it on purpose. They also insinuated that she has lost or misplaced some letters that were marked “Mayor and Council,” and questioned Councillor Torgerson before the meeting started, asking him why he hasn’t seen the letters. I’m wondering why they can’t just reproduce the letters, especially if they have such important information in them. When I asked for copies of the letters, the group was not willing or able to provide copies.

First of all, a committee meeting is not based only on one person’s schedule. If Councillor Reimer is to represent the community, I think he should be making more of an effort to clear his schedule for important meetings, and even attend Council more often. He’s been away a lot. And Mayor Townsend appointed Reimer and Torgerson to the committee; I don’t see why she has to attend, or why she needs to know when the meeting is scheduled, any more than the rest of us.

But that is a good point – the rest of us should all know about public meetings. I certainly agree with that. A sign posted on the village door that there is a public meeting tomorrow may meet legislative requirements, but that doesn’t really let people know. I understand that sometimes time constraints make advertising a meeting difficult, which is why it is important to have one common place for people to check when meetings are scheduled. And I’m sorry, in this day and age of electronics, the post office door is not that place.

The village has been getting better at it though. And while this group of residents might like to place blame for the last minute meeting on staff, I place it squarely at the feet of Council – both current and previous – and on provincial legislation that seems to be written in the 1980’s for not putting more importance on letting the public know about these meetings, and for letting them know the process of these meetings.

I also put blame on the people attending this meeting, because I haven’t seen many of them at recent Council meetings. I heard one person whisper during the meeting that this was a waste of time. I agree; it was certainly a waste of her time, because she wasn’t listening to the information being provided. Others it seems have not been looking at their own tax and utility bills.

And none of them showed up to the special meetings for the 5-year budget that Council just passed. Those meetings were very well advertised, and much of the information presented at this meeting was included.

It seemed this group just wanted to have their chance to speak, but when I offered that opportunity – to share what is in this “group of letters” they claim has somehow disappeared – one person responded that the letter is “personal and confidential.”

Which makes me think they are not looking for a chance to speak; they are looking for a chance to sway.

I agree with one person who said after the meeting that the people who wrote the letters should have known earlier about the meeting. But if the people who wrote those letters got what they wanted – the sewer and water charges removed from their properties – that means more costs to every other tax payer in Village, and they too should have had more notice about the meeting.

Which reminds me of one more point that I’ve heard CAO Anne Yanciw and Director of Finance Lori McNee mention in at least two public meetings – that there is discussion in a number of sectors about removing the ability to set water and sewer rates from local politicians, and giving it to an authority like the provincial water comptroller. It makes sense, because it is very difficult for local politicians to make decisions that will cost their residents money, and the pressure can be very strong from one group – often the group that is the loudest. But every decision to remove or reduce fees, charges and taxes from one group means everyone else pays more.