Benefits bylaw withdrawn

In a vote of 4-3, town council decided to withdraw an amended bylaw last night that, if it had been voted on and approved, would have seen mayor and council get their benefits paid for in addition to their current salary.
Coun. Neil Kabel made a motion to withdraw the bylaw and the town form an ad hoc committee to review compensation for all town boards and committees.
Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft seconded the motion.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft noted this morning that the public should realize this doesn’t mean some councillors will be going back and forming a committee to recommend they see their benefits paid for.
“I don’t understand the reaction of the public, and the councillors on the other side of the table who didn’t vote for this. The resolution we passed effectively kills any possibility of us revising remuneration for this council,’ he remarked.
“This ad hoc committee is not going to come back with any recommendations for councillor remuneration,” added Coun. Wiedenhoeft, adding that while the structure of the committee has not yet been discussed, it will be comprised mainly of citizens and likely only sport a minority of councillor representatives.
“It’s not a situation where these four guys get together and make something happen,” he mentioned. “It’s a declared mandate of this council to be transparent and open. This committee is to look at the expenses of the committees and the boards, and the chairs of the boards, linked to the Town of Fort Frances.
“We want to open the books to the taxpayers of Fort Frances,” remarked Coun. Wiedenhoeft, adding the ad hoc committee will be a “non-political body,” and definitely not a mechanism for “rubber stamping” pay raises for council.
Coun. Struchan Gilson also spoke in favour of the motion last night, as he felt the remuneration policy shouldn’t necessarily be at the “whim of the sitting council,” but “decided by a committee that doesn’t have a vested interest.”
“I’d prefer just to vote on the bylaw the way it is, and end this,” said Coun. Todd Hamilton, referring to the amended remuneration bylaw that ended up being withdrawn.
Coun. Tannis Drysdale agreed with Coun. Hamilton, noting that she may have agreed to a review if it were two and a half years in the future, and this council was outgoing, preparing for the incoming one.
Coun. Roy Avis maintained that councillors may receive honorariums as elected officials, but as they are not employees of the Town of Fort Frances, they shouldn’t be entitled to paid-for benefits packages.
Mayor Dan Onichuk said he didn’t have a problem with reviewing the compensation for all boards and committees.
Mayor Onichuk and Couns. Gilson, Kabel and Wiedenhoeft voted in favour of the withdrawing the bylaw, while Couns. Avis, Drysdale and Hamilton voted against it.
Mayor Onichuk said after the meeting that it wasn’t certain at this point exactly how the ad hoc committee would be formed or who would sit on it, but that it would likely contain both council and citizen appointees.
Local resident Melvin Haukaas gave a brief presentation at last night’s meeting, speaking out against the remuneration bylaw and stressing that, as far as he could tell, there was no public support for the mayor and council to see their benefits paid for as part of their compensation.
Also at last night’s meeting, council:
•passed a bylaw to designate an area (100 Third St. West) as a site plan control area and provide for site plan agreements as a condition of development;
•passed a bylaw to authorize the execution of a site plan control agreement as a condition of development for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada—1301 Mill Road;
•heard a delegation by local resident Ken Perry regarding waste from the old Fort Frances High School property. Perry was concerned that hazardous material was being disposed of in the town landfill;
•heard a presentation of the 2003 financial statements by Jon Evans of BDO Dunwoody;
•approved a break open ticket licence application from the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau at the Makabi Inn Motel from Aug. 1, 2004-Aug. 1, 2005;
•approved a break open ticket licence application from the Fort Frances Aquanauts Swim Club at Rainy Lake Sports and Tackle from July 30, 2004-Jan. 29, 2005;
•received a memorandum from municipal planner Faye Flatt regarding the disposition of town property. This property is located near Hammond’s Nursery;
•passed a bylaw to approve an amendment with the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. for financing of La Verendrye Parkway Phase II;
•passed a bylaw to authorize the entering into of lease agreement with Bearskin Lake Air Services Limited, Ivey Aviation Limited and North Air Services at the Fort Frances Municipal Airport; and
•passed a bylaw to establish an emergency management program for the protection of public safety, health, the environment, the critical infrastructure and property, and to promote economic stability and a disaster-resilient community.