Debate rages again over committees

With one more year to go in their terms before the next municipal election, Mayor Dan Onichuk made his recommendations Monday night as to which councillors should sit on which executive committees in the 12 months ahead.
The Administration and Finance executive committee now consists of Couns. Roy Avis (chair), Rick Wiedenhoeft, and Todd Hamilton.
It previously consisted of Couns. Avis (chair), Tannis Drysdale and Hamilton.
The Community Services executive committee now includes Couns. Wiedenhoeft (chair), Neil Kabel, and Drysdale. It previously consisted of Couns. Drysdale (chair), Wiedenhoeft, and John Albanese.
The Operations and Facilities executive committee now includes Couns. Hamilton (chair), Kabel, and Albanese. It previously consisted of Couns. Avis (chair), Kabel, and Albanese.
And the Planning and Development executive committee now consists of Couns. Drysdale (chair), Avis, and Albanese. It previously consisted of Couns. Kabel (chair), Hamilton, and Wiedenhoeft.
These changes take effect immediately.
But Coun. Hamilton said yesterday the mayor did not talk to the councillors to get their input prior the appointments.
“None of the councillors were contacted about where they were asked to be moved to,” he remarked. “I know I wasn’t contacted, and I’m pretty sure nobody else was.
“It was news to us that evening.”
“I think the normal process is the mayor contacts the councillors and asks them how things are going, and where they believe they could have some more input, or some more help, and then work it out from there,” added Coun. Hamilton.
“But there was no communication, no contact,” he stressed. “To move councillors around just because ‘it’s that time of year’ is a poor way to do it.
“I don’t mind being moved around, but I would have liked some input as to where I go,” he said. “My belief is council is tired of the mayor acting on is own. We’ll do a good job whatever committee we’re on.
“What are you going to do about it? He does a lot of things on his own, a lot of things without council’s input. This is just another demonstration of him acting alone.
“He’s going to be the ‘Alone Ranger’ pretty soon,” Coun. Hamilton warned.
But Mayor Onichuk said tihs morning his appointments shoudn’t come as a surpise to anyone.
“As you’re aware, it’s always been the mayor’s prerogative to put people on committees. And what the bylaw says is that will be approved by council.
“Some councillors took it upon themselves to say that we need to approve anything you do and that’s just crap,” he remarked.
“I discussed all these changes with all the councillors last year, and I did virtually what I proposed to do last year. If somebody said it’s never been discussed, it was discussed last year.
“We talked about eliminating the executive committees completely so that all councillors would be involved in all discussions. And there’s some councillors who prefer not to do that,” the mayor noted.
“My preference is that all councillors are dealing with all items, because I believe a lot of the discussion that happens in executive committees should shared with all of council—and council should have their input,” he said.
“The way it is now, you have to pull a particular item, so you’re basically agreeing to things blindly without full discussion.
“Basically, it forces people to go to four or five different meetings, and peoples’ schedules don’t allow them to do that.
“There’s some councillors that have been on certain executive committees forever and I don’t think that’s a very well-rounded councillor, quite frankly,” Mayor Onichuk added.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft also said he was not consulted recently regarding the change in executive committee lineups, but did recall councillors were asked last year by the mayor what executive committee was their favourite.
“What the mayor wanted to do this year was put people on at least one of their favourite executive committees, and then mix it around just to get a different mix for the final year while we’re in office,” he noted.
“So there was some consultation. Maybe not this year, but last year.”
In other news, council agreed to a recommendation from the Administration and Finance executive committee to receive information from the Assessment Review Board regarding a reassessment for Abitibi-Consolidated Inc.
The reassessment is for the years 2003-2005, with a potential loss in tax revenue of $122,794.
Also Monday night, council:
•agreed to a recommendation from the Administration and Finance executive committee to accept requests for reconsideration of property assessments at 201 Sixth St. W. and CN Railway properties;
•received a request for financial support from the Fort Frances Visserettes and Boys Gymnastics Clubs;
•agreed to a request from the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition to have a “Safe Communities” sign erected (at no cost to the town);
•received a reminder that the managers of the four town divisions must give activity reports at the Dec. 12 meeting of council;
•agreed to a recommendation from the Administration and Finance executive committee to lock in the CIBC fixed term loan for four years at a rate of 4.49 percent (as of Nov. 30, this loan matured in the amount of $1,903,297); and
•approved a report from Brian Hagarty, interim Human Resources manager, to authorize the salary structure and administration practices committee to hear the matter of any future grievance as brought forth by CUPE, and to respond to such grievance as it sees fit.